Astroneer could also be a survival recreation, however it has all the time had extra of a sandbox really feel, because of the decrease stress of its “survival” components. In journey mode, you die while you run out of oxygen — a gauge in your backpack exhibits the remaining provide — however oxygen is definitely obtainable by buildings, autos, or crafting tethers that join gamers to an oxygen line.
This has made Astroneer excellent for gamers who get pleasure from crafting and base administration, however would somewhat pursue these targets in a low-pressure setting. The sport plops an astronaut onto a procedurally generated planet the place gamers harvest assets, construct their base, and discover the huge nooks and crannies of area. The brand new port to Swap, which is out on Jan. 13, presents largely the identical enjoyable expertise however in a conveyable setting, giving the sport an edge for informal, inventive play periods. However should you’re searching for extra intense base-building, Astroneer remains to be a greater title on Home windows PC, which advantages from extra exact controls and larger processing energy.
In most respects, I used to be pleasantly stunned by how a lot I loved Astroneer on Swap. The colourful, low-poly artwork fashion interprets fantastically to the console. That is key, as most of my time in Astroneer includes roaming all over the world’s lovely, huge map utilizing a particular ray gun to switch the setting and gather assets.
With these instruments, the potential for exploration in Astroneer feels almost infinite. You possibly can spelunk deep into caverns for mineral assets. You possibly can terraform bizarre cliffs and launch your self off of them. You possibly can fairly actually burrow into the planet’s core and maintain going till you emerge on the opposite facet. Not like Valheim, one other recreation that eliminated the survival grind from exploration and base-building, there are not any bosses that soft-gate areas.
The Swap controls are decently intuitive: The fitting set off is both a cursor or the participant digicam, relying on whether or not the ray gun is toggled. When it’s a cursor, gamers can decide up objects like seeds, assets, or base objects, in addition to plug in energy cords and transfer the location of a tether. When the ray gun is toggled, the appropriate set off highlights the world the gun will terraform. Flipping between these modes is a breeze. It’s additionally intensely satisfying to hit the appropriate set off to make the ray gun go brrbrr, sucking within the setting round you in a whirlwind.
Regardless of the kinetic satisfaction of exploring and terraforming, I earnestly struggled with base-building. It’s a lot more durable to maneuver a joystick exactly over an object’s pickup window, which is annoying while you’re making an attempt to seize tiny supplies out of your pack, and stick them on numerous printers for crafting functions. (I can think about Joy-Con drift would make this much more irritating.) It’s disappointing as a result of this is a base-building recreation. I’ve all the time been a administration sim participant totally on PC — I’m a sicko who loves a dense menu, a number of stock administration, and high-stress conditions, and I sometimes play these video games with a mouse.
I initially performed Astroneer on PC in 2019. I centered extra on targets like constructing a shuttle and launching myself into area. I wasn’t actually terraforming or exploring purely for ambient enjoyable — I used terraforming instruments to make lengthy slopes that my astronaut may “snowboard” down, and streamlined paths to treasured assets. I ultimately acquired lazy and simply began sticking grime containers into the soil centrifuge, which extracted primary assets for me. Although I didn’t expertise it personally, I do know body price suffered on Xbox through the recreation’s preliminary launch, particularly for gamers who constructed a extra substantial base. I haven’t constructed a big sufficient base in my Swap playthrough to note the identical points, however given the console’s lesser processing energy, I may see it being the case down the street.
Taking part in on Swap didn’t diminish the enjoyment of pure exploration within the recreation. If something, it pushed me to discover extra — there’s one thing about utilizing a controller for traversal that can all the time really feel extra pure to me, as an individual who grew up taking part in Nintendo video games. Greater than that, Swap portability means I attain for the sport extra regularly for chill play periods in creativity mode, the place I can actually lean into the sandbox nature of the sport, and use terraforming much less for useful resource gathering and extra for straight-up shenanigans. In my present save file, I’ve constructed little or no — however I’ve hollowed out the core of a mountain.
As a devoted fan of simulation and base-building video games, I’m delighted to have two locations to play Astroneer, every of which provides me a special focus — PC for base-building, and Swap for operating round and doing dumb issues. Whereas I want the Swap have been a sharper platform for the precise base administration, the transportable possibility offers me extra alternatives to mess around within the recreation’s world. With Astroneer’s expansive and extremely mutable map, that’s nonetheless a humiliation of riches.
Astroneer will probably be launched on Jan. 13 on Nintendo Swap. It’s also obtainable on PlayStation 4, Home windows PC, and Xbox One. These impressions are based mostly on a closing “retail” Swap obtain code offered by System Period Softworks. You will discover additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.