Over the last decade or so, gamers have become hungry for survival games. Maybe we see it as good training for a possible apocalyptic future or that of an adventure holiday gone wrong? Whatever the case we can’t seem to get enough of working through a survival story from scratch, collecting resources, building shelters, conquering the wilderness. From ARK: Survival Evolved to Rust Console Edition, the genre is thriving.
Now we have a new addition, one that puts you in charge of a group of survivors who have crash-landed on an alien planet. How do they cope? Well, in Stranded: Alien Dawn it’s all up to you.
Stranded: Alien Dawn is a sim survival game from Haemimont Games, the developers who made some of the Tropico games so you can be sure that they have a pedigree in this type of work. It starts by allowing you the chance to select your planet, difficulty level and who your survivors are. From there you find yourself in a spaceship – on fire – hurtling towards the surface of the planet. What’s happened to put you in this situation is unclear but it’s not good. When you land, other bits of space wreckage smash down and the first thing you need to do is collect yourself, stop the crew from panicking and then somehow survive. That’s the essence of the story because what happens next all depends on how you choose your narrative.
Choosing which survivors you take along for the ride is quite important in Stranded: Alien Dawn, and you have over thirty to choose from. They all have different skills too and so you’ll want to ensure you get a good balance to the team. Categories include crafting, farming, combat, and cooking for example, all marked out of 10. Choosing wisely will have great rewards later on.
The game operates like any normal sim game, tasking you with moving across the map, keeping an eye on your survivors and picking out any resources littered around the world. You can choose to pause time when you desire and examine the map or just give yourself a moment to work out what you want to do next. You can fast forward time as well, so actions can be completed quicker.
The first thing you need to do as a team – at least when everyone has calmed down – is to get a shelter built. You can do this by sending people out to scavenge metal from the crashed ships, cutting logs from nearby woods. You then can make beds and storage areas. Food can first be found in plant life around you, but needs to be observed first before eating for possible danger. Soon you’re making campfires and cooking. You get a research table and then the options open up for different furniture options for your base and handy things to have around to make shelter life a bit more bearable.
As you would expect, alien life forms will attack, but not before you can go out and attack them. So, for instance, a research table will open a tech tree where you can build weapons, from the lowly bow and arrow to the laser gun. You also need to build defenses to stop oncoming attacks on your base. This part of Stranded: Alien Dawn works much more like a traditional tower defense game, as you build walls, defensive towers, and traps all around the area.
As you grow, you can explore the map more, even getting a hot air balloon to spot more resources. But you need to keep a close eye on your survivor’s needs and mental health. Are they bored or stressed? At all times you’ll want to listen to what they need and try to make life a little bit better for them. Perhaps you’ll want to craft a dart board to keep morale up or make a dining table to create a slither of civilisation? You can even order a schedule of tasks and rest days. Everything in Stranded: Alien Dawn is highly detailed on the management side and never gets boring to work though. For some, it might get a bit overwhelming but for me, it constantly felt fresh and intuitive to use.
Stranded: Alien Dawn looks good as well, with some nice lighting effects and great portraits of the survivors themselves. The map is interesting, as are the wildlife and alien creatures. Admittedly, it takes a few moments to get used to how you move across the map, zooming in and out, but soon it becomes second nature. The menus are simple to use and are nicely clear.
Stranded: Alien Dawn is a very good survival game, one that builds in tower defense and sim-like elements too. Fresh and original, there is enough challenge here for the hardy player as well as plenty of accessible gameplay for any newcomer to the genre. If you are a fan of these games, then there is a lot to love here and get your teeth into. Just be aware, you’ll be likely to spend hours of your life with what Stranded: Alien Dawn is able to deliver, but at least you’ll gain the knowledge needed in case you ever get stranded on an alien planet.