by William Thompson
previewed on PC
How to survive an apocalypse
What happens when the world’s vital resources begin to deplete? How will humanity come to grips with the shortage? There is certainly enough novels, movies, and TV series about a range of apocalypses such as this. And there are numerous PC titles that attempt to pose those questions. Homeseek is an upcoming post-apocalyptic survival game that places players in just that scenario.
Homeseek is primarily a city-building game, one that is made more difficult by the lack of natural resources available with which to keep the populace satisfied (and alive). Played in real time, players start off with a group of citizens that have banded together in an attempt to re-build a flourishing society. But the bleak wasteland – reminiscent of Mad Max - that confronts players will mean that it is not as easy as constructing any random building willy-nilly.
There, of course, will be some buildings that are non-negotiables such as water extractors and food storages which enable the citizens to collect two of the three vital resources. The third resource - scrap – can be collected from scrap heaps scattered throughout each map. The scrap forms the building blocks for all constructions, whilst the food and water keep the citizens from becoming sick (or worse).
Once a research centre has been constructed, players can then set about researching technologies that will help their society grow and flourish. The research centre is a double-edged sword at times, as players will be required to use some of the scrap that has been collected. Like the food and water, the scrap is a finite resource, and players will need to prioritise the research of those technologies that are most important for their settlement whilst still maintaining enough scrap for construction.
Early on, players will be able to send out an expedition towards other settlements, mostly as a way of securing more resources. However, the expeditions will also have the added benefit of allowing gamers to uncover new research blueprints at these unexplored sites. Each journey of the explorers will take a specified time, with players greeted with notes of their progress along the way. And in most cases, this will involve a choice that players will need to make. Each choice will have consequences or rewards (or both) depending on the result.
Do you help the injured people you find (requiring resources), or do you simply let them die (causing a reduction in the happiness of your own small band of explorers)? Do you take in the wandering nomads so that you have extra hands to collect resources at the expense of the extra mouths to feed? These choices provide a major aspect of the game with consequences that could play out as you progress. As well as the resources, the happiness of your residents needs to be monitored. If they get too unhappy with the performance of the settlement, they will wander off. However, wandering off may be better than the alternative, as death can be a constant threat due to the lack of uncontaminated water and food.
At present, there is not much of a tutorial, and it is somewhat limited. There is an in-game manual however and this does provide some valuable information, but the game does not hold your hand for very long. For much of the game, Homeseek will require gamers to figure out a viable strategy on their own. Indeed, I learned more from trial and error (there were lots of latter early on) than anything else as I worked out how to complete the goals in an efficient manner.
However, each time you play a particular scenario, the layout is procedurally generated, meaning that no two games are alike. As a result, players will need to take note of the resource locations when placing structures so that those buildings are optimally placed. It is no use placing a food storage structure right next to a berry field if other berry fields will be just out of range.
To go with the desolate nature of the story, the visuals follow suit, the landscape is a dusty orange-brown, and buildings scattered across the landscape are run down, shanty-style dwellings. A bleak Mad Max style wasteland is prevalent across much of the areas. Players have the ability to move about each map quite easily although players can zoom in and out, it is not to the point that you can see what each of your citizens is doing. With Homeseek being a real-time strategy game, day and night cycles are represented via a revolving dial, with citizens sleeping during the night cycle. And players must also keep an eye out for natural dangers such as powerful windstorms which can kill anyone wandering outside in an instant.
Strategy with a difference
Homeseek is a real-time strategy game, one where the enemy is often thirst, hunger and sickness rather than some alien race or enemy nation. The game does have a steep learning curve, but once players learn the small intricacies, that curve flattens out. Then it becomes a game of choices, often about who lives and who dies, or whether your bleak settlement can support more mouths. With each of the scenarios offering up something different, and each of the scenarios having various placements of resources for each playthrough, Homeseek has boundless opportunities for replay.
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