Space simulation transports players to new world


Libby Duncan, Feature Editor

Klei Entertainment, publisher and producer of the popular games Don’t Starve, Don’t Starve Together, and Invisible, Inc., have made the “alpha,” or original test version, of their newest game, Oxygen Not Included, open to the public. This space colony management simulator utilizes many of the basic aspects for games of its nature, but proves a completely hectic adventure with players scrambling to balance all of the needs of their colonists.

The game begins with the player naming their colony and choosing their first three colonists, or “duplicants,” who are randomly generated. Colonies and duplicants can be re-named as one sees fit. Each duplicant has varying levels in a wide variety of skills, including cooking, learning, digging, research, athletics and construction. Duplicants also receive positive and negative traits, which may affect their ability to perform certain skills or cause them to consume more or less resources. Occasionally, negative traits nullify high skill levels, making a seemingly useful duplicant less valuable. The player will receive an additional duplicant every third “cycle,” each cycle being representative of a complete day. As more duplicants arrive, a player will encounter food shortages and an overproduction of waste, leading to frustration and rushed attempts to fix the problems. Once a player abates these frustrations, however, one feels a sense of accomplishment and pride. One can speed up, pause, or slow down their game at any point during gameplay to pace the game however one desires, though this may lead to more turmoil if one becomes impatient and sets the game to the highest speed.

Once the randomly-generated world loads, the duplicants find themselves underground on an “unfamiliar terrestrial body,” as stated in the first informational message to the player. The player must constantly observe and maintain the needs of their colonists. One must keep the oxygen level/quality, water and food supplies, temperature, energy, and decoration levels high throughout, along with other needs. If these needs are not met, duplicants become stressed, and either break things or throw up, causing the broken object to need repairs or the area to be cleaned, respectively. Righting problems becomes frenzied as the game progresses, and a player must keep an increasing number of issues under control as more problems arise. Also, if a duplicant’s health, food, or oxygen levels become fully depleted, they will die and cause stress for those around them until they are buried.

The underground world in Oxygen Not Included features a variety of biomes that hold different resources available to the duplicants. Some of those resources may initially be contaminated, requiring duplicants to use various technologies to filter oxygen and water, for example, before use. The game currently includes three species of creatures: the “hatch,” morb,” and “puft” — all of which are not aggressive, though hatches will fight back when attacked.

The clean and detailed graphics look similar to those Klei Entertainment uses in Don’t Starve and Don’t starve Together, and the animations of the duplicants and their environment flow smoothly. Though cartoonish, the game still appears detailed and well-crafted, making the game endearing to players who love the titles mentioned above.

The hectic nature of resource collection and management plays a large role in this title, as a colony can begin to fall apart easily. One may not find enough resources to build the machines, beds, and other furniture necessary for survival, and if all of one’s duplicants become overly stressed, a player may encounter difficulties when trying to calm everyone down. The difficulty, however, adds to the replayability to the game. At this point in its development, the player has no real objective other than expanding and managing their colony. When one attempt fails, a player will have their next opportunity to experiment on the best methods for expanding their base and caring for their duplicants. Each new attempt brings different ways to fail — a player must always remain alert to succeed.

Oxygen Not Included’s hectic gameplay and charming graphics provide an odd mix of cute and stressful. One may find themselves growing attached to their duplicants as time goes on and dejected when they do not survive. The game will delight fans of Klei Entertainment’s previous work, and keep them playing for hours at a time. Klei’s newest game gives players a new challenge in the resource-management game genre.