An intriguing, strategic title from the small indie developer BrainGoodGames, delivers a relaxing and fairly easy to understand game. Solar Settlers isn’t particularly challenging, but the gameplay is fairly involving and can be easily picked up for shorter or longer bursts and seems ideal for fitting in around other daily activities. The re-playability is somewhat limited but the time spent is enjoyable.
In Solar Settlers, you are tasked with proving that a solar system is suitable for habitation. You have twelve turns to settle enough people in the system to win the game. Each system is represented by a number of rectangular tiles. You begin in the centre of the ‘board’ and are able to move three colonists off the ship in your first turn. After the initial turn, the colony ship will produce one new person per turn. These colonists must be moved onto tiles in order to utilise what they have to offer and allow the game to progress. Each tile will be able to produce a resource, which will differ slightly depending on how many colonists you place on any one tile. At the end of each turn, you must have enough oxygen to keep everyone who is ‘exposed’ I.e not inside a settlement, alive, as well as having enough hydrogen to move your settlers and resources to build new things with. Each turn is relatively long and lots of things can be done before you need to move on, so at the start, it is not difficult to get the hang of the game and win. However, the game alters the difficulty based on whether you win or lose. If you win a lot, the game will get harder and become more challenging.
The other primary mechanic in the game is the use of cards. You start with and continue to obtain, cards in the game that give you choices on what you have available to build and where. You build settlements, mines, processing plants, labs etc with these cards, but they can also be sacrificed in exchange for resources if you find yourself struggling. Some cards cannot be used on the same tiles as another and each card will indicate the sort of planet that it can be used on, so there are some limitations as to what you are able to achieve with a card and some management and strategy is required when placing them. For example, if you place too many processing plants or mines in the first few turns you may run out of space to place settlements and be unable to house enough colonists before turn twelve. As well as the cards and the resource management, the outer tiles of every system have a security rating that you must match in order to place any settlements or structures there. Solar Settlers ends up with a lot of resource and requirement juggling in a short space of time, which makes for an engaging experience that will certainly appeal to those who enjoy strategy.
The graphics in Solar Settlers are not phenomenal, but they don’t need to be. The visual style is sufficiently enjoyable since the game focuses on the strategy elements. The UI is clear and the visuals are used well without being distracting from the gameplay.
A simple, but very effective soundtrack accompanies you through each game. The right level of urgency is communicated through the music without it feeling too stressful. Not a soundtrack you’d necessarily feel like listening to out of the game but the music fits the game very well.
An enjoyable title with a reasonable price tag if you enjoy strategy, but if you’re uncertain then $10 may feel like too much to pay for a game that you might not play for more than an hour. However, even if strategy games aren’t quite your thing, Solar Settlers may still have plenty to offer as it is easy to pick up and complex enough to keep you engaged for several games.