Developer: Chasing Carrots
Publisher: Chasing Carrots
Genre: Indie, Strategy, Simulation, Adventure
Platform: PC (Steam)
Release Date: September 17, 2014 (Early Access)
I rarely buy video games in early access unless I’ve heard of the developer before. I had never heard of Chasing Carrots before, considering they are a fairly new developer in the market. Their name implies the image of the horse being led by a carrot, so I wasn’t sure if that was a good analogy or a bad one. When I saw the short – very short – preview for Cosmonautica, I decided to give this game a try. After all, it looked good then, and it has time to keep growing. And continued to grow it has, as the developer has been busy updating and fixing content with a kind of gusto that I wish the big developers would possess.
Cosmonautica is basically your indie open-ended space simulation game in the same vein as Space Trader, Space Ranger and Smugglers. You get an empty ship, a wad of cash and basically start on a random planet. If you play the Prelude, it walks you through some of the basics of the game to get you on track. The Campaign is presently still being worked on, and you have a Sandbox Mode. You can start however you want, but if you go Sandbox Mode, things are a bit … tougher.
You are basically trying to create your own space business. You buy rooms for your ship, some of which are essential (crew quarters, bathrooms, food dispenser, etc.) and some which are optional to the type of business you want to run (cargo bays, passenger seats, weapons, hacking stations, etc.). Your starting ship is rather small, so you’ll start small and work your way up. Eventually, your ship will be able to do a range of different jobs, including fighting off tough opponents who will try to blow you into tiny dust fragments.
Aside from properly setting up your ship, you will need to hire crew. You visit an Job Market office, where a robot in a suit tries to pawn off the newest space refuse on you for credits. The higher the level of crew member, the more expensive they are to hire and maintain. They’ll also gain experience on their own as you zip around the solar systems, so they’ll gain not only better skills, but special characteristics that may be good or bad (or both). Every ship needs a pilot, and probably a maintenance guy to fix the ship. Eventually, you’ll need a janitor, medic, scientist, hacker, gunner and possibly a cook. As your ship grows, so will your crew. The more crew, the more functions get done, and some crew will have multiple skills allowing them to work at more than one job on multiple shift periods.
As soon as you get the right crew, you can then visit either the Bar or the Store. At the bar, you can view all the missions available and possibly pick one to make extra cash. Missions range from delivering valid passengers and cargo, to blowing up a menace, to hacking, to running illegal goods and cargo. All of them make money faster than mere buy low/sell high methods, which is where the Store is important. Stores offer products that the planet makes, and depending on the amount made, sometimes at a low price.
Now you can play the real trading game. Every planet has something it makes a lot of cheaply. Using the old method of trading, you buy that product there and find a planet that doesn’t make that good on its own. Ship the cargo there, you make more money. Buy low, sell high. Sometimes missions will reveal that a planet is building something neat or has a crisis, so you can buy cheap necessities on one planet and bring them in to the planet desiring goods and make a quick fortune. Every planet has icons that designate exports and needs, and you can also consult your own N.O.D.E. log book from time to time if you ever need help with anything.
As the game progresses, you’ll also do research. This is where the lab and the scientists come in. You start with the limited ability to travel to the inner ring of your solar system, and the only way to go farther and farther out (or to other systems), you need to research traveling to the middle and outer bands (or to unlock the other systems). Be careful, though – traveling farther from the inner band means more danger. In perspective, the profit goes up as well. You’ll also unlock rooms and other things, although that is not available at the time of this preview. Chasing Carrots has all sorts of ideas for new enhancements that they are planning to introduce to the game.
So how does the game play normally? You’ll spend about half your time staring at the cut-away interior view of your ship. You’ll watch your crew move around, doing their appointed tasks depending on what shift it is. That’s the next important part – controlling the shifts your crew work. Everyone needs downtime to sleep, relax, eat or entertain themselves on top of working. So you’ll sometimes schedule two people to take turns doing a thing, such as piloting. The ship will pilot itself, but slower, when no one is steering. Everything else piles up – the messes, the malfunctions, the stress – if you don’t have people trying to mitigate those issues over time. You’ll get to see every single one of them doing whatever it is they are doing during the voyage, which can be entertaining in itself.
The graphics are comical and well done. There is a growing disco-ish soundtrack with fun sound effects. You can read everything fine, and most screens give you the right information to make a decent decision. Your bird helper – N1L – often gives out extra info if needed, and you can always refer to your N.O.D.E. tab when you need to. Add to that that there are a variety of alien types with different religious beliefs and quirks everywhere you go, it starts to feel a little like Startopia. I loved Startopia, btw. I like most space simulators that have a good sense of humor.
For an early access game, Cosmonautica has been updated quite frequently and with a lot of detail from Chasing Carrots about what they are implementing and why. I find it a refreshing change from the Kickstarter world, where updates can be few and far between, and the game can be abandoned (I’m looking at you Double Fine and Spacebase DF-9). Chasing Carrots has been open, even running an update ticker at the bottom of their game when it loads to show you what’s been fixed/updated and what is to come.
Summary – it’s a decent space trader game with humor and nice mechanics involved. It looks and sounds good, and it can suck away hours of your time if you like games like these.
Nathan is a 40-ish year-old gamer, father and programmer. His hobbies are board games, video games and watching his son. He wrote for http://www.ironmanmode.com/ for the years of 2012 and 2013 to make money for Child's Play. He has been basically playing games since the 1980's in one form or another. His very first favorite video game was actually an arcade game called Dig Dug. He has played every generation of video game console (including the Magnavox Odyssey)