I Have A Problem

I have a problem. One involving a serious lack of impulse control. I’ll see something and just have to pick it up, hiding it from my friends and family for fear of judgement and ridicule. Everyone knows though, they all know and it’s become a bit of a running joke.

I just can’t help but buy early access games.

These unfinished, often broken titles make up a fair chunk of my Steam library these days. Often sitting there for years while their development teams put out the odd patch trying to bring the project to completion.

This, in turn, has led to friends and colleagues using my choice to purchase something as a sure sign that it’ll be broken as shit and probably not worth their time, and that is just not true. Well ok, it’s true about 85% of the time, but there’s that small percentage (I’m not very good at maths) of early access games that really do shine. So that’s why we are here; to take a look at some of my top-pick early access games and titles that I whole heartily recommend you pick up and support. Today’s theme – Sci-fi!

First up is a great little survival game from the international team at Unknown Worlds Entertainment, Subnautica. You, a crew member of the starship Aurora, survive the ship’s collision with an alien world. The game opens with you falling to the surface aboard a burning escape pod, taking a knock to the head and waking up a few hours later, your escape pod bobbing around on the watery surface.

That’s right folks, this isn’t your typical ‘lost in the woods’ survival game, no, it’s… sub… nautical! You know, like nautical but under… never mind. As the survivor, you have to dive beneath the waves and scavenge for materials across the ocean floor. Not only does this present new and unique challenges, such as holding your breath and not being eaten by just about everything, but it’s also incredibly beautifully presented. Colourful coral reefs stretch out into the murky distance, as well as a huge variety of plants and animals.

The diversity of environments, or biomes, is pretty impressive and on top of that, you can build your own submarines and underwater bases. It’s a gameplay experience so unique that I was dragged in and love what I’ve played so far.

It’s not without its issues, as you’d expect, and debris randomly spawns in to the world, presenting obstacles. Despite the fact that terrain sometimes breaks and you can get stuck in caverns, those caves are often beautiful and filled with unique gameplay.

Subnautica is clearly a 4 out of 5 on the, “I love this even if I can see the inside of my characters torso” scale.

Sticking to our survival theme, we also have Rimworld, a 2D top-down survival game from new indie developer Ludeon Studios. Here you manage a group of survivors who crash land on a planet and try to form a colony to survive. Unlike Subnautica, this works more like a city management sim and construction game, you lay out the plans for the colony and the colonists do their best to get things done.

What makes Rimworld unique is the player’s ability to randomly generate a lot of the starting conditions. The initial colony members are generated from a huge variety of character types and traits. From game to game you could start with a game developer, nurse, and security guard, or a zookeeper, lawyer, and physicist.

Each colony member then has its own unique set of traits, maybe the zoo keeper is good with animals, but hates people, leading to fights as the group develops. Or the physicist might be incredible at researching new technology but will never get involved in physical activity. Their unique relationships also play a role, as survivors may be related in some way.

Add to this the story telling AI that runs in the background generating events within your game and Rimworld is a fun, frustrating, but ultimately interesting experience. Again, not without its issues and a major one being how much it looks like Prison Architect and a developer plagued with murmurs of plagiarism. However, updates are fairly regular and Rimworld remains, much like Prison Architect, a great indie title.

Rimworld picks up 3 out of 5 on the “My mother the zoo keeper and my father the convict just killed and ate Frtiz, my pet timber wolf” scale.

Aven Colony is our final early access title from Mothership (Ha!) Entertainment and, unlike Subnautica and Rimworld, involve the successful landing of a ship on an alien planet. Here you are the newly elected governor of humanity’s first colony outside of our native solar system.

Across a number of maps, with unique environmental challenges ranging from it being a bit cold to giant Dune-like sand worms, the player has to build a self-sufficient colony, raise a population, and profit. All fairly straight forward stuff.

However, on Aven there’s no breathable atmosphere, so the colony has to be self-contained, and not only does food and power become a concern, but air quality and heating too. Every building has to be linked together to allow the human population to travel to and from their jobs, while also within range of the constructor drones – automated machines who build the colony from nanites. Seasons, storms, and alien creatures all become threats to your burgeoning colony.

While fairly basic in gameplay terms, Aven Colony is a beautiful looking game and, to my knowledge, is fairly unique in setting and look. Riding high with 4 out 5 on the “We can’t breathe but that sunset is really pretty.” Scale

So yes, I may have a problem. I may spend far too much money taking chances on games that more often than not are broken, overly ambitious, and underfunded. Sometimes though, sometimes there’s a diamond in among the crap. A unique gameplay experience or a beautiful world to explore and that’s worth it in my book. My name is Mark Smith, and I’m out here playing shit, so you don’t have to.

Last five articles by Mark



  1. Mark R Mark R says:

    If this is supposed to be a farewell article, it’s shite. Not getting any feels here at all, apart from the feeling that you waste too much money on Steam.

  2. Mark Mark says:

    Someone decided to shit the place down after I submitted it! Was genuinely going to be the start of a series that I would… maybe get around to adding to maybe.

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