Astroneer review: drilling and chilling in outer space

Astroneer provides a solo or co-op experience that gives players equal parts relaxation and exploration.

15

There’s a fine line between smothering and chill when it comes to games that mix exploration, resource management, and base building with a dab of survival. Astroneer manages to walk that line, allowing players to spend most of their time on the things that make it fun, and almost no time worrying about status bars.

After more than two years in early access, System Era Softworks are ready to move to the 1.0 stage. As someone who has played their share of Astroneer in the past, the full release has seen the few concerns I had mostly addressed and left me with a high opinion of this sandbox adventure game, although it isn’t without the odd hiccup.

One small step

Astroneer Review Score

Astroneer begins with players landing their ship on a strange planet. When you emerge from your pod, you’ll find a small care package to get you started. After opening it, the next step is generally to use the deformation tool to gather a resource called Compound. Compound can be used to craft Tethers, and Tethers can be used to connect players to their base’s oxygen supply. These form the lifeline that make all other exploration and resource gathering possible. As the network of Tethers grows, so does your ability to explore further and gather rarer resources, enabling more complex crafting options, eventually leading to the ability to leave a planet to explore one of the six others.

That’s not to say the only goal is to hop from one planet to the next. The goal is whatever you make it. If you’re enjoying building and exploring where you are, keep at it. If you see a mountain you don’t like, remove it. If you want to dig to the center of a planet and see what’s there, happy tunneling. No part of a planet is beyond your influence, and what you can build or accomplish is limited only by your imagination and commitment to the cause.

One giant leap

Astroneer PC Review Score

Astroneer may be a relaxing experience, but it’s not without its grind. How easily you find resources is often random, so it’s not uncommon to be a single step away from crafting your next shuttle or rover, only to find yourself digging for the missing resource for what seems like an eternity. This is where the game shines as a co-op experience. Besides the obvious social benefit of playing games with friends, splitting the work between a few different people can help reduce that grind substantially.

The co-op in Astroneer is handled well in 1.0, with no hint of the connection problems that I experienced during its early access days. People were able to freely drop in or out of my game. When they left, I continued to progress, and when they returned, they were able to pick up where I currently was. Starting a game with friends doesn’t tie your save to them for eternity and starting one without them doesn’t exclude them from joining.

While end-game activities in Astroneer could be a grind, there’s an ease to the crafting and base building mechanics that flows with the tone of the overall experience. Each component snaps together in a way that resembles a Lego crafting system, and the flow of power through your base is represented by sharp little animations that mean less time in menus and more time puttering about placing and arranging the various components.

While things generally flow well and operate smoothly, there’s the odd bug, like looping sounds or missing mods on the deformation tool when logging back in, but nothing game breaking. The biggest issue for me is being forced to choose between borderless window or window for my screen. There is no full screen option. My cursor often wanders to my second monitor and gets me all out of sorts, but the more I play the less it happens. Still, I’m not sure why there isn’t a full screen for Astroneer. That seems like a standard feature for a PC game releasing in 2019.

Terraforming beauty

Astroneer Shacknews Review

Visually speaking, Astroneer is a stunning game with vibrant colors that draw you in. It helps that whatever you see on the planet you can interact with. Every mountain or hilltop is a potential resource pool and, in 1.0, mysterious structures have appeared that demand exploration and understanding, giving you a goal you didn’t realize you had. A co-op partner of mine spotted one of these structures and half joked that if they didn’t know better, they would think they were hallucinating. This prompted me to cut short whatever mining expedition I was on to see what all the fuss was about.

Astroneer also boasts very cool ambient, chill electronic music and soundscapes, although it makes me sleepy and I’ve had to turn it off. Part of me wants to say it’s one of the cooler soundtracks I’ve heard in recent memory, but if I listen to it for too long, I’m crushing coffee to keep from nodding off. The game certainly doesn’t feel empty without music, though, and I’ve found the in-game sounds hold up nicely by themselves.

No place like home

Astroneer Metacritic Review

Originally, I figured Astroneer would be a game I played for a few sessions before moving on, but the more time I spend with it the more I view it as a staple in my library. A game that I can call on when I’m looking for something relaxing that allows me to build and create. Something I can walk away from and come back to at my convenience and not feel like I’m missing out. It provides an experience that is generally therapeutic and almost never stressful. It’s not a perfect game, but it’s the kind of game that could be perfect for certain situations or groups of gamers looking for their next adventure.


This review is based on a PC download code provided by the publisher.

Managing Editor

Bill, who is also known as Rumpo, is a lifelong gamer and Toronto Maple Leafs fan. He is known for his guide writing and, unsettlingly enough, enjoys grinding out in-depth collectible articles. Tweet him @RumpoPlays if you have a question or comment about one of his guides.

Review for
Astroneer
8
Pros
  • A relaxing exploration experience
  • Intuitive crafting and base building
  • Seven unique planets to explore and build on
  • No hardcore survival elements
  • Shines as a co-op experience with friends
  • Visually pleasing experience at all times
Cons
  • Some minor bugs can pop up at times
  • Only border-less window and window mode offered
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 5, 2019 8:00 AM

    Bill Lavoy posted a new article, Astroneer review: drilling and chilling in outer space

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 8:58 AM

      Astroneer, you say?

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 9:19 AM

      GOTY 2019

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 9:58 AM

      Where’s my switch version?

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 11:18 AM

          So, it's Xbone/PC only? No PS4 at this point either?

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            February 5, 2019 11:29 AM

            It's probably a whole lot easier for them to concentrate on one platform (Xbone/Windows is kinda sorta one platform) and then if the game is successful to work on other platforms.

            But since it's an Unreal Engine game, at least part of the path is in place to do that. Or to mobile devices (see: everywhere Fortnite runs)

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              February 5, 2019 11:33 AM

              Yeah, just sucks cause I remember wanting to play and I have a shit PC that needs to be upgraded but we have no money for to do right right now.

              • reply
                February 5, 2019 12:40 PM

                I run this game at max on an I7 875kwith 8 gigs of 1600ram and a gtx 580(I think)

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                  February 5, 2019 12:40 PM

                  Before the new graphics card it was running flawlessly on an ATI Radeon 68xx

                • reply
                  February 5, 2019 5:41 PM

                  Well then I guess it should work :p

          • reply
            February 5, 2019 3:17 PM

            Cant imagine it would take long to release on ps4 seeing as they are using a cross platform engine already. They’d be crazy not to go for the most popular console out there..

          • reply
            February 6, 2019 1:35 AM

            They're concentrating on getting the game released for those platforms, then they'll explore other options.

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 12:02 PM

          Huh, thanks!

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 12:37 PM

          I like the zoom. lol

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 4:47 PM

          solid answer

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 6:30 PM

          Stay mighty, staymighty!

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 10:25 AM

      I should play this some time.

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 10:42 AM

      But IS Astro really neer? What about His Boy Elroy?

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 11:26 AM

      When will it come out for Atari Lynx?

      • reply
        February 5, 2019 3:40 PM

        Sorry, the Lynx was just choked to death by a hiker

      • reply
        February 5, 2019 4:40 PM

        Sorry, it was only built 4 cuban lynx.

        • reply
          February 5, 2019 4:58 PM

          Now yo yo, What up yo? Time is runnin' out.
          It's for real though, let's connect - politic - ditto.

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 5:56 PM

      They dropped an Astroneer-naut sitting on an Xbox from space:
      https://www.pscp.tv/w/1gqGvnpYlPjGB

      3% battery left and 90,000 feet to go. :( I don't think it's going to make it.

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 6:19 PM

      [deleted]

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 7:20 PM

      RELEASES AT MIDNIGHT EASTERN TIME TONIGHT!

      T MINUS 1:40

    • reply
      February 5, 2019 7:32 PM

      nice write up; I've logged a lot of hours in Astroneer, so can you expand on this a little bit: "as someone who has played their share of Astroneer in the past, the full release has seen the few concerns I had mostly addressed..." -- what concerns did you have before, and how were they addressed?

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        February 6, 2019 1:14 AM

        My intention was to cover that in the review, but it appears I forgot. My bad.

        When I played early access there were a lot of problems with friends getting disconnected from co-op sessions, but that seems to be a thing of the past (at least for me). I'm also finding the tethers are more stable and tend not to glitch out or fall over for no reason.

        Mainly, though, I meant that the connections were much better in co-op games.

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      February 5, 2019 7:35 PM

      I should have bought this on the Windows Store for Play Anywhere =\

    • reply
      February 6, 2019 1:50 AM

      Why does a small turbin require glass and not some metal like copper or aluminum??? I'd think the small solar should require glass.

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