Per Aspera... Reviewed!

Shout out to Raw Fury for providing a copy of Per Aspera for this review.

I jumped straight into this game to experience it without any expectations (based on trailers, etc.), and it extended beyond my expectations. I don't know why I thought this game was just going to be some sort of space SIM, but I was wrong... wrong... wrong. It's not to say that my assumption was a bad one, but... it has more depth than I anticipated.

I wouldn't call it Simcity: Space Edition... but fans of that sandbox franchise can easily feel right at home with Per Aspera. You aren't building on earth, you're terraforming on mars and forging a way for humans to exist on the planet... all the while making sense out of being a conscious AI. This pulled me right in... and kinda sorta reminds me of Ghost in the Shell to an extent (except you're heading a revolutionary Mars mission minus a humanoid body).

Story: Per Aspera's story revolves around AMI, an AI that was sent to MARS for terraforming. She was designed for the purpose of colonizing the planet's surface for the human population to have a... second earth to call home.

Going back to AMI's conscious AI, as the story develops... so does her knowledge... but the way she thinks... will be determined by you. The story starts out simple enough and gets you in a groove until a twist is thrown into your calm, cool, and collected space sim builder's story.

You go from wondering how you're going to set things up for solid colonization... to wondering how in the heck you're going to defend them from a threat that comes out of nowhere and shakes things up in your system and the building efforts. Granted you have acts of God that will occur, but... the main threat is an unknown enemy that emerges. (At the time of this review) I'm currently trying to figure out where they are after locating the direction they came from.

Since you have to make decisions that continue to develop AMI's AI in this story... you're also working as a sort of digital detective to determine whether this is an outside threat or an attack from within. There was something that was said in the story that made me feel like it was an inside job, but I will see how it ultimately plays out.

Gameplay: Acting as AMI, gamers aren't just making decisions on how she thinks, you have to make all the decisions in how you terraform MARS (duh of the day), and how you respond to others you're in communication with. Thus far, I've been in contact with a Doc, a Psychiatrist, and an unknown enemy. I think it adds to the depth because you don't get that feeling of loneliness that some other builder's give off. It feels like someone is with you. Before I go any further... check out some gameplay:

As you see, you will have to mine for resources, use those resources to create manufacturing plants, etc.

Your terraforming tools will increase as you log more game time and invest in R&D, and there will be a lot more game time to log. Initially, the menu will include the following options (minus some of the choices you see here):

Core (includes):

Areological Scanner... which scans a certain sector of the red planet (based on where you place), and will uncover new resources + mysterious locations that require research (this is part of the story).

Worker Hub... is the area where your bot/drone/worker goes when it's idle. Rather than have your drone at a distance... the hub can be placed where your drone is needed the most. This reduced production time by cutting down on the commute.

Spaceport... is the area that the colonies will access to enter and exit the planet.

Storage Center... is a facility that allows you to store material for later use. This may not come to mind to use, but trust me... use this as often as you can. Why? There will be times when you really need those resources and you don't have time for them to be created in manufacturing. I can't stress this enough, use these to your advantage... and make sure that you have them close to the area where you're expanding. This gives you immediate access to your resources with minimal commute for the bots... and strategically... if you start using these once they're available, your builds will be quicker.

Maintenance Facility... your builds will require maintenance, so you will have to place these in strategic areas to ensure that repairs are possible.

Mines (the section that includes tools that you will use to mine their respective resources.):

Water Extractor

Aluminum Mine

Carbon Mine

Chemical Plant

Iron Mine

Silicon Mine

Factory (includes):

Worker Factory... this facility creates your robotic workers.

Electronics Factory... assists in builds like spaceports, worker hubs, etc.

Food Factory... produces food (RkRk would be nearby).

Glass Kiln... produces glass.

Parts Factory... provides needed cogs and things like that.

Steel Factory... I think you get the picture (it produces Steel).

Polymers Factory... get your polymers here!

The sectors don't really need much of an explanation, but... do your best to keep them in a central location so that you have what you need to keep your terraforming efforts in full swing. The storage centers can more so be placed in the outskirts if that's what you fancy or place them nearby so that they can be unloaded there. You could place the center nearby and one at a distance so that the workers can quickly grab what they need (maybe a worker can be in that vicinity to focus on storage near the factories). It's all up to the way you play it.

Power (includes):

Battery... stores excess power (this could come in handy if you want to utilize power in an area that doesn't require a larger source nearby) or just place it near a source to be released when needed. You can string these to an area that needs a little power.

Solar Farm... generates power from the sun and releases it at night with a power output of 30 MW. You will have to keep an eye on how many facilities you connect to these power generators or else you can overload them.

Wind Farm... generates 50 MW of power by way of the wind.

These sections will be unlocked as you progress.

Colonies (include):

Colony... is the housing for the colony.

Research Outpost... is the area where researchers go to research something you've uncovered on mars. This includes abandoned facilities, that may or may not have been created by an unknown threat.

Terraforming (includes):

Greenhouse Gas Factory... releases greenhouse gases to increase the planet's temperature.

* There are other things that I have yet to unlock... like the Hyperloop, so it's safe to assume that the options increase from what you see above. Just like the military option.

Military (includes):

Drone Hive... is a defense tower that is great to place near areas that require defense the most.

Assault Drone Factory... builds assault drones that also defend but... they can also go on the offensive.

The experience changed for me once an attack happened because I went from solely thinking about my build and strategy in that regard, to thinking of my war strategy. Yeah... you can set up a good defense, but I wanted to get on my offense. One tactic I pulled off actually... is something I don't believe the developers anticipated anyone to do. That opened the door and my eyes to something else because what happened next was something I didn't anticipate. (It basically tipped the scale in my favor.)

I basically sent assault drones out as far as I could... and as some of you know, once combat is done... they will return back to your location (right?). Well... after setting up drones in a particular area, instead of returning back to my location... they took off. They didn't just roam just to roam, they went on the attack destroying things that I have yet to see with the areological scanner. They went up quite a ways until they were eventually destroyed... but I believe that a lot of damage was done to the unknown threat before they were taken out.

I plan on increase their strength and their numbers before doing this again (and I hope to see them react in a similar way)... which brings me to the skill tree. The more you build up your skill tree... the more your abilities, increased capacities, and increased tools unlock. You are able to conduct Engineering, Space, Biotech, and Military research. Currently, my monthly RP is 2.7... which means it takes a while to research various things like increasing my Drone Hive levels and unlocking things like Bioengineered Cyanobacteria. I'm most interested in the Biotech sector, which will allow me to unlock things like a Dome Colony and even... Oxygen Release Plants that I'm currently researching.

Military is necessary, but anyone that knows me well... will tell you how much I love plants (which is a lesser-known fave). So I look forward to unlocking these while keeping the antagonist at bay with my drones. At the same time... I also can't help but wonder if we're the actual bad guys in this story.

This section and the Military sections will have the most research ahead of the other two in order to protect my terraforming and help the colonists thrive.

Go in early on Military research as soon as you access the option, it will benefit you in the long run. You don't want the attackers to show up and you're completely defenseless... because they will destroy your hard work.

The building can take a while if you don't fast forward the gameplay, but the ability to change the speed goes a long way... even the ability to pause so that you're able to take a step back and implement or change your strategy.

Per Aspera is definitely a Base Builder/RTS, but you aren't just building in one area awaiting enemies to attack... you're terraforming across the planet with an interesting storyline.

Tip: Set a timer based on how long you want to play this game... because time can fly by. I was on SDGT Live for like 3 hours one day. I looked at the clock and was like... holy shih tzu puppies!

As far as combat goes, outside of positioning your attack drones, sending them to attack enemies... and positioning drone hives... I can say that I haven't experienced a lot of depth in that department just yet. The game doesn't just run on combat elements alone, so that's a good thing, but I will see where it ultimately goes (since I'm only about 12 hours in). I say that to say I haven't covered a crucial amount of ground yet... but a threat emerged when I began to get in a groove with building, so there should be some bigger threats out there.

Taking on assault drones is literally a numbers game so far. If you have more drones than the enemy sends in... you win if they're in reach or you send them to attack. So if you have 60 drones, and the enemy has 50, you win... and will likely end up with 10 drones left.

Before I jump into visuals, I wanted to jump into the replay value for a second. Considering the options you can choose from (as far as the story is concerned)... that alone increases the replay value because you can start over making different decisions to see how things work out. Your building and strategy can switch up from one session to the next, so the options in that regard are endless... and on top of that, you have a sandbox mode too. I'd probably use the sandbox mode to find out if a build would work well or not, but I'd probably stick with the story mode ahead of the sandbox mode (out of the box).

Visuals: At first, the visuals looked like they were more so something inspired by... Autocad. Once you begin to zoom to the planet's surface and tilt the camera (as seen below)... you get a good view of the 3D models. The game has a cel-shaded look that reminds me of a playset.

The scrolling you see here might seem like it's moving in sections... but that's just me using the scroll wheel, it's actually very smooth. While I don't mind the visuals... the combat (at this point) is nothing to write home about visually.

Price:  Pricewise... Per Aspera lands at $29.99 for the standard version, and $34.82 for the Per Aspera Deluxe Edition (interesting price) but it's less than $5 more than the standard. This version includes the OST + an Artbook + an Audiobook.

I would recommend the deluxe edition for the Artbook, but... especially for the Audiobook if you want to revisit the action in audio form. I have a few truck drivers in mind that I want to gift this to.

The audiobook is $1.99, the artbook is also $1.99, while the OST is $6.99 ala carte. So if you aren't gifting or only have a specific ala carte purchase in mind... grab the deluxe edition and save some money.

Story 5

Gameplay 4

Visuals 4

Price 5

4.5 out of 5 Cool Points

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