When I first spotted Outpost Zero, I literally thought it to be just another survival game. The survival genre have stagnated after the initial success of ARK : Survival Evolved and Rust. There have been quite some promising spin-offs of the franchise, like the ones which mixed survival with zombies, and the ones which added a bit of an adventure element to them. Two such games include Planet Explorers, which decided to throw in a bit of story to make gameplay interesting, while Outpost Zero decides to add to the AI of the game to make stuff interesting.
Outpost Zero is a action-adventure survival game developed by Symmetric Games and published by tinyBuild. The game officially released on Steam on July 12,2018.
The game can be played either online or in offline modes. You can build your own colony offline, fending off random pirates and the planet’s species resistant to your occupation. That’s fun, till you build a full fledged big colony where everything is worked upon by drones or robots, because there’s little scope of further expansion when you’re already building the most advanced robots and are in possession of Tier 3 weapons. The definitive fun is always online, since AI raids and the planet’s fauna won’t be the only thing resisting your hold on the land, there will be other colonies to think about.
Even if you are low on squad mates, the game’s designed in a way not to be frustrating in any way, since you’ll always have robot buddies helping you out. However, having a colony full of people is always recommended, if you truly wish to exploit the planet’s resources to the fullest extent, without worrying about anyone else encroaching on your territory. Multiplayer is always more fun than a few boring poorly timed raids by the AI, for which you can almost always be prepared.
The main concept of the game is to build a fully functional colony, and to ensure it stays on the ground. You are a mech sent to colonize the “New World” (also called Gaia in layman’s terms) , and as expected, your partners will always be synthetic (regardless of their constitution in the real world). The only thing that differs is the amount of free will granted to the players as opposed to the robots and drones they make to help make their colony functional. The main feature the game capitalizes on is the ability to make other AI companions at will, and utilize their help to wrest control of the land from Mother Nature. Civilization’s on the rush, and a few native creatures or space pirates can’t stop it.
You need to mine resources to start the construction of a colony. There are a wide variety of resources to collect and experiment with, and the resource requirements change astronomically as you feel the need to upgrade to superior gear and equipment. Some types of advanced resources are crafted from mined materials, and are used for construction of higher tier gear for your mechanical body. The stronger the material, the higher the resource costs go, but it also means more protection from the hostile creatures outside. Initially, you may be depleting resource deposits by collecting using your hand tool, but later, drills and mines help you collect resources with ease. Something that makes you feel confused is the fact that deposits don’t deplete when a mine or drill works on them, but somehow gets depleted when you use your hand tool?
The game world has a large scale of wonderful flora and fauna, some of which might not be so welcoming as the others. The answer lies to killing off any creature that might threaten your drones or you. Violence is always the answer, even if your opponent may not be of the aggressive type. Combat seems to be wobbly and a bit peculiar in the sense that some mobs in the world are extremely prone to damage, while others are almost impervious. Also, this is where changes happened in a few updates, from where you changed from a little mechanical puppy who can’t scratch the surface of the planet’s fauna to a walker capable of mass destruction. While the change makes sense, allowing you to kill almost anything with your machete (which you spawn with) doesn’t make the game interesting, as you scarcely feel the need for advanced gear.
The wide variety of buildings available for construction mean that you need some experimentation to learn what’s the function of each individual building. Recharge stations recharge your mechanical body (mechs don’t have stamina, do they? They have batteries), robotic factories assemble the drones you need to make your colony functional,drills collect resources from resource deposits, while furnaces provide power to buildings in their vicinity. Also the Command Center to ensure you have control of a particular section of the map for your colony. The game promises streamlining production of multiple resources by connecting buildings together, and using your drones and robots to aid them, but which really doesn’t work out to be as well as they had advertised it to be.
The map is divided into a number of grids, which can be conquered by placing a Command Center. The grid system helps you navigate easily, especially when you’re playing with a clan of people online. Grid specific events, which includes natural disasters like earthquakes and dust storms occur occasionally. This provides a challenge for survival, as some of your buildings might be damaged, and might need to be repaired. Considering the might of the drone army behind you, that won’t be too difficult. That’s why the game slightly feels off at times, because other than rival colonies, there isn’t any real threat to your colony. The weather, native fauna as well as space pirates feel like a mild breeze in terms of difficulty.
The AI is really where the game really innovates. Your AI companions can be programmed to help you defend the colony, gather resources, or be assigned to construction and repair of buildings as your colony expands on the surface of Gaia. The enemy AI seems really off at times, especially with the space pirates , who never try to attack you once you enter a construction. This becomes an easy method to avoid the enemy AI – since you can repair yourself in the process, come back out and fight back. Harder enemies come as you level up, but since leveling up means better access to higher tier gear, they remain as weak as they were before, possibly weaker. Despite that, the idea of AI companions to compensate for humans wherever possible is a nice idea. This reduces the grind needed to get anything done, but it also makes you feel bored since you won’t really be needed to do anything major other than planning your colony once you hand over all your other duties to your AI companions.
Guns work in a peculiar manner, where close range weapons like pistols are pretty overpowered, while long ranged weapons like snipers (which you won’t be getting till you level up quite a bit) feel really weak for the effort needed to craft them. Also aiming at long distance targets feels really off and inaccurate. Gun balance is needed, as they are the main tools you need to defend yourself with, or go on the aggressive on the constructions of other colonies.
The game does have a handy tutorial at the beginning of the game which explains the basic mechanics of the game, but if you’re one who’s into survival games, there is a high chance you already know how the game functions. The robot instructor who teaches you the basics of survival on Gaia somehow uses humor reminiscent of Borderlands or Saints Row, which feels quite awkward at times. The tutorial does not explain anything beyond the basic buildings like Charging Station, Command Center and the Robotics Factory. This makes things considerably tougher, since you need to manually find out what the function of each individual building is.
Graphics and Performance
The game is optimized quite well, and except for a few drops in areas with dense vegetation, the game runs without a hiccup.
The game was tested on the following specifications :
CPU : AMD Ryzen 5 2600
RAM : 16 GB DDR4
GPU : GTX 660
Gaia is a big, bright and wonderful world, and the most of it is, especially the foliage is designed beautifully, which actually makes it seem like an alien world.
If you like survival games, and have a squad you can play with, then you can check out Outpost Zero. The best idea is to get the game during a sale, try it out, and see whether you like it or not. Content wise, the game’s not really rich enough to hook people on for hours and see what works and what doesn’t.