Astroneer (Switch) Review
Negotiating Astroneer with no prior knowledge is like learning to drive a forklift while juggling seven screwdrivers. It is brutal not from a survival standpoint, but interface and controls that are highly unintuitive. There is no tutorial to speak of, apart from a list of tasks, to be completed with bewildered stubbornness. You will fumble, stumble and bumble. YouTube tutorials will be essential.
Open-ended games have the allure of the unknown. What resources might be just over there? Is it possible to bring compulsive order to the landscape? Can you just dig down into the planet core and see what happens? Astroneer taps into this vein and lets it flow, leaving you adrift on a randomly generated planet. You must print anything you need from the resources you extract, then work to master supply chains, research trees and printer limits, all while juggling oxygen and power supplies.
There is an addictive sway to gameplay as it shifts focus from base building to exploration and back again, all the while increasing the complexity of what you can achieve with the tools at your disposal. After several hours, it turns into something of a scientific expedition, an experience weighted to logistic tasks and the minutiae of resource smelting, device construction and modular economy.
A willingness to take time to learn the controls is essential, as there is no HUD. Everything is displayed through pop-up text or via your backpack. It took many repeated mistakes before I understood the logic of resource management, printing new objects and applying upgrades.
If you don’t like games that make you jump through multiple hoops to perform tasks that would usually be automated in other titles, then Astroneer will frustrate. If, however, you are willing to embrace the awkwardness and remain determined as you explore, build and make your way through this aimless experience, then Astroneer will provide as much entertainment as your propensity for self-amusement.
Like the oxygen line connected to your space explorer, you must remain close to Astroneer to gain anything from it. A directionless experience that rewards investment with growing base complexity, combined with the constant possibility of discovery, makes this a perfect game for the right type of player.
+ Grows in depth the more you work at it
+ Survival elements minimal
- Lack of tutorial makes it unfriendly to new players
- Switch controls lack finesse of PC/mouse