Oxygen Not Included Early Access Preview

Both welcoming and complex, Oxygen Not Included is a colony simulation game that shows lots of promise.

By Woozie, Posted 03 Jun 2017

Oobledurk was going to be a colony inside a space rock where 3D printed duplicants could go about their lives in a decent fashion. A place where learning, agriculture and construction would meet together to create a thriving community that was going to be self-sufficient. Not so many days into its life, however, a ladder was leading down to a level where an outhouse, an unused memorial and a Research station were set right next to each other. Stinky the duplicant claimed there was food somewhere that he could not reach while Nisbet, the latest addition, was really smart but snored a little too loudly, making sleeping difficult for everyone else in her close vicinity. Certainly, a bunk could have been assigned to her that was further away from the rest. Unfortunately, the colony overseer was nobody other than yours truly, a person famed for his incompetence when it comes to managing where he puts his socks, let alone a colony of people that need to eat and whatnot. It was no surprise that before I could even do much, the colony was overtaken by whatever “starvation” is.

Oxygen Not Included, Screenshot, Early Access, Preview

The ground in Oobledurk is still littered with all sorts of dirt and mineral chunks which I had ordered the duplicants to sweep up on the colony’s second day of existence. I later discovered that you could indeed prioritize tasks, although, that didn’t seem to prompt anyone to clean everything out. They were probably busy, y’know, starving. An interesting, although definitely not unheard of, thing about Oxygen Not Included is that it puts you in the shoes of overseeing a colony of people who ultimately do whatever they want. There’s no direct control to be had over them.  They go about, minding their own business, doing whatever they can. Ticking specific jobs on a panel that takes into account every duplicant’s skills may narrow their choices a bit, though. Apart from being able to rename them, and being varyingly competent at different things, duplicants come with a series of traits. Some may desire good décor, while others might end up releasing lots of gas. Every duplicant has a way of responding to stress. These include stuff like binge eating, vomiting all over the place or destroying equipment, among others. Thus, you really get to know every one of your people up close, because of all the things that can go wrong and which you, subsequently, have to look out for. And there are many of those.

Colony expansion is done through digging which, as I found out a few hours into my first playthrough, requires a good amount of planning if you want things to have a chance at working out. If you’re not particularly attentive, you may end up opening areas filled with vacuum, or polluted oxygen which become an issue, especially when you’re not particularly sure how to get a good amount of breathable air. Walls can cave in, leading water into your colony and making duplicants complain about having wet feet. Someone’s loud snoring will interrupt the others’ sleep, leading them to being less nimble and more stressed that day. A stressed out duplicant going on an eating binge will leave you without food reserves. Materials left on the ground may get eaten by lovely little critters at night, when everyone’s sleeping. Getting into all the varying things that affect the well-being of your colony in Oxygen Not Included would take ages and is best figured out in-game, although, do keep in mind that there’s no tutorial of any sort at the moment.

Oxygen Not Included, Early Access, Screenshot, Preview

Buildings, environment types and specific terms have tooltips describing them, however, figuring out all the possible interactions is all up to you. It’s the reason why I ended up having buildings, unusable, floating in the air after a duplicant removed the dirt on which they were built. Luckily, building a tile to support them wasn’t that difficult and having duplicants jump over high tiles every two steps helps keeping them fit (it really only slows them down). It’s also why I managed to make electricity generation a nightmare, as I both had double the amounts of wire I needed going around and connected too many apparatuses to a single source (which happened to be a hamster wheel powered by a duplicant running on it). Provided you’ve the chops for it, Oxygen Not Included allows you to set up large networks of electrical wires and pipes with switches and junctions that allow stopping the flow in one direction or starting from one particular point. There’s clear potential for some really complex systems. The further you explore the asteroid, the more likely you’re bound to run into areas with polluted oxygen, or other hazards which you’ll need to filter. Pressure doors, airlocks or a gas pipe system may come in handy, to make sure your colony retains only the smell of farts coming from that one dude that you have to keep around because he’s better at cooking that the rest of your people. Oxygen is also lighter than CO2 (which your duplicants produce, some more than others). This can also affect the way you plan your base, given how the former rises to the top while the latter tends to stay down low.

Oxygen Not Included does have a good degree of complexity already (especially for someone going in blind) but its way of handling it allows players to also take their time. You can pause the game at your whim, should you want to assess damage, or take a better look at how you want to expand. Even when my colony was starving, I still found time to follow a duplicant, using the game’s follow cam, and look at how they were digging minerals, on a ladder, while holding their breath because the area had no oxygen. That might have just been the sadist in me, though. Let’s put it this way: stuff will eventually begin to burn around you, but there’s always time to look at the pretty flowers you planted, or that statue one of your duplicants is sculpting to relieve stress.

Oxygen Not Included, Early Access, Preview, Screenshot

As far as UI goes, Oxygen Not Included will look a bit overwhelming at first. It’s true that there are descriptions attached to everything, including something as common as a diggable dirt square. There are also a handful of overlays which help in assessing oxygen quantities, temperature as well as numerical values describing resource intake and even stuff such as air pressure or energy generated. For me, these sets of numbers only managed to bring back the horror of physics classes during my school years. Others, however, will certainly find them helpful in different aspects of planning. The UI does become familiar after a period of getting used to it. Further down the line I could see something like an in-game encyclopedia definitely benefitting players.

Oxygen Not Included is at the start of its journey, although, it already has enough content to have you pouring a good amount of time into it. Just like Don’t Starve (which also went through Early Access, mind you) it has that je ne sais quoi that feeds your desire to figure stuff out. Your first run will suck, but the endearing duplicants (aided in large part by the very recognizable and very “Klei” graphical style) alongside the vast array of possibilities and things to look out for will always get you going back for another, most likely better, run. With me, it also captured a feeling I haven’t quite felt since playing Theme Hospital as I patiently watched over Stinky and his peers not building cots for everyone to sleep in. If you take it upon yourself to not get into Early Access titles, follow Oxygen Not Included closely as it shows great promise. If you do decide to take the reins of a space colony, prepare for spending a good amount of time with the game. Oh, and remember to not starve.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Klei Entertainment
Developer(s): Klei Entertainment
Genres: Simulator
Themes: Space Colony
Release Date: 2017-05-10

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