Mars First Logistics on Steam: Kotaku’s Impressions/Review

Mars First Logistics on Steam: Kotaku's Impressions/Review

Mars First Logistics, released last week in Early Access on Steam, is a game with a very simple setup. You drive little robot vehicles around the surface of Mars, do jobs for people, and those jobs require you to build your own cars (or whatever!) in a way that gets the job done.

Let’s say you get a contract where you have to transport a steel beam from one small Martian base to another. You open a nice little build screen – very reminiscent of LEGO instruction manuals – and, from a limited selection of parts, start building. You’ll need something to hold the steel, which can ideally transport it across the surface of Mars, and you’ll also need something to reposition the steel when you arrive for delivery.

So you do that – or at least something that you think will do – and you drive. And within 20 seconds you know you messed up. This little car is not going to transport anything anywhere, it’s a disaster, your wheels are spinning everywhere, the steel has fallen off and it’s not the first time in this game that you will come back and spend a lot of time at, the plank to drawing.

Mars First Logistics is, at its heart, a physical puzzle. If you’ve ever blasted a rocket off the Kerbal Space Program launch pad or driven a warped buggy off a cliff in Tears of the Kingdom, you’ll be right at home here. It’s not the challenge itself that you really want to master, but how that challenge is portrayed in a world that has an unforgiving awareness of its own gravity:

March First Logistics Steam Early Access Release Date Trailer

All that fuss, broken cars, and repeated failures could have been frustrating, but as the video above shows, Mars First Logistics is anything but. Thanks to a combination of its floating gravity, cheerful visuals, and – I can’t quantify this, so trust me – cute handling, playing it for periods of time is like being at the helm of a adorable little blooper reel, every jammed payload or spinning set of tires eliciting more of a “haha, we’ll get them next time” than a “fuck it, I hate that”.

Please note that I don’t mean to somehow belittle or dismiss the confusing Mars First Logistics references by just focusing on the fact that it’s funny (although, compared to the deeply unfunny standards of the game , it is a comic masterpiece). It’s funny because it’s so difficult, and that humor does a fantastic job of defusing the trial and error that could so easily have frustrated in a game like this. Even Tears of the Kingdom’s toughest boobies are a breeze compared to some of the challenges here, which don’t just take a lot of you to complete – delicately balancing an ever-staggering payload as you drive it over bumpy hills – but preparing for them in the first place.

You see, Mars First Logistics isn’t an open-ended sandbox game, it earns you that. You don’t start it with every tool at hand, every part available in unlimited quantities. You get money for doing courier jobs, and then you can spend that money to unlock more coins. So there’s an economy in play, allowing you to focus on what kind of vehicles you want to build and how fancy you want to make them.

Screenshot: Mars First Logistics

I found myself spending most of my time not in the game’s open world but in its LEGO-like building screen, endlessly tinkering with wheels, control arms and servos that can be arranged just like you like them, or at least like you think you can do a job.

It’s fun to play with and can allow for immensely precise creations, but I think the real joy of Mars First Logistics is that it doesn’t need you to be perfect. You can shoot it, sure, but ultimately you’re here to do a job, and as long as you do, the game is happy.

Take the steel beam job I mentioned above. I could have spent an age agonizing over the most economical and functional vehicle possible, which the game definitely allows for and a path some players might feel compelled to force themselves. What I ended up doing after a few hilarious failures, however, was creating a buggy that could just drag the beam precariously through the countryside, which worked as long as I drove very carefully.

A good video game would have forced me to make an economical and functional one. A really good one would allow me to do whatever I want. A good video game lets me do what I want and makes it fun while I mess it up.


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