The year is 2113. After almost twenty years of orbital terraforming efforts by Earth’s nations, a planet by the name of 3452C[Maia] located in the Tau Ceti system is deemed suitable for human habitation. A team of colonists is sent forth with a mission to gain a foothold for humanity in this neighboring solar system. Will the project succeed or will it end in disaster? The fate of these colonists is up to you, player, in Maia.
Released on Steam as an ‘Early Access’ build last month, Maia started as a Kickstarter and Indiegogo project. Developed by Simon Roth, who previously worked in AAA game development and on Terry Cavanagh’s VVVVVV, Maia is a colony-building and management sim set on a hostile, but habitable planet located about twelve light years away from Earth. Taking inspiration from games like Dungeon Keeper, Dwarf Fortress, and The Sims, the player must work to ensure the colonists survive in their harsh new environment. Build shelters, construct power sources, regulate food production, keep a careful eye on the mental and physical health of your colonists–everything you would expect from a good simulation is there. What’s also neat is that, being on a volatile planet, the colonists are not only subjected to the more routine aspects of survival, but also foreign toxins, alien flora and fauna, dangerous geological events such as volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, and extraplanetary hazards such as solar radiation and meteors of a much more violent nature and frequency than that experienced on Earth.
While the construction of the facilities in which the colonists will live initially starts underground, the player will be able to explore the planet’s surface and conduct research and experiments which will expand their knowledge of the planet and their colonists’ chances of survival. Robots and a first-person mode seem like it’ll make this facet of the game extra interesting, especially considering the look of that mode. Despite the fact that I normally don’t care for first-person perspective in games, I’m actually pretty excited to try this mode out when it’s added to the game. The visual style of it is a total blast and I hope Roth introduces more elements which will emphasize its uniqueness.
Speaking of style, there’s more that will make certain sci-fi fans–me included–salivate at the mouth: Maia also takes a lot of influence from the aesthetic and functionality of 70s science fiction. The technology in the game will be reminiscent of the era in many ways, and the look and music will surely bring folks back to their favourite 70s sci-fi movie. I know when I first heard the haunting sounds of the Kickstarter trailer I was flung back to when I first watched Alien.
Anyway, Maia looks to be a highly ambitious game. The map will be 2km x 2km and procedurally generated. The colonists you manage will all have distinct personalities and skills which you’ll have to pay close attention to in order for the colony to thrive. Like any good game that even mentions terraforming, the player will be able to change the environment and change certain settings which will influence the difficulty and direction of the game. But everything will have its trade-off. Want more minerals? You’ll have to contend with increased geological activity which will put your colonists at risk. Playing around with the amount of light that reaches the planet from its star? Plants will grow faster, sure, but that might also attract more wildlife, and where the prey is, there are predators. This attention to detail is incredibly enticing, and I sincerely hope Roth is able to pull off everything he hopes for in this game. Simulation games are great for creating unique stories, and a story about colonists hashing it out on a hostile planet is too good to pass up.
As mentioned previously, Maia is available on Steam as an ‘Early Access’ title, which means you’ll be able to follow its development first-hand and receive future updates to the game directly through the client. A word of warning, though: Maia is still in very early Alpha, so it’s still got a hardy amount of bugs and is far from polished and feature-full. The developer seems to be consistently putting out updates, however, so if you’re interested in seeing the game grow as you play it, check it out on its Steam page. You can pre-order the game on its official website as well as find out more information about it on there and on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.
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