The Space Race is on!
I’m a big Civilization fan — I played the original at age 2 before I had even learned how to read (i.e., clicked around and lost a lot), and Civilization Revolution for the DS was my absolute go-to game for years when it came to plane rides and road trips. Although there are a few different ways to win in the all the games, my favorite was always the technological victory. Something about completely outpacing the world’s scientific knowledge to the point where you can build a space program and visit distant places was always thrilling to me.
I never thought I’d see Civ-like gameplay focusing on the technological aspect alone, so when Mars Horizon came onto my radar touting incredibly familiar gameplay with a Space Race twist, I knew I had to get my hands on it.
Currently in development by UK-based dev team Auroch Digital with publishing being handled by Irregular Corporation, Mars Horizon is aiming to deliver its payload to PC, PS4, XBox One, and Switch before 2020 is out. With a playable demo available as part of the Steam Games Festival Autumn Edition, those interested can get their hands on the space tech sim before its official launch. Touting realism as a driving force behind its design with representatives from the European Space Agency chiming in on how true to life the title is, Mars Horizon promises to delight both space enthusiasts and strategy gamers alike.
The premise of Mars Horizon is pretty simple — win the space race by completing specific milestones before the other agencies. With five agencies representing five real-life regions (USA, Europe, Russia, China, and Japan), players travel back to the budding days of space exploration in the 1950s, allowing us to experience the trial and error of early rocket science. From launching the first sound rocket to boldly going to the edges of the solar system, Mars Horizon shows players the excitement of science, engineering, research, and the history (and future) of space exploration.
Mars Horizon has a logical game flow similar to that of Civilization: start up research, accept missions, and reach milestones before other countries do. Each turn is one month, so by ending a turn, time progresses to one month in the future. You can also skip to the next event, but with four competing agencies on your tail, I can’t recommend it — at least early on in the game. By researching rocket components, constructing vehicles and payloads, and building your base can you foster your burgeoning space agency to earn the glory of space exploration for your people.
When I first booted up Mars Horizon, I must admit my eyes glossed over a little once I saw the comprehensiveness of the tutorial. Thinking it was going to be a very difficult game to understand, I closed it out and restarted the game on a lower difficulty. And while I feel like I was able to breeze through the game faster due to this decision, it was one I made out of a false assumption; Mars Horizon is actually quite simple to understand, and that’s mostly to the sheer brilliance of the clean UI design.
I was genuinely, pleasantly surprised with Mars Horizon on multiple levels, but the two I find most interesting are how addicting and exciting it became. As previously stated, the game is structured similarly to Civilization, so the whole “just one more turn” kind of feeling kept me up well past a reasonable bedtime. It’s so easy to think that the next turn will be your last until you actually get there because so many interesting things are either happening or just around the corner. A mission launches in two turns, research finishes in one, the budget gets revisited in five turns — it’s event after event that makes you want to keep playing until the solar system has been conquered.
Mars Horizon is also incredibly exciting, and surprisingly so! The game is largely menu based with assets acting as visual aids instead of items to manipulate per se, so I was shocked to find the game as riveting as it was. This goes doubly so for launches — the first time I launched a rocket, I actually felt my heart beat faster with a little rush of adrenaline, sitting on the edge of my seat until I got word back that the launch was successful. And those launch animations, WOW! It looks and feels just like a real, suspenseful launch! I was absolutely captivated by the realism in every regard, but especially with the exciting launch aspect.
If Mars Horizon manages to launch before 2020 is out, I can easily see this making it to my top 10 GOTY list. It’s already an incredibly polished game with so much to offer in terms of excitement, education, and enjoyment. If you’re a sucker for space games or want a different kind of strategy game, you have to — HAVE TO — check out Mars Horizon. Be sure to wishlist it today, and grab the demo while you’re at it!