Mars Horizon Review

Publisher: Auroch Digital| Developer: The Irregular Corporation| Release Date:  July 16,2020 | Genre: Simulation| Reviewed On PS5

Review Code Provided by Auroch Digital

Mars Horizon is not usual for a console simulation. It’s definitely rooted in its PC roots. It also attempts to gamify the thrill and danger of space travel. Hidden within the mountain of menus and resource management is a game that captures the excitement and possibilities of space travel.

UK developer The Irregular Corporation has had experience in simulation titles such as PC Building Simulator and Balsa. It also has support from the European Space Agency and UK Space Agency. The game does draw comparisons to Take 2’s Kerbal Space Program but is a bit more accessible. You’ll also learn a thing or two about the world’s space programs. 

The Race to Mars Begins.

Want to know what a Sounding Rocket is? Here’s your answer or what an EVA is? You’ll also get this well thanks to the Spaceopedia which includes detailed descriptions and historical contexts as well as real-life photographs. The attention to detail in these documents are well researched and worth a read.

Anyways, back to the gameplay. The game has you pick between the United States, European Space Agency, Japan, and Russia. Your main goal as the title suggests is to be the first humans to reach Mars. Each faction has different perks and disadvantages. 

You’ll have to accept missions, develop rocket tech, and build facilities. Missions will net you experience in science, support from the public, and cash to progress through the research tree to get even more elaborate and dangerous missions.

Designing a rocket.

Missions are structured into two types: Missions and Milestones. Both require building payloads, the rockets to launch them, and staff astronauts/crews which have perks. For example, A test pilot will have less recuperation time after a mission. 

Milestones are missions that gate progression and are required for the career mode. Requests are optional but will gain you rewards such as gaining favor with a rival space agency which in turn unlocks joint operations. 

Missions are done in turns.

Once you are in flight, you will have to do a mini-game which focuses on resource management. This will usually be communication or nav points, but later you’ll have to manage resources such as heat and drift that can cause a mission failure. 

You can automatically resolve them, but it’s recommended to manage them when it happens to net bonus goals that increase the risk. Overall, the gameplay is satisfying and gets you to feel the satisfaction and high stakes of space exploration.

There is also a base-building mini-game where you must place facilities that’ll help or hinder your space activities. When specific buildings are put together they will gain advantages when they compliment each other or hinder it. You’ll also have to be mindful of space/adjacent land which can be cleared but adds to the cost of a building. This is Mar’s Horizon’s weakest part since it lacks the depth of the rocket building aspects. It boils down to min/maxing each building.

The in game models may be lacking in detail, but the planets are beautifully rendered.

Graphics, meanwhile, are functional yet beautiful. The game’s polygonal models are mostly untextured reminiscent of 90’s era flight simulators such as Falcon or Flight Simulator. They are juxtaposed with the colorful representations of the solar system’s planets.

Music is something similar to what you find in games such as Cities Skylines with a tinge of orchestral melodies as well as ambient music reminiscent of Vangelis’s work with a lot of electronic instruments used. It can be relaxing to listen to.

The game can be completed initially in six or so hours. The game has immense replay value with the various agencies you can manage as well as a custom one if you’ve gone through them. It’s a strictly single-player experience so there are no multiplayer options.

Mars Horizon is a simulation that embraces the last 60 years of space exploration, and nails the feel of discovery and high stakes such an endeavor takes.      

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