Tanner is a writer for Parallax Media
It was the first Saturday in months where I had absolutely nothing to do. No homework, no work, and no plans. School was getting crazy, I was a month away from graduating from college and the previous week was one of the busiest I’ve had in awhile.
Earlier in that week, I was finally able to buy Astroneer, a game I had my eyes on for some time now. It was released on Xbox a couple of months ago and the time was finally right for me to buy it. I needed it.
That Saturday I booted up the game around noon and I didn’t stop for five hours. I completely lost all sense of time and my surroundings and found myself lost on a deserted planet exploring and searching for resources. When I looked down at my phone and realized how much time had gone by I was surprised but also so happy.
It had been months since the last time I had an experience like that with a video game. I missed that feeling. I’m so glad Astroneer was able to do that for me.
There’s a certain kind of game that I can take one look at and know right away that it’s definitely for me. If it’s a something where your main objective isn’t clearly outlined and it’s mostly up to you to find your way and have your own experience, I’ll probably love it.
For a lot of 2017 and 2018, I was completely taken over by Stardew Valley. To say I fully adopted the farmer lifestyle is an understatement. A day didn’t go by where I didn’t tend to my crops and a week didn’t go by where I didn’t have at least one day where I spent several uninterrupted hours fishing and trying to get fellow Stardew Valley resident Haley to marry me.
When I first started to look at Astroneer my first thought was “oh no.” I knew right away that I was looking at another Stardew Valley situation. Did I really need another game to take over my life like that again?
Well, it happened. Astroneer has taken over my life.
The main objective in Astroneer is to scavenge for any resources you can find and then apply what you’ve found to print items that will aid you in your quest to get off of the planet and move on to the next one.
For me, while I do abide by the game’s intended main objective, I’ve found that I’m enjoying myself for reasons other than being successful in the game.
There isn’t a story, you’re the only character and you’re entirely alone on deserted planets. Something I always value in a video game is when I’m able to personally connect with a story or characters. With Astroneer, I’ve found that I’m connecting with myself.
When I play this game, it gives me time to relax. Time to think. As I suck up resources, dig down to the core and lose myself in the ambient sci-fi soundtrack I figure things out in my head. I connect with myself and ease my mind.
The music is mesmerizing, pushing in-game buttons gives nice clicky feedback, throwing down tethers gives off a sound that gives the action power and sucking up resources has a nice popping sound. There’s even the saturated cartoonish animation and color palette that keep your eyes glued to the screen.
As I mentioned earlier I’m playing on Xbox. Astroneer is very clearly a game meant to be played on PC. A lot of the controls feel a bit wacky in how they were adapted for a controller and my day one Xbox One can’t seem to handle the game at times. When there’s a lot going on around me or I’m back by my base where there’s a lot of clutter the game severely starts to drop frames.
The experience that Astroneer delivers to its players is of such high quality that it’s easy to look past performance issues.
I could get hung up on occasional lag, or I could try and figure out why there isn’t any power going to my large printer. I’d rather figure out what’s up with the power because that’s one of the main areas where this game really shines.
Most of my time with Astroneer has been spent exploring but a good deal has been just figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Should I have more wind turbines or more solar panels? Is it necessary to have all of my equipment connected to multiple other power sources or is just one okay? What happens if I connect this thing to this thing? If I connect this to this, will it work faster?
I find myself getting lost in the constant tinkering that’s required of you to succeed. It isn’t easy but success isn’t easy and that’s important to realize. Astroneer is a game where you’re going to fail a lot. You’re going to drive your very first vehicle into a cave and lose it forever and you’re going to waste a lot of resources printing items you end up realizing you don’t even need.
I’ve put so much time into Astroneer but I know I haven’t even come close to experiencing everything this game has to offer. I mean, I’m only on my second planet.
When I graduate it’s going to be so very tempting to just want to play Astroneer and not get myself ready for the real world. The game has just been this vessel that allows me to lose myself for a couple of hours at a time. That’s the kind of thing I appreciate the most about a good video game.