Some lovely, relaxing tunes to complement the survival and base-building fun, setting the ambiance nicely. Decent sound effects, too.
Sobrius and Desertum prove to be pleasant, scenic places to be stuck in, so even if your survivors are dying, you can admire the vistas.
There's an awful lot going on in Stranded: Alien Dawn, but Haemimont has done a bang-up job in mapping it all to a controller.
A surfeit of features and options, including two whole planets to attempt survival on and three different scenarios. This is good stuff.
A decent enough list with a nice spread that covers all of the bases, including the actual building of bases. Should make for a fun completion.
April 24, 2023
What would you do if you were marooned on an alien planet? Stranded without hope of rescue? Would you fall to your knees and cry like one of our survivors did in Stranded: Alien Dawn? Or would you spring into action, scavenging for resources to build a shelter, like another, more resourceful survivor did? I'd probably have a bit of a cry first, and then maybe think about doing something. Maybe. Whatever your reaction to crash landing in a scary and unknown place, survival is the name of the game in Stranded: Alien Dawn, as you chart a course from humble makeshift homesteads to a flourishing, self-sufficient human colony. It's tough stuff, but hugely engaging.
The work of erstwhile Tropico and Surviving Mars developer Haemimont Games, Stranded: Alien Dawn is a deep and complex survival-based experience. Viewed from an isometric perspective, you're charged with managing every conceivable facet of your chosen survivors' day-to-day lives in their new situation, whether it's monitoring their happiness, ensuring there's a steady supply of food and a place to store it, building defences against hostile insectoid fauna, or simply providing some manner of entertainment to stave off boredom in lieu of a complete mental breakdown.
After an optional, rather lengthy tutorial, you'll be armed with the basics you need to get to grips with Stranded: Alien Dawn's various mechanics and systems, and Haemimont Games has done a fine job in mapping a series of complex inputs to a console controller. Up on the d-pad selects your survivors, and down opens a menu of actions that you can tab through with the bumper buttons. Simple enough. Nonetheless, it's a game that has very clear PC origins, having been in early access since October 2022, and, as such, it can feel quite unwieldy at times – holding the right trigger to tilt the camera with the right stick being one such ever-so-slightly fiddly thing. As admirable an effort Haemimont has made to make Alien Dawn accessible to console players, it's a game that's still crying out for a mouse and keyboard.
Thankfully, the ability to pause the action whenever you like, so you can take your time in issuing orders to survivors, or to build vital structures, proves invaluable, ensuring you're not forced to panic your way through various menus and pop-up windows as danger approaches and your survivors succumb to mandibles and stingers. And once you've actioned construction, scavenging, combat, or whatever orders you see fit, things can be sped up to completion, before moving onto the next task to aid in the survival of your burgeoning camp. There's something hugely rewarding about starting with nothing, then establishing a small community, constructing ramshackle shelters, straw beds, and a campfire, before cobbling together a workbench for crafting and a research desk to unlock further structures and increasingly advanced accoutrements.
Put in the long yards, and you can start making proper houses, complete with a power supply, as well as walls, fortifications, and automated defences to keep marauding creatures at bay. You can plant useful crops to create a constant food supply or to harvest materials for clothing and such. You can have a sustainable energy grid supplied by solar or wind power, supplemented by a backup generator, and you can, given enough time and research, have a thriving settlement replete with flamethrowers, traps, a fully stocked fridge freezer, air conditioning, a dartboard, a punchbag, and fields brimming with useful crops.
There's a dizzying array of options to delve into and an astonishing amount of granular detail to immerse yourself in, as you strive to keep your camp afloat and working efficiently – and, vitally, to keep your settlers alive in the face of constant threats and random occurrences. You can set the schedule of your survivors, ensuring they have ample relaxation and leisure time amid their daily chores, while prioritising who should do what and when. It can all seem a bit overwhelming at times, and when you're really up against it, the controls can seem a little finicky. Again, the pause button proves to be a constant blessing, and the on-screen prompts and hints always help.
With two distinct biomes – the comically named Dune-style desert planet of Desertum and the verdant, plentiful lands of Sobrius – and three different, challenging scenarios to take on, there's a wealth of content here that will keep you absorbed for countless hours, as you get sucked into building the best, most successful community you possibly can. Where the fertile expanses of Sobrius are a nice place to start, Desertum is a relatively resource-deprived place, and during those cold desert evenings, a paucity of wood for the campfire might prove to be an issue. It's precisely this sort of thing that will cause your survivors to die of hypothermia if not properly catered for, so you'll need to search out alternate fuels, which means getting to work observing the local flora and any wildlife that doesn't want to rip your face off.
Factor in modifiers, available as various Moons – like the Chaos Moon, which throws all manner of madness your way; the Nyx Moon, which makes the nights deadly; or the Jason Moon, which offers an even sterner challenge than usual – as well as traditional difficulty settings and various game rules that you can toggle on or off, and Alien Dawn really leaves no stone unturned. There are ecosystems at work on Sobrius and Desertum, too, as well as weather systems to contend with, making the act of staying a live a constantly arduous one.
There's a lot to wrap your head around in Stranded: Alien Dawn, then, but, in bringing its survival sim to console, Haemimont hasn't cut any corners, delivering an uncompromising, full-fat experience. And that's to be applauded, especially since its game emerges as a thoroughly enjoyable, engaging, and insanely detailed survive 'em up with myriad base-building options. If you do play Stranded: Alien Dawn, and it all seems a bit much, don't cry. Just get to work.