Stranded: Alien Dawn, developed by Haemimont Games and published by Frontier Foundry, is a survival and simulation game. It is still in early access; however, the publishers are no strangers to simulation games, having previously worked on Jurassic World Evolution, Planet Zoo, and Planet Coaster. Likewise, the developers have worked on Surviving Mars and the Tropico series, so it goes without saying that there is certainly a large amount of experience in the survival and simulation genre. Stranded: Alien Dawn crash-landed into early access in October, however, there are no exact dates yet for its full release. It is estimated that the early access phase will last for roughly six months.
Stranded: Alien Dawn puts you in the driving seat and leaves you responsible for the survival of a group of humans who have crash-landed on an alien planet. Your job is to ensure that the survivors not only survive, but also begin to thrive. Resources are limited, the weather is unpredictable (could this game secretly be set in Scotland?), the terrain is filled with treachery, and hostile creatures that are seeking to halt your progress at every turn. You start off with absolutely nothing and as you progress you must build a camp, farm resources, and develop defences to fend off the increasingly aggressive foes that will approach you. Each playthrough of Stranded: Alien Dawn is unique, and no two journeys will be the same. You will constantly find yourself in a constant balancing act of handling short term needs, but also will need to consider the long-term risks and rewards of your actions.
First and foremost, considering that this game has only recently come into early access, Stranded: Alien Dawn is clearly working to a high pedigree and runs pretty flawlessly. There are so many moving parts and so many different things that you must juggle to achieve success. I found there to be quite a steep learning curve upon starting up my journey, however, there is quite an extensive tutorial. To be precise, there are six tutorials to work your way through covering everything from how you interact with the environment, building a camp and combat, extending all the way to developing your own power grid and electricity to preserve your resources. I wouldn’t call myself a simulation buff in any way, so even the tutorials took a great amount of concentration and focus for me to remember all the information being given to me. Due to my own struggles, I was incredibly thankful for such an extensive tutorial, however, I did find that even after spending over an hour in the tutorials that once I was playing the actual game I still floundered and panicked a lot.
Upon leaving the tutorial, you’ll be ready to embark on your adventure. You have a list of twenty survivors to choose from and can only choose four. Each survivor has their own set of skills and talents, some will flourish in combat, others are natural medics, so you need to use those skills to your advantage to make sure that work is done in the most efficient way possible. Each character profile is incredibly in depth and there are no details left out, each has their own skills and even their own traumas from their former life. With twenty survivors to choose from, there really are endless opportunities for variety in the playthroughs.
One thing that I cannot help but commend this game for is the sheer detail included. You are likely to get through the entire game just by eating basic soups and berries, but who really wants to live like that? Not me. I want the nicer things in life and so do these survivors, so managing things like this adds an extra element of immersion, but also difficulty. I really didn’t handle the micromanagement aspect of Stranded: Alien Dawn well, however, I can’t criticise a game for my own shortcomings. Whilst I felt the difficulty, I can’t deny that the mechanics are well-made and taught to the player.
Another aspect that I really enjoyed throughout Stranded: Alien Dawn is the building. The building is yet another thing that has been developed to an incredible extent, allowing you to build stunning structures. Since everything on this planet seems to want you to die, you need to build up excellent defences to keep your base safe, otherwise you’ll find yourself falling victim to the many aggressors that can be found. You’ll start off with nothing more than a basic shelter, but will soon find yourself developing a full-on homestead with electricity.
I see an incredibly bright future for Stranded: Alien Dawn, and I cannot wait to see where it goes after its full release. For a game in early access, it provided me very little problems in terms of performance and bugs, visually it was quite impressive as well. Is it my kind of thing? No. Were some of the concepts way above my capability levels? Yes. Does this make it a bad game? Absolutely not. Fans of games like Frostpunk and Rimworld will feel right at home with the difficulty and the degree of micromanaging required. There is an incredibly solid foundation built here by the developers, and I can see a lot of simulation fans sinking many hours into it.
Lj’s Rating: 4 out of 5.
Many thanks to Heaven Media for supplying the review code.