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Mercury Fallen Review
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Mercury Fallen Review
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DISCLAIMER: Mercury Fallen is an early access title and is in active development. This review was played on Update 18 (patch released 26 December 2018).
For video footage of Mercury Fallen, check out the video linked above.
WHAT IS MERCURY FALLEN?
Mercury Fallen is a space simulation and strategy game where you help an intrepid band of explorers to colonize an alien planet. You begin with 3 human colonists and 1 robot drone which you are able to indirectly control. You gradually gain citizens (found by expanding the colony through mining) by opening other stasis pods and re-activating disabled robots. You can also create additional personnel by constructing a cloning chamber (for humans) or a robot assembly structure (for robots), these are both unlocked through the research tree. Build your perfect colony!

COLONIST JOB PRIORITIES AND JOB EXPLANATIONS
You control citizens by managing their job priority tab which ranges from 1-10 on a scale. 1 being most important and 10 being least. Upon successfully completing an action the citizen will gain experience in that category. Robots however, only have 3 categories: Builder, Miner, Hauler. The categories for humans are as follows: Builder - Miner - Engineer - Botanist - Cook - Scientist - Doctor - Biologist - Hauler.

An explanation of each category is below:
Builder - Builds everything in the colony ranging from beds to walls to cloning chambers.
Miner - Mines through dirt, precious metals and expands the colony by doing so.
Engineer - Creates items found by excavating the surrounding landscape or growing plants using crop fields.
Botanist - Grows plants on crop fields such as potatoes and hemp.
Cook - Creates cooked food out of potatoes and other raw ingredients.
Scientist - Performs research using a research station.
Doctor - Looks after the wellbeing of citizens, can utilize the medical cabinet and medi-bed to heal injuries.
Biologist - I unfortunately didn't get to see a Biologist in action but the game states that this category is best at interacting with wildlife.
Hauler - Carries items to storage chests if you have enough room otherwise items will be left on the floor.

COLONIST MAIN STATISTICS
Colonists are randomly assigned different values to their 3 main stats which are: Smarts - Muscles - Athletics.
Smarts increases the experience gained by performing tasks. It is usually best to assign the smartest citizens to the most important task or perhaps something you believe the citizen can help the colony most. I believe it's best to assign these colonists to either Research or Mining as they are both jobs that occupy a significant amount of time.
Muscles increase the amount of items that a colonist can carry. This makes the muscular citizens especially good at the Hauler job.
Athletics increases the speed of the colonist. This makes a muscular and athletic colonist extremely good at hauling. If you have high stats in both Muscles and Athletics then a priority rating of 1 with the Hauler job is a sure winner for that colonist.

COLONIST EQUIPMENT
Colonists can also be assigned equipment in 3 slots. I found some shoes that increase move speed of the person wearing them and there are entire research projects dedicated to creating gear for your colonists.

COLONIST NEEDS
Colonists must manage 4 different statistics to stay sane and healthy, these are: Health - Fatigue - Hunger - Stress.
Health - Depletes when damaged (I didn't see many of my citizens get hurt but perhaps that was because we had a great doctor!).
Fatigue - Depletes when performing actions of any kind. When colonists reach 100% fatigue they will fall asleep on the spot until their fatigue is reduced. A bedroom must be constructed before colonists can sleep in proper beds.
Hunger - Depletes over time, can be restored by eating. Eating cooked food restores more. The Cook job can cook potatoes and other ingredients once they have a kitchen set up.
Stress - Stress will affect the efficiency of your colonists so making sure there is good decor percentage and generally having everything available (food, beds, lighting) will make your colonists live relatively stress free. I had a period of time where all my colonists were stress maxed for quite a while!

COLONIST QUIRKS
Colonists can also have "Quirks", Quirks are slight modifiers to colonists stats. For example, Boris Wild - one of my main colonists - has the "Calm" quirk which results in him gaining +5 to his stress meter, meaning he can deal with more stress than other colonists. I would love to see this system expanded in future updates to include more interesting quirks, as most of my colonists ended up not having any at all (which I expect in some cases was quite a blessing).
In general, I would love to see colonists with 2-3 quirks each and perhaps being able to gain additional quirks as the game progresses upon either experiencing a certain event (something like: falling asleep 5 times earns the "Sleepy" quirk which allows your colonist to sleep anywhere with no penalty or remaining at 80% or more stress for 5 minutes results in the "Stressed" quirk which would mean your colonist would gain but also lose stress faster) or maybe being a high enough level in a particular job for example, "Miner" - reach level 5-10-15 in the Miner Job, each level increases either the speed of mining by a percentage or grants miners certain abilities like being able to mine more than 1 block at a time.

MAP GENERATION, CUSTOMIZATION AND MOD SUPPORT
The level generator before you load in to your first colony is completely random, designated by seed names. Each map has an amount of water, dirt, precious metals and other discoveries, like abandoned facility rooms and as mentioned earlier, stasis pods and inactive robots. The sizes range from small to large.
As development continues, I would like to see more customization. Being able to modify any part of a map or change the game rules for challenges e.g. only 1 miner job is allowed or your colonists are constantly changing quirks (as mentioned in a previous section of this review, having more complicated quirks could make for some intriguing situations). Speaking of customization, you are able to change the colors of your colonists clothing to more easily identify them at a glance.
Something that the developer is working on right now is mod support and I think that is great! Mods will allow players to add in the things that the developer may not have the time or resources to do, considering game development is a significant strain on both. Especially if the team is small. I look forward to seeing what kinds of mods are released when the game is updated with this feature.

STARTING YOUR COLONY
The initial preparations for your base currently consist of assigning appropriate job priorities to your colonists. Initially the only jobs your colonists will do are Builder, Miner and Hauler - I recommend looking at your colonists stats as that will determine what kind of jobs they will be doing (I suggest taking a look at the colonist stats section of this review for more depth on that subject). It is recommended to clear out a suitable space for crop fields reasonably quickly and assigning a Botanist to plant some hemp (hemp is required for some of the more important materials used for building crucial structures). Upon mining out a suitable space, placing crop fields and building a bedroom is also a thing you should think about as well as assigning a colonist to perform the Engineer job to begin manufacturing building materials from raw resources. You must interact with the Bio-refiner structure and set that to accept a certain amount of materials, I personally set it to "Make Structure Resin (or whatever item you want) until X amount is created" as that will make sure you have all you need when you need it.
After completing construction on crop fields and the bedroom, I recommend building a research station as that will be of most importance as the game progresses. Being able to manufacture additional colonists or construct more robots is a very valuable thing to aim towards. Every research project at the time of this review is useful.

RESEARCH PROJECTS
NOTE: I did not get to experience the Xenobiology research tree as I could not find a "blue fish" which unlocks that line. After unlocking Xenobiology there are many research projects after it which include Food Processing and Xenobotany. Xenobotany unlocks additional food resources.
Once your first research project (Ore Processing) has been completed, there will be 6 new lines of research to pursue, these include: Utilities - Medical - Colonist Gear - Food Prep - Recreation - Metallurgy.
Utilities leads to Geothermal Power and Utility Equipment (each structure is capable of being equipped with equipment that can reduce power drain among other things).
Medical leads to Cloning technology. This unlocks the cloning chamber and enables you to grow your own colonists.
Colonist Gear unlocks additional gear for your colonists, each providing different stat benefits (as mentioned earlier in the "COLONIST EQUIPMENT" section of this review).
Food Prep leads to Fine Dining and Xenobiology. Fine Dining unlocks the Cafeteria floor and other food related items.
Recreation leads to Decor which unlocks various mood enhancing items which relieve stress for your colonists.
Metallurgy leads to Silica Processing and Tech Printing. Tech Printing leads to Surface Analysis (the ability to send a vehicle to the surface of the planet to mine and recover resources to send down to your colony) and Basic Robotics which enables the construction of robots through the Robot Assembly structure and placing additional focus on Robotics research will unlock further skill points for your robots when they are created.

COLONY PROGRESS CONTINUES
Once you have constructed all the basics (crop fields, beds, research station), you'll want to focus on expanding everything. This means mining out more base territory and constructing additional rooms dependent on your unlocked research projects. Make sure all structures that require power are powered through Power Conduits. Upon unlocking Water Pumps, you will have to lead Water Pipes to the various structures that require it (most notably the Cloning Chamber).
I'll leave it at that as I'm sure you'll want to make those decisions yourself when you play Mercury Fallen!

PEACEFUL EXISTENCE
Imagine you're playing the game and everything is going wonderfully where your colonists have begun their mid to high tier research projects and most of the map is mined out, while also making your base look great with all the lighting and rooms functioning fantastically, but then you realize that something is happening...
You're not being attacked or threatened by anything. Mercury Fallen as it is right now is a very polished experience and one that I recommend wholeheartedly, however I would love to see some form of danger added in the near future as that would add a whole different dynamic to survival on an alien world. Being able to defend your base and colonists against an alien threat or perhaps a rival corporation vying for control of the planet would be very exciting. Of course there is a lot of development work involved in adding weapons, job priorities, targeting capabilities for colonists and many other things involved in bringing combat to the game, but because Mercury Fallen is in Alpha stage, I would definitely think that the developer plans to add many more features as development continues. Don't let the lack of combat put you off however, as Mercury Fallen is - in my opinion - a wonderful addition to the genre, especially at such an early stage.

FINAL THOUGHTS
I had a great time playing Mercury Fallen, it's still in early access which makes the whole thing that much more impressive. I experienced no bugs, no crashes or performance problems all the while having fun building and expanding my colony (the video shows my building prowess! Actually I'm really bad at building aesthetically pleasing structures..).

I highly recommend picking up Mercury Fallen and playing it for yourself, but if not then at least add it to your wishlist as it's a game you do not want to miss out on!
Starpoint Gemini Warlords Review
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Starpoint Gemini Warlords Review
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Starpoint Gemini Warlords is an open world sandbox space simulation combined with RPG and strategy elements.

The player has numerous "starts" to choose from, ranging from having absolutely nothing but a small fighter to command to being in control of a massive cruiser. For the sake of this review, we will begin by focusing on the Story mode followed by observations from the Sandbox mode.

The game begins by providing a cutscene to explain some of the backstory and puts the player directly into a stylish and rather powerful looking vessel. This aims to explain the game's controls and systems before the world opens up into free roam. There are numerous story bits and cutscenes as well as a combat section too.

Once the tutorial is over, the player now has the chance to create their character by choosing a portrait which represents them in conversations. The player can also choose their gender, name, surname and class. There are 3 classes to choose from, each with their own unique abilities and specialties.

The Vanguard is the tank and close range class, capable of ramming and pulling enemies around. The Vanguard's main damage ability is the "Shotgun" skill which can shoot dozens of explosive shots in a cone. Every class comes with a passive, the Vanguard's gives it increased damage when using Light weapons while being close to the target enemy.

The Sharpshooter is the long range sniper class, it has a wide array of decoy and disruption abilities capable of confusing enemies as well as keeping them at a safe distance. The Sharpshooter's main damage ability is the "Precision Shot" skill which fires a destructive bolt at an enemy from long range. The passive for the Sharpshooter increases Light weapon damage the further away the player is from their target.

The Marauder is Starpoint Gemini Warlord's answer to a stealth fighter, it has cloaking technology and high burst damage. The Marauder's main damage ability is "Expose" which while short range can damage and weaken enemy defenses. The Marauder is also capable of utilizing the longer cooldown abillity "Execute" which has the added benefit of the cooldown being reset upon landing a killing blow with this skill. The Marauder's passive adds an additional chance to critically hit with Light weapons.

After selecting the class, the player has the opportunity to select numerous perks which range from unlocking new conversation options, to improving trading prices as well as improving boarding enemy ship ability.

Once the creation section has been completed, the player is then placed into their gunship of choice and is allowed to freely explore the game world. However it is recommended to follow the main story at least a little to become further acquianted with the various side missions that will be available once reaching Concordia (the space station the player calls home).

Upon arriving at Concordia, the player must hail the station to begin a dialogue sequence which will lead to the next mission. The player will need to use sublight drive (default key: B) to reach the waypoint faster. On arrival, the player will need to destroy defense platforms as well as enemy ships.

Next up is raiding a space installation. For this, the player will need to target the installation and use the menus to deploy troops onto the enemy station. There will be a mini-game of sorts where the player must keep their troops alive as they progress from room to room until finally reaching the control center where they will be able to acquire the necessary data.

By this point, the player has most likely gained enough experience to advance in level which will unlock a skill and perk point to be spent. The skill point can be used on the 4 class skills the chosen class has available while the perk point can be spent on a variety of different improvements to your overall character. For example providing the player character with the familiarity of certain ship types making them better at flying them in combat. There are also perks in categories such as "Weapons", "Governing", "Personal", "Engineering", and "Warfare". All with more choices within each.

Moving on from the story mode, the Sandbox mode is an entirely different affair with the ability to create the player character, choose your ship and be dropped right into the game world, no cutscenes, no big story missions, just the player and whatever goals they set for themselves. The player has the ability to dock into Concordia and browse various menus each with their own specialties. These range from Shipyard, Garage, Drydock, Trader, Jobs Board, Research, Shipbuilding and Construction.

The Shipyard contains a wide array of ships to purchase each gaining in whatever specialty the player chooses, whether that be combat strength, speed and mobility or cargo space.

The Garage is where the player can browse through their owned ships.

The Drydock is where the player can modify their on-board weapon systems as well as change their utility skills and upgrade them.

The Trader is where the player can buy trading goods and sell loot.

The Jobs Board acts as a way to earn some quick cash and also level up reasonably quickly, depending on the job that is completed.

Research is not available at the start of the Sandbox mode as it requires an upgrade to be constructed on Concordia but it allows the player to discover new technologies and unlock them to be used on their ship and fleets. (Yes you can command entire fleets!)

Shipbuilding is where the player creates ships to be added to fleets which can be commanded from the map screen (default key: M), there is also the ability to unlock "companion" characters through missions who will command stronger vessels than normal ships and have similar abilities to the 3 classes available to the player. These companions can also level up and gain new ships as they progress, they can be commanded to act as bodyguard for the player or as a strike team leader for a fleet.

Construction is where the player can upgrade Concordia depending on if the sufficient amount of material is available. Materials are gained by utilizing various outposts and capturing more from enemy territory, these outposts pay out their resources every week. The materials required for construction can be gained by constructing and upgrading: Mining Outposts, Gas Collectors and Junk Reclaimers. There is also a need to spend Credits, the in-game currency. The player gains Credits by collecting taxes as well as completing missions. The player also has the ability to send out "Civilian Fleets" to locations on the map to acquire resources another way. These missions have a risk rating associated with them ranging from "Very Low" to "Extreme" threat levels. It is recommended to send out these fleets whenever the player has an opportunity, this is all done in real-time so micromanagement is important.

Once the player gets out of Concordia and begins leveling up, destroying enemy ships and getting the hang of the systems in place. It is now time to begin expanding the player's territory.

To do this, the player must fly to a neighboring enemy sector and attack the forces currently inhabiting it. There is a bar at the top of the screen indicating how many ships the player must eliminate to successfully capture the sector. Once captured, the sector will provide any resources, outposts and anything within it to the player. The outpost which must be destroyed to capture a sector can be upgraded to increase its defensive capabilities. The player has the option to command a fleet to patrol in any sector they choose.

It is now up to the player where to conquer first.

Apart from the story and sandbox modes, there are also numerous others. The DLC currently available for Starpoint Gemini Warlords features a variety of different scenarios, ranging from being the last survivor of an ancient race (and having the massive ship to match) to defending against an invasion of an unknown faction. The game also has Steam Workshop support for those who would like to customize their experience even more.

Overall, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is a very enjoyable experience with many great aspects to it. The graphics are beautiful, the gameplay is smooth. The only drawbacks would be is if one does not enjoy the gameplay loop of combat, then one may find it a little grindy but luckily the combat is exciting and engaging. Many scenarios had me running for cover while trying to outsmart my opponents! The controls may take some getting used to but it is a space sim and with so many features available, it is understandable to have the controls designed that way. After about half an hour, I was able to control my ship and do everything else in the game without any problems whatsoever.

If one enjoys open world spaceship action with strategy and roleplaying elements thrown in, Starpoint Gemini Warlords is definitely something one should not miss!
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Mercury Fallen
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