“Habitat shows a lot of promise.”
Habitat is a procedurally-generated open-world space adventure from indie developers 4gency. The basic premise of the game is that Earth has become unliveable, and the human race has been forced to make the upper atmosphere and the beginnings of space their home. Individuals have been forced then to utilise the masses of debris floating around the planet in order to build their own, liveable space stations. But the situation is not friendly, and everyone is simply out to survive. Your mission then is to forge yourself a station, weaponise it, defend it, make it liveable, and most importantly to survive.
Habitat then puts a new spin on an increasingly common back-story, with the Earth being all but ruined by humans and a new home needing to be found. Further than this back-story, the knowledge of an imminent threat and the need to build a defendable space station however, the game as it currently stands does little to show you the point of what you are doing. Why you are here is clear, and the fact you need to survive is too, but in terms of an actually plot line or overarching aim, the game is somewhat lacking. This could be simply put down to the fact that it is not yet fully complete, as some evidence of missions is present, but what is going on, why, and where it is heading is a little more ominous as things stand right now…
The nature of the game’s tone crosses quirkiness with a genuine challenge. Your task is important, as if you are to survive in this dangerous situation you must be prepared to handle any oncoming threats. The way you handle these however is through dinosaur-head flame throwers, boxing glove buffers and Statue of Liberty laser shooters. The aim it seems is to take a serious task and make it fun, and this is something which Habitat does well. You can make as many stations as you like too, so you may have these weapons in one piece of your fleet, whilst another is comprised purely of hot dog carts and subway cabs. The game does pose a challenge, but it certainly makes you laugh about it too.
The gameplay itself does still feel as if it is in development stages. Movement is not easy, either to control or to get to grips with. You can attach any number of engines to your station for example, but if you do not make the, perfectly symmetrical then you could end up anywhere, and this isn’t the easiest task to carry out. This is not however a wholly bad thing, and does do great credit to Habitat’s physics-driven gameplay. This is an important aspect for the space-based game, and one which the developers have clearly noticed and nailed in its creation. Combat is also tricky to get on with. There is no real targeting or aiming system in the game, so things very much rely on you just pointing the ship in the right direction. It is also somewhat disheartening that you can only move around on one plane, despite the beautiful expanses of space which you can see around you. It does not quite do the whole space exploration genre justice, and makes it pretty difficult to navigate around debris.
Perhaps the biggest challenge which Habitat will face at this stage of its development and indeed upon its completion is its competition. As it stands, while the game shows signs for the potential of good things to come, it does not share the same charm as some of its closest competitors on the market. Perhaps the real standout competition for Habitat is that of Kerbal Space Program, which is also still in its development stages but has been met with fantastic reactions from critics and gamers alike. If Habitat is to make its name in the same way or to play on the popularity of the space-sandbox-strategy-simulation genre, it is going to have to really push the next few stages of its development to show gamers some very clear signs of something special awaiting them. At the moment, the game just isn’t in the same sort of position where you could spend endless hours playing it.
In its own right however, there are certainly the starts of a good game visible in Habitat. The game is of course in early access, and this should be considered when reviewing some of its present issues. For an in development title, Habitat shows a lot of promise. If you are looking for something quirky, casual and also a little bit challenging to play with, this game is one you should keep an eye on. Whilst it may have some way to progress towards being a polished, finished product, Habitat is cruising along the right path to get there. To the developers at 4gency, I say keep it up!