The Red Planet is a vastly unexplored territory – at least for me – in the survival genre. My fascination with Mars started when I learned the planet is the major focus of scientific study for human colonization. The water present on the planet and surface conditions makes it one of the most hospitable planets in the solar system. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a pioneering professor in engineering at the University of Southern California, has pitched the idea to NASA to 3D print structures using materials on the moon and then later on Mars. The United Arab Emirates has also formed its own plan to colonize the planet in 2117. It’s a heady subject matter and the stuff of science fiction, but it’s also entirely possible.
Nizzio Creations and Darewise Entertainment took this sci-fi concept and ran with it, creating an interesting and believable environment to explore. Rokh is their creation and boy howdy, does it deliver! I’ve always had an active imagination about living in alternate worlds and on other planets. The concept of living on Mars is almost reality and I found it tantalizing how a survival game would take on the subject. Rokh delivered everything I could ever want in an off-world survival experience in spades.
Exploring the Red Planet
Upon landing on the surface of Mars I was given the mission of colonizing the planet for future colonists to inhabit. My first assumption (and mistake) was assuming it would be an easy task. Nothing living existed on the surface of the Red Planet, right? Clearly I had nothing to worry about since I figured it would just be an easy time of base building and gathering supplies like other survival titles I’ve played extensively in the past.
My assumptions flew out the window when I came to the jolting realization that the space suit I was wearing had a limited air supply. While it was going down slowly in ticks, I could see it depleting steadily. This spurred me to start searching out any crates laying around to scavenge supplies and to get started on a base. Even my hunger and water started to go down too, which just added a sense of anxiety that I wouldn’t be able to setup a basic base in time.
During my scavenging expedition, I came across crumbling buildings and abandoned vehicles scattered around. One lingering mystery is the colonists before had all perished and the reason for it was unknown. The buildings from what I could see were intact, the vehicles they had previously were operational. Why would they up and leave all of a sudden? If they had died, where were the bodies?
If the rolling hills of crimson and eerie silence weren’t bad enough, the weather system seemed bent on scaring me too. Half the time I felt as if I were walking through a horror game instead of a survival one. Any minute now I half expected some mutated Mars monster to pop out of the ground and to drag me into a hole. Thankfully this didn’t happen, but I was in for another surprise.
I started to get worried when I heard what sounded like explosions going off in the distance. My adventure had led me to a crumbling pipe that appeared to be attached at one point to another settlement that had been abandoned like the first one. Still hearing the weird explosions, I turned around only to see a meteor come crashing down by me.
The meteor was bathed in fire and exploded upon impact not too far away from me. Flipping out, I immediately ran for shelter to the nearest place I could find, under the supports of a crumbling building. Peering out, I saw more meteors raining down from the sky to collide with the surface of the planet. Terrified, I waited until the rain of fire was done before venturing out to continue crafting.
Rokh at first had felt quiet, but after that small adventure I began to realize that was kind of the point. The surface of Mars would be eerily quiet with no signs of life and nothing but the red dust of the planet to keep people company. The only focus colonists have the moment they land on the planet is survival because their oxygen will continue to decline until they build a base to compensate for the difference. Not to mention if the weather system is any indicator, it’s necessary to avoid being hit by a meteor.
I don’t have a lot of complaints when it comes to Rokh, but I did find to annoying to keep running up to abandoned buildings and being unable to use them. They looked usable from the outside and many of the vehicles seemed as if they just needed to be repaired before they could be driven again. Why couldn’t I use these buildings as a temporary base location until I built my own? I imagine any colonist would make use of what was immediately available instead scraping together the tools they need to start building right off the bat.
The only available ‘loot,’ so to speak, came in the form of abandoned crates and resource spawns that could be found scattered across the surface of Mars. There is a thorough tutorial right from the start, however, that walks players through the crafting system and how to use it. I appreciated this because tutorials can either be annoying or they do little to explain the core mechanics I need to know. The tutorial for Rokh could be skipped, was quick, and gave me the information I needed right away.
Other than a couple of FPS drops when the meteors were raining down, Rokh delivered an experience I hadn’t been expecting. It was exactly how I imagined living on the surface of Mars would feel like. Quiet, lonely, and eerily creepily with the absence of other people. While I was on a server meant for other players, I was completely alone during my entire experience. Even when I started to get into the crafting and explore the building aspects, no other players showed up. If they were present, they had spawned in another part of the map I hadn’t explored yet.
While Rokh is still in development, there is still plenty to do and explore. Base building is possible and seems to be well polished from what I could see. Vehicles can be created to make traveling across the Red Planet easier, and being able to play with other colonists means exploring the mystery of what happened to the previous occupants. I even came to appreciate the fact new arrivals had to start building the moment their feet touch the crimson dust. They either build and get a base up fast enough to preserve their oxygen and escape the elements or face the virtual reality of perishing on the surface of Mars.
There’s a lot of potential here and Rokh surprised me with how polished it was from the start. The crafting system felt rough around the edges and took some getting used to when it came to navigating the menu to find what I needed. Other than a few small complaints on my end, I had a good time playing around in Rokh. I’d say for anyone who finds Mars colonization interesting in the slightest, or loves the idea of living on another planet besides Earth, Rokh is definitely the survival experience you’ll enjoy.
Related: Darewise Entertainment, Early Access, MMORPG, Preview, Rokh, Sandbox, Steam, Survival