So far in Surviving Mars post-release we have had political turmoil amidst a Space Race, a song contest that is literally out of this world, and additional difficulty steps included for the sadists that thought it was too easy to survive on Mars. Now we are getting… grass and shrubbery in the Green Planet expansion.
No, that would be doing the latest expansion a disservice. The Green Planet DLC tasks players with turning the Red Planet into a green planet. You’ve successfully colonised Mars, but now you can do it in a much more nature-friendly way, even potentially allowing inhabitants the ability to breathe naturally on the surface of the planet.
Surviving Mars: Green Planet brings a major new feature in the ability to terraform the planet as you see fit; this was one of the most requested features and the team at Haemimont are happy to oblige. But – as with almost everything else in Surviving Mars – you need to earn this. Increasing the four newly added parameters (Atmosphere, Temperature, Water and Vegetation) that now appear under the main info bar, will allow humans to breathe the air outside of the confines of the domes.
A new research tree has also been added for Terraforming, which indicates you can spend as much or as little time on it as you like. Perhaps you prefer the confines of the domes and that retro-futuristic look to them, or maybe you want to encourage your residents to head on out and run around the trees and fields. The choice is yours.
To terraform however, you need greenery, and there is no shortage on offer now. Start off with some lichen to improve the soil quality and it won’t be long before you are growing crops, grass and trees to fill the atmosphere with that essential oxygen. This greenery takes over gradually though, and the contrast between the red and green when it starts to grow is beautiful. It even shows the changing surface on planetary views, which really gives you a sense you are making a meaningful difference.
There are also new buildings to help with the terraform process, but they can have adverse effects if used too much. The Water Pump helps create man-made lakes on the planet that also act as a storage. This is a relatively harmless new addition, but buildings like the Greenhouse Gases Factory can cause more harm than good, with several new disasters added in, such as acid rain.
There are smaller new additions as well including a new sponsor, new special projects, landscaping tools and buildings, along with a revamped UI, mainly to fit in with all the extra parameters that you need to keep an eye on. Some of these are incorporated into the free update – codenamed Armstrong – that has launched alongside the premium expansion, so even those that don’t have the new Green Planet expansion will certainly find something to return to.
This new expansion adds a whole new way to play Surviving Mars and feels a much beefier addition than the Space Race expansion that, looking back now, wasn’t as grand as I initially expected. My biggest criticism though comes from the implementation of this new DLC. Sure, with the Space Race DLC, you were instructed to start a new game to experience these political infractions from the very beginning – and only then they came, but typically only if you were the instigator. With the Green Planet add-on, you are again instructed to start a brand-new game.
It is a slow-burner of an expansion, with any true meaningful effort you put into it only showing any real effect several hours later. So, it is unfortunate to have to start from scratch – arguably the hardest point in Surviving Mars – before being able to really dive into this DLC. I would have loved having a ‘finished’ colony that is already well-established to see this huge transformation happen to their planet as you coat the surface in greenery. I have no qualms over starting yet another colonisation project, but I also want to be able to continue where I have started previously with the new features.
Still, it is a joy to return to this game. The usual problems still persist – mainly the fiddly controls but put that down to this being a simulation game on a console – but this new Green Planet expansion on Xbox One literally gives the game a breath of fresh air. Looking back now its hard to imagine Surviving Mars without this huge terraforming project alongside everything else you need to maintain. It keeps its’ difficulty, but it feels far more rewarding at the same time.