With the disappointment many players felt after playing No Man’s Sky, it makes sense that many people are looking for alternatives. They’re looking for games that will provide the open-ended sandbox gameplay of space exploration while maintaining player interest and story. Well, Planet Explorers by Pathea Games may just be the game to do that.
Pathea Games were nice enough to give me access, so I can have a good old rummage around and see just how it all looks. Could it really be the answer to our exploration sandbox dreams?
Right, let’s take a look at the storyline. It’s not extensive at least not seemingly so. At first the story is purely a way of talking you through the tutorial and all the things you can do in Planet Explorers, and feels very similar to many MMO’s in the way that it’s set up.
In the Story mode, your ship has crashed and the first few quests are all about finding your existing crew and getting to grips with the crafting system to gather resources, and make the items that mean the difference between surviving and dying. Eventually you discover alien buildings and technology. Who are these others and what do they want?
There are two other game modes, and although a limited story and quest structure has been put in place the evolving, predominant story is in the Story mode.
To explain the differences between the games modes hinted to above. Storyline is the bulk of the experience on a pre-created map with a fleshed out storyline talking you through the tutorials and then on to the larger game. There is a separate tutorial option, but this has no storyline and is basically there to teach you the controls of moving, gathering and combat.
Adventure mode is similar to the above but there is only a very basic storyline that introduces you to the schematics and you’re given a randomly generated map, you can then play how you want.
Finally, there’s Build Mode which has no enemies to get in your way and infinite resources. It’s all about the build, baby.
The game is all about surviving on this semi-hostile planet. At first you need to concern yourself with having food and a weapon. Then you can progress by looking at resource gathering, mining and building structures and defences. There are not too many things to keep track of, health, stamina and hunger are your main three things to keep an eye on, and Stamina regenerates over time, so it’s pretty much just the two.
All the items to craft are made from things called schematics. Until you get and use the schematic you won’t be able to build the item. Storyline mode provides you with the schematics in a sort of drip feed way, getting a few at a time to build up your collection. You can create things directly from your inventory so you don’t need to worry about crafting benches or forges etc. As long as you have the materials you can craft wherever you are.
Buildings comprise of a number of blocks in a similar style to those in Minecraft. You don’t have to place them one block at a time though.
The final and one of the most exciting (albeit complex) things about the crafting system in Planet Explorers is the creation of ISOs. ISO’s are basically blueprints for items so you can decide how they are going to look and their characteristics. With ISO’s you can create everything from new looking swords and shields to your own designed vehicles and defense turrets. This is a really great part of the game, but it does take some practice and at present the tutorials could be a little more hand-holdy. It’s clear that Pathea Games have creation and customisation at the top of its priority list.
Combat is intuitive and uncomplicated. Planet Explorers can be played in either first or third person perspective, and the combat controls will very much depend on your chosen. I tend to keep everything in third person and have the attack where you click approach. The control customisation is useful and helps you get to grips with things a little quicker. The control customisation is useful and helps you get to grips with things a little quicker.
Graphically, everything could do with a bit of a tweak but there aren’t any real issues. In fact, I suspect that the sheer level of customisation has almost forced the graphics down a notch. Personally, I wouldn’t trade them back. There’s nothing really wrong with the graphics, that aren’t seriously offset by the fun of creating and making everything.
So, my initial impression of Planet Explorers is full of enthusiasm for what may well end up being a damn fine game. Of course this depends on what you’re looking from in a sandbox game. If you’re looking for a rich intense storyline, then best walk on. If, on the other hand you’re looking for a sandbox game where you can let your imagination run wild and create whatever you want. Then maybe head over to Steam and give it a look.