Cuddly clones in an uncompromising world full of physics: Meet Oxygen Not Included, where you attempt to build and manage a self-sustaining colony inside an asteroid. You not only have to take care of oxygen, food, electricity, germs, and toilets, but also temperature, creatures, pressure, and much more. Although the charming and almost harmlessly cute comic presentation of the title may initially suggest something different, the game is a surprisingly sophisticated and complex colony building and management simulation. Created by Klei Entertainment, the game begins slowly and manageably, but grows considerably in terms of complexity and administrative effort within a few hours. It all starts with three so-called Dupes, which are printed on an asteroid for unknown reasons. These tiny, frustrating, but also endearing clones are each uniquely generated and all have specific needs and vitals that need to be fulfilled. Now, they somehow have to survive on this rock in space ...
As the boss of the colony, your first tasks are to create areas for beds, toilets, washbasins, pumps, and food presses. You can expand your base by sending your Dupes to mine their way through the ground, which enables you to get your hands on the first raw materials, like sandstone, algae, slime, and seeds. Although you cannot control the Dupes directly, you can assign them construction projects by manually prioritising the importance of activities and tasks
How do you create oxygen?
In the beginning, the most crucial matter is to supply your Dupes with oxygen and food. As the starting aid in the form of self-dissolving oxygen stones quickly fizzles out after a few cycles, it is essential to start your production asap. You can, for example, create oxygen with an algae terrarium, used to produce oxygen if provided with algae and water, or filter polluted air with sand. If there is not enough oxygen, the Dupes are still able to work for a short time, as they can hold their breath. But be careful, the little clones do not like stress. After a while, you can discover new technologies with a research computer, allowing you to build more complex devices, like an electrolyzer for oxygen production.
If the Oxygen problem is solved, you need to tackle the next issue: food. Mush Bars, created from soil and water, are not hard to come by but are also neither tasty nor nutritious - a better alternative are cooked berries or lice. Be mindful, however, that every plant has to grow at exactly the right room temperature. Besides, the Dupes do not only need oxygen and food but also sleep regularly, take a shower, and use the toilet. After visiting the bathroom, the clones are also meant to wash their hands, as they otherwise risk spreading germs. Alternatively, you can enrich the breathing air with chlorine for disinfection.
A complex simulation
The real-time simulation of the physical characteristics of the colony becomes more extensive from cycle to cycle. Although oxygen, food, and electricity can be taken care of initially, the needs of the Dupes are sure to cause you trouble. Many game elements and effects are interrelated and influence each other: Pipe laying, air conditioning, stress, infections, protective suits for work, and plastic production. The list doesn't stop there. In fact, for each tile in your colony, air conditions, temperature, pressure, and bacteria count are calculated and always changing. Nevertheless, the spread of liquids is strangely inert, and the formation of different gas layers is lengthy.
To stay on top of all the hustle and bustle, the game provides you with practical overlay views. These include color-coded information about oxygen levels, power supply, temperature distribution and comfort, light, fluids, ventilation, decoration, germs, and agriculture. In between, you can choose to enlarge your colony with newly printed Dupes and choose from several candidates. All Dupes have various character attributes that qualify or disqualify them for specific activities and positive/negative characteristics. While the negative status of having noodle arms, makes them unusable as carriers of raw materials, a snorer can disturb the vital night's rest. Stress makes your Dupes run Amok eventually, which you want to avoid.
Despite the early access status on Steam, Oxygen Not Included runs very stable and clean. However, the introduction is a bit hard, as the game only provides a few tutorial texts. We would also love to see the Dupes further interacting with each other. Sometimes, they manage to die by unwise construction measures. So far, however, Oxygen Not Included is one of the best early access games we have played. The space colony construction simulation starts comparatively manageable, but can quickly become more complicated with time. The game is leaving its early access phase on the 30th July 2019 and is a real treat for the casual gamer and the build-up strategist alike.