Commencing Countdown, Engines On
Back when your average PC’s came in 386 or 486 varieties, my two favourite games were X-Wing and Pizza Tycoon. Whilst the crossover between the two may not seem apparent, Maia; a relatively new indie game manages to scratch itches that I’d forgotten I had and takes elements from both the long lost classics I remember so fondly.
The core elements of the game are Sci-fi, survival and simulation, and it hits these goals pretty well, even at such an early stage of development. First released about 6 months ago, Maia is taking shape nicely albeit at a relatively slow rate of pace due to the tiny yet clearly very talented developer.
The game begins with you and a few colonists trying to forge a homestead on sometimes inhospitable alien worlds, it’s down to you to direct them towards self sufficiency. This is achieved not by controlling your minions directly but planning what should be built and where it should be placed from an isometric like viewpoint. A range of place-able rooms, each with unique items to be built within their confines, from workshops with benches and drills, to hydroponics rooms with fruit trees, gives you some idea of what your colonist will need to survive.
There is not much hand holding here and whilst I generally applaud that in most games perhaps a little bit more is needed in a title like Maia. You see it’s not just a case of placing an item and letting your colonists get on with it. Need an atmosphere generator? Well first you need a work bench and for that you need a workshop. Whilst it does take a little bit of time to figure out what is needed to enable other things to be built, I have started to get the hang of it.
So now I’ve figured out what I need to build, I now need to figure out how to get my colonists to do it. They aren’t your normal mindless minions you find in most other games of this ilk and it’s not a case of Simon-says. I still, for the life of me cannot get them to build certain things, but they do have a mind of their own which adds a nice twist to the usual formula. The AI can be rather spotty at times, which is to be expected in an Early Access Game but when fully realised I think it will be great and it’s going to add a lot to the game.
Major Tom to Ground Control
Maia both looks and sounds great. Sound effects are suitably futuristic, the little bit of music you hear from time to time is great and I’m hoping that the soundtrack will be expanded upon further down the line. Character models are looking good, especially the huge local beasties who will occasionally wander over to investigate what your colonists are doing to their new digs, and the general art style serves the game well. Of course there are the occasional glitches here and there, but it’s nothing I would be worried about, the developer seems pretty on the ball when it comes to squishing bugs.
The driving force behind Maia is a chap called Simon Roth, he’s extremely active on the Steam forums and the way he engages with the players speaks to his obvious passion for the game. He’s got a lot of work on his hands with Maia, although I’m not 100% certain, I’m pretty sure that he’s doing it nearly all himself. This obviously leads to a slower development time that some might not wish to support but as far as I’m concerned, I’d rather be playing and supporting a game with one passionate developer behind it rather than a larger team simply there for the pay cheque. At nearly £18 on steam, Maia in its current form might seem rather expensive, but you’re paying for what Maia will become not what it currently is. I think if it continues to develop anything like it has over the last 6 months it will end up being worth every penny.
Whilst this preview is short and sweet, I’ll be writing more about Maia in the coming months as it continues to develop along with other Early Access Games I’ve covered.
Maia is currently in for Early Access on Steam and can be found here http://store.steampowered.com/app/252250/