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Nova Lands Review


Imagine it. Home is far, far away. Even in the age of space travel, things don’t always go to plan. This is where Nova Lands begins as you make planetfall on an unknown celestial body, having to temporarily call it home. It’s a good job then, that the environment is resource rich which provides an opportunity to set up camp and have a good shot at surviving.

Nova Lands is, at its heart, an island management sim where gathering and crafting numerous items forms a key part of the core gameplay. This starts off pretty basic, with components such as rocks and twigs helping you lay the foundations of your new home. Gathering resources is made easy thanks to your handy extraction tool which breaks down raw materials.

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The world of Nova Lands is vast

You begin on the central landing island, but it quickly turns the planet is made up of a network of hexagonal biomes which all reside fairly close to each other. Once you have got your radar tower up and running, you will be able to push deeper into the islands. However, to unlock access to these you will need to craft increasingly expensive and rare materials as you play. 

When you head out to collect materials, your handy backpack will store a fair amount even to begin with. You can also toggle an auto pickup feature on or off, which can be quite handy as space becomes more limited. If you’re surrounded by a few different types of item, it can occasionally be a bit fiddly to grab the ones you need. Keep dropping the unwanted ones and eventually you’ll get there.

Exploration is also limited by your oxygen supply. Your landing island will have an oxygenator which will need topping up regularly. When the supply gets low, you’ll know about it thanks to an increasingly paced shrill and stressful noise warning you to get back to base. Fast.

Crafting is straightforward enough; feeding your machines the ingredients they need according to different recipes. You can transfer all or half of stacked items, but cannot specify the exact amount to transfer. This is a minor annoyance, but just means you’ll need to constantly swap items or overstock so your machine can take the amount it needs per recipe.

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What will you do?

The other gameplay anchor is construction. There are an awful lot of different buildings to erect in Nova Lands, and they are rather handily organised by their different functions. Whether it’s logistics, resource crafting, farming or simply generating power (to name a few) there’s plenty to keep you occupied. Thankfully things open up gradually as you tick off objectives at the research station.

This is the place to unlock new technologies, but each upgrade comes at a cost. The progression structure is paced well as materials are used to unlock the next building, which can then produce sought after components, which then unlock new research and so on. This “merry-go-round” format keeps the action moving. Things do slow down noticeably towards the end of the research tree as the materials needed are much more complex, and take a lot longer to produce. 

As well as developing your settlement, there is room also for personal growth, all thanks to the skill tree. You earn XP for the majority of your exploits, as seen on the progress bar which stretches across the top of your screen. Levelling up earns skill points, which can be spent in one of four different categories. You know the drill. 

It’s quite compact too, meaning most upgrades feel genuinely useful allowing things such as increased yields from resource gathering and better crop harvests. However, it’s the bot automation that I found the most useful for my progression.

This is where Nova Lands really shines. As you expand you’ll need a larger roster of materials to generate the more advanced items you need. Think of that merry-go-round again. You start with the building blocks, let’s say ore, which you create metal bars with. You then need to compare two types of these to create a compound metal, which is then needed by a different facility to create a usable item. When you get to this point, you’ll need all the help you can get to stop production grinding to a halt.

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Much of Nova Lands really shines

This is where your little helper bots come in. They can gather resources, defend from enemies and carry out all sorts of logistical duties. You can organise them from your bot antenna station, ensuring they are doing what you need them to do. There are numerous ways to increase their efficiency as you expand your research capabilities, and there is something wonderful about watching them zip around at 4x speed, hoovering up resources before you even get a chance to pick them up.

The AI behind the bots works really well on the whole. I only had one issue where they wouldn’t water my crops after harvesting them, but otherwise they were very efficient. You can have one antenna per island, as well as building transporter arms and drone stations to keep your resources flowing efficiently. It’s very satisfying to sit back and observe once you have things up and running smoothly.

Some islands are fairly inviting, and many have raw materials exclusive to them that will unlock pathways to create all sorts of new and exciting items. Others are more hostile, and will need de-wilding before you can assess exactly what they have to offer. You’ll occasionally come across other visitors who will require certain materials to either return home, or set up useful shops which allow you to purchase all sorts of upgrades and even change outfits.

There are a few islands that allow access to the planet’s larger inhabitants, which serve as the boss battles of Nova Lands. Rather interestingly you can opt to push on and take the fight to them (such encounters will see a warning pop up on screen for you) but this isn’t the only way to approach things. Instead, there is a non-combative option to overcome (and even charm) these creatures that will yield the same rewards. However you go about these encounters, combat still plays an important role in Nova Lands.

Your weapon, a highly charged laser rifle, provides your one and only way to defend yourself against hostile creatures. Some will only attack as a form of self defence, others will come over for a scrap as soon as they see you. However, you’ll need to eliminate certain critters to get hold of exclusive crafting materials. There is another role that they can play however.

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Nova Lands is charming and accessible

Once you complete the research, your extraction tool can be used to capture wild animals. You can then set up farms to have them produce otherwise unobtainable items. Don’t worry about the maintenance though, because your trusty bots will be there to keep things ticking over.

Nova Lands leans into the 2D pixel art style which works well for this type of game. It looks pretty and each biome feels different and unique when compared to the others. At times it’s quite relaxing, whilst at the same time creating a genuine sense of mystery that ensures it is exciting to get out there and explore.

Nova Lands delivers pretty much everything you’d expect from the genre, with a balanced gameplay structure that flows really well for the most part. I have to admit I wasn’t expecting to, but I got very invested in my interstellar community. Nova Lands is the type of game where you’ll know if it’s for you from the very first hour. It’s unapologetically a sim management game. And it’s a good one too.

Nova Lands avoids nearly all the pitfalls of the ever popular sim genre, providing a charming and accessible experience which is hard not to like.


  • Smooth overall progression
  • Bot AI works well
  • Loads to build and collect
  • Pretty, inviting visuals
  • Controls can be fiddly at times
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to : Hypetrain Digital
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 21 June 2023 | £16.74
Darren Edwards
Darren Edwards
I have been playing games since a very early age, thanks to my Dad's encouragement. I've been an Xbox gamer since the very beginning, the Master Chief is to thank for that. I'm also a big Nintendo geek, and my other half is a PlayStation nut. I'll play pretty much anything in any genre (although FIFA and COD maybe pushing it).
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Smooth overall progression</li> <li>Bot AI works well</li> <li>Loads to build and collect</li> <li>Pretty, inviting visuals</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Controls can be fiddly at times</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to : Hypetrain Digital</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 21 June 2023 | £16.74</li> </ul>Nova Lands Review
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