PC, iOS, Android •
If you’re one of those folks who live in a perpetually sunny clime and think Seasonal Affective Disorder is something conjured up by the weirdos in flyover country to explain why people on Fargo ain’t that bad, let me introduce you to weather in Wisconsin. Last Tuesday–April 10th if you don’t have a calendar–I was wearing shorts and short sleeves while working outside in mid-60 (Fahrenheit) degree temps. Like all warm and sunny days that occur after months of being perpetually chilled–even while indoors, mind you–it felt like a miracle. Yesterday–April 15th–I spent a couple hours outside, only this time I was shoveling the heaviest, wettest snow there is. Any heavier or wetter and it would have been classified as slush. It snowed, literally, all day with the sky a dark gray and the temperature never exceeding 30.
It’s enough to make you want to pour a hot bath and leap in while holding a toaster. The worst part isn’t my frozen toes or numb fingers (we had, stupidly, socked all the boots and gloves away in the attic assuming that Spring was finally here), but the fact that I couldn’t spend the day in front of my laptop. On Friday, Asmodee gave me the keys to Terraforming Mars and I was dying to take it out for a spin. Luckily, I got my chance this morning (yes, it’s still snowing outside, but I’ve given up).
Terraforming Mars is currently in a pre-alpha stage, so we’ve still got a way to go before it appears on either Steam or our tablets. That said, it’s definitely Terraforming Mars at this early stage and it’s oozing with polish and shine. The graphics are pretty as can be, with a pseudo-3D Mars as well as both the doomed Martian moon, Phobos, and Jupiter’s largest satellite, Ganymede. As you move the cursor around the map, the planet slightly shifts in its rotation, making the entire display come to life.
That’s not the only bit of overproduction we’re getting in the digital version. Martian oceans ebb and flow while vegetation and cities grow up out of the planet’s surface like living parasites. Cards are represented by holographic displays instead of cardstock, complete with a blue Star Wars-like beam effect that appears to be bringing them into existence.
The game is still in its infancy and games are currently limited to 2-player contests against the hard AI which appears to be difficult in name only. I’m not great at TM [nor any other game -ed.] but I’m having my way with the AI at this point. That said, I have yet to finish a contest so my record is still at zero wins and it’s very likely the AI is simply a placeholder while the devs work on what’s under the hood, or bonnet for our UK readers [Dave watched The Grand Tour over the weekend, otherwise he wouldn’t have a clue. Thanks a lot, Jeremy Clarkson -ed.]. Despite its current lack of competence, it’s definitely fun to sit down and play Terraforming Mars whenever I get the urge.
There are some small issues with the UI as it currently stands, but we have to remember that it’s currently standing in a pre-alpha state. The cards are beautiful and animated, but important information is currently not viewable unless you zoom in on the card. Not a huge deal, but you cannot select to buy a card while zoomed in, so you currently have to zoom-in, zoom-out, then select the card for purchase. Not a big deal, but clunky. There are no rules or hover text in the game for help in understanding just what the hell is happening, either. Again, we’re so early in development that I don’t expect any of these issues to make their way to the final product.
Bottom line is that Terraforming Mars is coming. I’ve not only seen it with my own two optical sensors, but I’ve started several games with the intention of possibly finishing one within the next month or two. I’m nothing if not ambitious. Take a gander at some of the screens, all of which I captured during my latest foray to the Martian homeworld. It’s darn pretty and it won’t be too long before we’re in tournament mode in the forums.