Craneballs Studio’s first foray into PC development, Planet Nomads, is riding the waves of popularity that sandbox games have garnered over the last several years. Taking inspiration from games like Minecraft and No Man’s Sky, Planet Nomads emphasizes exploration, creativity, and a sense of adventure. The true test of its merit will be in seeing whether it lives up to the acclaim of its predecessors.
Planet Nomads begins by dropping players onto a strange, alien planet that appears to be uninhabited. The player character is a scientist whose escape pod has crash landed on the planet, and they must figure out how to survive this harsh new environment. Exactly what the player may face upon landing depends on which biome they are dropped into. The different possibilities include a forested area, open fields, or tundra among many others. Each biome is procedurally generated upon starting a new game.
The gameplay is split up into two different modes: Creative and Survival. During my initial playthrough, I decided on Creative mode and jumped right into the building portion of the game. In this mode, all of the various blocks are unlocked and players don’t need to use any resources to create them. I chose to start building a base not far from my pod on a small hill overlooking the sea. Designing isn’t usually my strong suit, and I definitely relied on the game’s tutorial to figure out the controls and get an idea of how the system works. The tutorial covers the basics of placing and using different blocks, connecting to electricity sources, and constructing a vehicle. In Survival mode, it also covers how to gather food and water and where to rest.
I struggled initially with the building controls, and even after getting the hang of them still found them to be a bit clunky. Switching in and out of Build Vision is also not the most intuitive process since you can only build objects outside of Build Vision. Anyhow, I did manage to make myself a tiny compound and a vehicle of my own following the tutorial’s instructions.
Switching to Survival mode, I found the focus of the gameplay had shifted. Now I was putting all of my effort into collecting resources and food with my crafty multitool. The multitool is good for both gathering things and using as a weapon against the less-friendly alien creatures you might encounter. It can also create tunnels in the ground which can be explored with the help of your suit’s built-in flashlight. The player character is equipped with a jet pack that gives you a tiny boost in lieu of jumping.
Building is still a fixture of this mode, but this time the player is restricted to only a handful of blocks at first. Crafting blocks will unlock new blocks until eventually you’ll have access to the full arsenal. However, building also requires resources. As the minerals needed become scarcer, you might have to wander out a ways from your pod.
The landscapes are colorful and nice to look at, although possible danger lurks behind every bend. I did find the biomes I explored to be a little sparse, but I definitely didn’t get the chance to see everything the various worlds have to offer. Plus, since the game is in alpha, additional content is likely upcoming.
As it stands, I would file Planet Nomads under the “wait and see” category. It’s difficult to tell how Early Access sandbox games will turn out after launch, especially when future DLC is thrown into the mix. Any fans of the genre should certainly give it a try if they’re so inclined, or maybe wait until it’s ready for a full release. Given the polarized reception of No Man’s Sky, Planet Nomads probably won’t be the game for everyone, but it might be just what some players are looking for.
The game hits Early Access on May 25th. It will be available to download on Steam.