Publisher: Curve Digital
Genre: Resource-Management Automation Simulation
Available on: PC
Version Tested: PC
Official Site: Autonauts
Release Date: October 17th, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam Store
Many games seek to challenge your way of thinking about a specific genre. So few, though, seek to challenge your thinking in new and interesting ways. The Witness is one of those few examples, but these days I wish there were more that went outside the box. When it comes to resource management and automation genres, I find this to be way more apparent. There’s a lot of refinement of what’s already there, but there lacks any real freshness and new ideas. I was expecting as much when I first opened up Autonauts, yet it seems I may have found exactly what I was looking for.
Autonauts comes from publisher Curve Digital, who is known for publishing games that seek to make players think differently. 2013’s The Swapper is an excellent example of that. Autonauts has players landing on a completely new, procedurally generated planet with little to work with. From there, you must use what’s around you to build up a factory of sorts and create new and interesting technologies. And of course, you’ll automate everything and get bots to do your bidding along the way.
At first glance, you’d think you’d be doing tedious things while the bots do the minor stuff. This game is quite the opposite, though. If you aren’t regularly doing something fresh to improve your colony, you’re playing the game wrong. The robots will handle the tedious tasks for you, but you should always be making new things or crafting new buildings to move at a steady pace. In games like this, slowed progression is not only present but quite rampant. This feels very refreshing, as most resource-gathering games will still force some tedious things on you (or at least for a short time).
That is a pretty substantial change from the standard, but that isn’t all that’s taken a different approach. You expect from most of these games that the colonists are either going to do the work for you or are a resource of sorts. In Autonauts, only the second is partially true. You have to provide your colonists with different necessities such as housing, food, and clothes. In turn, they provide you with Wuv, which is required for research. It’s an interesting approach to researching new technology and was one that worked well in the game’s context.
As for the gameplay itself, it managed to exceed my expectations. The gameplay progression all felt very satisfying from start to finish, with many different goals to accomplish. You can do different things such as create massive automated farms, mine hundreds of rocks, and create new technologies that make all your previous work look like a joke. It’s a game that’ll have you creating and rearranging your factory constantly to increase efficiency. This leaves a high skill ceiling, while those who don’t focus on that won’t have a difficult time.
One thing I didn’t understand though, was the atmospheric approach for this game. As you’ve noticed at this point, the game appears cartoony and cute. Each of the characters has really simple looks, and everything feels like it’s straight out of a children’s book. That’d be great in any case, but it feels really out of place for a game like Autonauts. You find yourself continually feeling challenged by how you could make your factory more efficient. That requires a lot of complex thinking, not to mention the programming knowledge for bots, which isn’t something you’d expect from a child. Regardless of your age, you should look into the basics of programming before going into Autonauts, as it will help you a lot in the long run.
For those that are prepared for a game like this, though, there is a lot to love here. The gameplay loop is well done to where nothing feels too old too quickly, and that extends even further down your playthrough. You’re going to spend close to a hundred hours if you’re going for a complete playthrough. For a game that’s only $20 without a sale, that’s something I’d consider almost a steal for fans of the genres. All of this isn’t even including Steam Workshop integration, which is a big plus in content.
As far as your options go, everything seems to be there. I often found that things I wished were options were conveniently there the moment I checked the options menu. That’s something I don’t usually say about options menus, so massive props to the Autonauts team. The only thing I could ask for is more in-depth graphics customization, but that’s not something I find necessary to begin with. This game doesn’t require a lot unless you’re running a toaster PC from 10 years ago.
Verdict: Autonauts is a game that’s going to keep automation fans occupied for many hours. There’s so much to research and automate, and it provides experienced automation players with room to increase efficiency. It also manages to introduce new things to its respective genres, which helps it to stand out and feel fresh. The atmosphere may hide a large difficulty curve, but the quality of the game more than makes up for it. Automation and resource-collection fans need to put this game on their list.
- Innovates on its genres
- Massive amount of content
- Solid options menu
- Tons of charm and passion
- Modding support
- Atmosphere doesn't fit difficulty