Frugal Gaming Preview – Habitat

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As a teenager, the underneath of my bed was a black hole of my own creation.  Discarded cereal bowls and cups of tea, dirty tissues, old magazines and the obligatory missing odd socks all ended up in the darkness.  Turns out the 4gency’s vision of the future is pretty similar, just set in space rather than under a Ikea divan.

Habitat is a physics based sandbox building survival strategy game; bit of a mouthful, but at least it’s clearly its own genre.  Having developed a couple of mobile titles, the developer is stepping up a gear with this game.  Following on from the successful Kickstarter project, Habitat is now planned for release on PC, MAC, Linux and Xbox One.

Happy Tat                                

Starting with a small habitat, your mission is to grow and expand this last refuge of mankind by making good use of the things that you find, the things that the everyday folk have left behind, just obviously set in space, rather than Wimbledon Common.  It’s a nice idea and having been hands on the with Early Access build that’s currently available on Steam, it does seem to be coming along rather nicely.

Nowhere near feature complete; at the time of writing Habitat offers you a brief tutorial and the sandbox survival building mode. Starting off with the basic Habitat module, you are free to use what ever trash you find floating around to expand and upgrade your life-raft. Everything has a use, from old booster rockets, Soviet era tanks, to flame breathing militarised dinosaur heads, yes really. The nature of the games physics engine affects everything.  Want to move your tub along to explore the vast reaches of space? Then just attach a couple of rockets: One on each side of your habitat, both facing the same direction will happily boost you on your way. Fire just the left rocket and your turn right, fire just the right and you will turn left.  It’s simple yet clever stuff.

Those same rockets could also be used as weapons, detach them from the Habitat and fire them up, they will streak off like, well, a rocket. Attach some heavier ordnance and you’ve got yourself a decent weapon system. Other junk might increase your power output, or simply extend your habitat offering more points to tether more even more junk onto.  Its a nice unique system and messing around with various configurations can be fun just by itself for a time.

ExplosionShotWombling Free

Early access is all about solving problems and involving the community in development, obviously for the cynics out there it can also provide a vital stream of income to support continued development. 4gency are certainly seem to be making the most of their chosen path of development. The guys and girls are extremely active of the Steam Forums and constantly asking for feedback both on the game itself and the current Development Roadmap.  Its great to see a clear and well laid out plan, I would love to see this as a minimum requirement for Early Access games launched on Steam in the future, so hats of to 4gency for being so open with the community.

I have enjoyed playing Habitat so far, but it’s not without its issues.  The current control method, especially for the camera controls, just seems so unnatural and convoluted.  It can feel like a real chore using WASD to move the camera, I’m hoping that this will be sorted as the game develops. I’m so used to just using a mouse in games like this and it would definitely benefit from having keyboard controls being optional, rather than mandatory. Whilst I’m sure the controls will be fine tuned before release, my other issue might well remain. At the moment you can only build and expand your habitat on a horizontal plane.  Not being able to build vertically really seems like a missed opportunity and would have added a bit more depth to construction.

UIShot_5Despite some minor issues I’m looking forward to the release of Habitat, especially on Xbox One.  It really does seems like the sort of game that for me would be suited to playing with a controller rather than mouse and keyboard, perhaps this is the route of my issues with the current control system.  Whilst I haven’t got a clue what form the planned single player campaign will take, I’m hoping it will give some legs to the fabulous mechanics the developers have implemented. It’s still got a while to go until it’s full release but its certainly a promising start and I’m looking forward to playing some more of Habitat as features are added.

Habitat is planned for release on PC, MAc, Linux and Xbox One.

Early Access is available via Steam and can be found HERE