EARLY ACCESS REVIEW: ‘The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation’ Needs Polish, But Shows Promise (PC)

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The Pioneers Surviving Desolation — But Why Tho

Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to survive in a hostile environment space? Well, you’re in luck, because The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation from Supercube allows players to test their space survival skills and is out in early access now.

Set on Jupiter’s moon Io, The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation leaves players stranded after their ship has been destroyed. In order to survive, players need to quickly find supplies that have been scattered across the hostile surface. These supplies, along with others mined from the moon’s surface, are used to help improve the on-ground base. There are also two other crewmates that can be rescued from their pods that landed in scattered locations around the moon.

Each of the three characters — one starting character and two crewmates — can be selected from the pre-game menu or randomized if the player chooses. These characters are all controlled individually and can be used to explore, gather resources, or build up and manage the base. Each character has specific skills, so planning is needed if you want to construct the best squad possible. On my first few attempted playthroughs, I decided to just do random crewmate assignments. It was a massive struggle to actually utilize the character-specific skills. These abilities did make some actions take less time, but other than that it was hard to feel like they actually made a strong difference.

I do appreciate that you can only have three total characters though, which means you almost always have to leave out an important attribute adding to the challenge of survival. Being able to select which crewmates appear gives players more control over the process as well, but I’m not sure it really made survival any easier. These issues are all something that can easily be tweaked over the length of the early access period, so I’m mostly just glad to see an interesting concept as Supercube continues to expand it over time.

The main appeal of The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation is the base building, and that’s where I am much more cautious when it comes to recommending the game. Currently, the base can be expanded to hold a handful of modules like crew quarters, farms, and mining services. Character skills are matched up with specific modules, so you’ll want to make sure to build things that your crewmates can effectively manage.

The issue I had with this is that it all has to be managed manually. Instead of leaving a crewmate behind to repair the base after an earthquake or collect food once the farms have reached their maximum holding capacity, I had to keep going back to check what needed to be done. This process was incredibly arduous since each component in each module had to be individually checked to see if they needed to be maintained. It would be really nice to see some sort of base automation introduced down the line because having to constantly go back and forth just to move vegetables into a storage container was less than ideal.

I truly believe the main two components of the game, the team composition and base building, can be really great with just a few quality-of-life tweaks. The problem is that The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation is so full of bugs this early on in the process that it was hard to fully enjoy my time playing. I had countless character deaths happen spontaneously despite my focus on keeping them fed and well-rested and often had characters get stuck out on the surface unable to move because they glitched into the ground or side of a hill. These bugs were entirely game-breaking, since losing a character makes it impossible to actually build up the base to survive. Other bugs like having to order moves or interactions multiple times were significantly less game-breaking but were still quite frustrating. I fully understand bugs are part of the early access process, so I’m by no means saying they ruin any potential for the game, but potential buyers should beware until Supercube has had more time to iron some of the bugs out to make the experience a bit better.

The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation has a really neat premise and a steep challenge curve, but a lack of mechanics and a plethora of bugs this early on make it one to hold off on picking up just yet. That said, fans of challenging survival simulators should keep an eye out to see if Supercube can effectively use early access to polish a very intriguing game.

The Pioneers: Surviving Desolation is out now in early access on Steam.


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