Project 5: Sightseer pits the part of me that adores games with depth against the part of me which appreciates simplicity. When I have a game that has many variables and mechanics to keep track of, I tend to appreciate the challenge. Project 5: Sightseer definitely has a lot of mechanics. At the same time, there’s a line between a game which is mechanic-rich and a game that is convoluted. I’m not entirely sure which one Project 5: Sightseer is but it has potential.
Project 5 is an exploration, open world, multiplayer sandbox game set in procedurally generated earth-like worlds(one world per server.) The game includes an impressive amount of biodomes for an Early Access title and boasts beautiful environments even locked at 30fps. The soundtrack also deserves a shout out for being one of the best in a sandbox game I’ve heard, full stop.
Players interact with the world from inside a myriad of land, air, and sea vehicles and they handle pretty damn well. I was impressed by the way land vehicles slowed down in trees, the response of the shocks when riding over uneven terrain, and how ships reacted when they hit the waves depending on the angles. Once I left my game running while in a boat a few kilometers from the coast, when I came back my ship was floating near the shore.
Details like this are everywhere in Project 5 and made simply exploring my favorite part of the game. The drawback is it takes forever to unlock these interesting modes of exploration organically. The initial truck is miserably slow and it doesn’t have damn headlights.
The good news is there is a Creative Mode for those who get impatient so you can at least experience why you’re putting in the effort. And oh, there’s a really decent map for navigation which I was more than thankful for.
When you touch down on a world for the first time in your crappy starter truck your first task is to collect materials. You do this by driving around until you see a node appear on your minimap (denoted by a nifty atom symbol) and getting close enough to tell you what it is and how much of it is there. From there you use your mining laser to start gathering.
When you use your laser you deplete your truck’s miniscule energy meter and have to wait for it to refill incredibly slowly. That is , unless you know that you can deactivate your laser and scanner to make the meter refill a helluva lot faster. But it’s still slow.
In the very beginning of the game you need to collect a lot of silicon, copper, and heavy metal (any specific heavy metal can be turned into generic heavy metal from the inventory screen.) Will you be able to find all of these reliably in the early game? Probably not reliably but, if you drive for 30 minutes to an hour you’ll find everything you need, eventually. But, the time it takes varies a lot. The speed which you can collect minerals determined by the size of the node you’re mining. A “huge” node gives about 500+ units per second while a small node gives far less.
Once you have a good amount of heavy metal you can get started by establishing a first base. The two easiest things to create in the early game are a flagpole or the more useful container. Plopping either of these down establishes an outpost.
Outposts claims a set area as your territory, conveniently, about the span of the minimap. The next task on the docket is building some generators. Generators can be solar panels, geothermal plants, wind turbines, etc. The player has to figure out what makes sense for the location of their outpost. For example, having a geothermal plant won’t produce energy if there isn’t a geothermal node in your territory.
When you get some power going, it will be able to supply every building in the confines of your territory. A great deal of these builds will be “extractors,” apparatuses which collect resources autonomously. Extractors will be able to collect every material that appears in your area. Where you place your outpost is important. It’s ideal to have some iron, silicon, and copper in your radius as these are the things you need the most. Good luck finding that type of situation. You probably won’t but as long as you have a few resources you should be okay.
Extractors are the first quality of life improvement you can build. It makes collecting resources a lot less stressful. One you’ve established an outpost in a decent position, powered it and created extractors you get to create a science lab which take a ton of power to run. So, you’ll be building a lot of generators. Once you have a science center you can finally do research to find new upgrades to make the entire process I just went through much less tedious. Alone, this will take you over five hours to do – no doubt. With friends it should go faster, which is why I would definitely recommend bringing friends.
Right now you can play this game with other folks on your own private server or on the handful of public servers. You can tweak your private server setting to allow folks to toggle creative mode, turn off pvp, and lower the price or research time for research. You can’t, however, tweak the rate of resource collection.
The most people I ever saw at once was 29 and I drove around for two hours and didn’t see anyone. The world chat was quite lively though. Unfortunately, folks didn’t seem like they wanted to team up in a cooperative faction with strangers so, the game remained rather lonely for me on these servers. Though, this may have been a blessing as, PVP is an element of the multiplayer. Additionally, if I had put the time into establishing an outpost and a player stole it from me, I’d be rather cross.
I keep saying that this game, though playable with one person, should be played with multiple people to split the overwhelming burden of how slow the first hours are. If I wasn’t reviewing Project 5: Sightseer, I would have bounced off of it for that reason alone.
After over maybe a hundred hours, by my estimation, I believe you’d end up somewhere close to doing all of the things I tried out in creative mode. You’d be able to upgrade from your crapmobile to a vehicle that is fun to drive around. You could fly (which is dope as it sounds) and enjoy the possibilities that water outposts bring. But, it would take, again, in my estimation, over 100 hours.
Of course the improvement is incremental so at some point you’d presumably see some progress before the 100 hour mark. I spent nearly 10 hours doing the equivalent of spinning my wheels. The game tells you nothing about what to do, I ended up breaking my rules and looking up some tips and tricks and I was already doing the things those tips said to do. The game is just that slow. I don’t have the patience for it but, I can see the appeal. You just have to hang in there.
The Other Mechanics
Once you have a good outpost going, you have to make sure that you are managing the amount of pollution you create or you get the holy hell blasted out of you by “protectors” and there’s pretty much nothing you can do at the moment. Though you have weapons, the protectors are there to punish advanced players and as such, they’re tough. There are different types of damage in the game and they had just added a radioactivity mechanic when this preview was written.
The game doesn’t explain a lot about what to do or how these mechanics work which can be frustrating as all hell. I can usually get by without tutorials because I read tooltips but the tooltips don’t read intuitively. But, this is also early on in early access, it could get better in the coming months.
Should You Buy it?
I see this game landing well with hardcore sandbox players with a love of management sims, exploration, and brimming with patience. Project 5 is initially an incredibly slow game. Because of the size of the procedurally generated maps driving from one point to another in your starter car takes forever, mining takes forever, and finding a place to put down some roots depends entirely on luck.
The initial push towards establishing my first base was painful but it felt great once I finally started building. The game lacks any sort of direction or storyline or detailed information on the dozens of mechanics in play. The systems can be confusing but, once you get them, present interesting ways of play. Oh did I mention that the game is beautiful? And if you’re a Linux person, it’ll run. I’d recommend this game to a group of friends who want to play it together or to very dedicated fans of the genre, it runs very well with only minor lag spikes on the public servers.
What the Devs Have Planned
Tasharen Entertainment has a very loose sounding game plan. They promise “the full version will have more of everything.” This means more vehicles, buildings, parts, and enemies. Happily, the developers seem dedicated to player input and promise the game will remain in development until both they and the player base are satisfied. As far as devs go, they seem like good folks.