Listen, every alien planet needs a gardener right? Right. One Lonely Outpost is exactly that. It’s Stardew Valley in space. At the time of writing, the demo is free to play on Steam and it has a very lively discord community. If you like the demo, you might also be interested in the fact that One Lonely Outpost has been a Kickstarter project since September 2020.
Your voyage begins when your player travels to a new alien planet called ‘Calypso’ as part of its work. Your main job? Establish a colony. As you land, your computer breaks, the air appears to be toxic and there are no life appears to be found. Thankfully you have your robot cat Qwerty to keep you company. If you ever had one of those robo-dog/cats in the 90’s you’ll know exactly what this cat looks like.
Armed with an Omniac (a sort of Pokedex for minerals, rock, items, etc) you’ll set off on the land to chart this strange alien world. Each discovery you uncover will yield you Omnistars, earning respect from future peers that may attend the planet to help.
I have never had the absolute joy of playing Stardew Valley to its full potential with the attention it deserves, but it is clear One Lonely Outpost takes much inspiration from the hit game. Your first task is to clear the debris around and start making sure this is a suitable living space, for example.
Your space suit is armed with many tools that can aid you in your quest to establish a colony. These tools stay on your person and will be able to upgraded throughout the game. The tools range from blowing sand mounds to reveal potential hidden items, a watering tool to water crops, a tilling tool to be able to till soil and plant seeds and finally a pew-pew laser to collect minerals and rock fragments to be able to refine for materials.
Initially, there is a lot of work to be done in regards to clearing debris and you can do this in whatever way you see fit, by either exploring and starting from far away, or setting up camp immediately with a garden. Days will pass and at the end of the week you get a small stipend from your employer to be able to order any materials from the shop that you need (read – can not be bothered to find a particular rock and melt down).
Each day, like most farming simulators. One Lonely Outpost utilises a limited stamina bar, restricting what you can do each day. This stamina bar is pretty forgiving and allows you to do a reasonable amount of activity before depleting. However when the day turns into dusk and darkness, the stamina bar not only depletes but so does your overall energy source – meaning you’ll have less stamina to use the next day unless you eat something to fill your bar back up to full capacity. Although your stamina is forgiving, the day does go quickly, so eventually players will need a plan your next activity as to not waste the day.
The opening hours do ease you in quite comfortably, and in my opinion perhaps a little too slowly for too long. A new quest will pop up maybe once every three or so days, but between that time, you only have minimal crops and you’re collecting rocks you can not do much with immediately. Quests could be to build something, to drop something off, or to craft something in the trade of a colleague to come to the planet.
I noticed big chunks of time sometimes, where nothing really happens for ages as near the beginning there is not much to buy, or make if you’ve already progressed through the basics of making a fabricator and Omniforge.
A fabricator is the tool that allows you as the player to craft certain materials so you can create more items to aid you in your mission. The Omniforge, on the other hand, helps to melt down materials. Whilst this is helpful, the game is filled with many different materials, and melting down certain rocks will lead to certain ores and as much as I have tried, it is impossible to remember everything you may need. This is where one of my first issues with One Lonely Outpost comes to the fore; There may be times where you have received a blueprint for the fabricator that is quite complex, something that may need a few items which need to be crafted themselves. There are also multiple different rocks, and whilst the rocks all look different I can’t possibly remember that this brown fuzzy rock is the one I need to make that particular ore. Sometimes when I wander off, I will forget what I need completely, and there is no current way to remember every ingredient without going back to the fabricator itself in my ship, and looking. Unless I wrote it down of course.
One Lonely Outpost does have a UI where you can track quests, look at relationships, overview crops and how they may look if they start to die ect, but it’s weirdly restrictive. It doesn’t contain the very information you probably need the most when the main mission of the game is exploring and engineering. You will be able to eventually romance companions and bring them gifts as well as become their enemy if you so wish – this isn’t something I got to experience during my time with the game.
Is Anybody Out There?
Small cut scenes will break up and progres the story and the narrative strays well away from your typical ‘adopting your grandad‘s farm’ which makes for an interesting, fresh take on the trope. The story starts to develop when alien technology is found and attempts to communicate through your cat Qwerty, although it’s motivation is unclear for now. Companions will join and you will be able to have different blueprints available to be made, and more advanced technology in your colony.
Eventually when enough people join your colony, you will need to start to cook and feed them. Your crops become your focus, and weather and seasons can impact the growth of the seed. Different seeds will also take different amounts of time to grow and when feeding your colony you will gain a bonus for cooking food they request.
Like any game in this vein, stock and inventory is an important aspect of the game. I found myself becoming frustrated with the finer details however. Being able to split your stack of inventory, something that is typically very helpful in this type of game, isn’t explained very well. It took me going to the Discord to ask the developers how to do this . If I collect a rarer mineral, I don’t want to melt the whole stack down just in case I need the raw material in something later, and it becomes increasingly frustrating, even when it comes to moving things around or stacking items.
The map itself doesn’t show where your companions are or even where they have set up camp, and this became the detriment of my crops. I’ve wasted days looking for someone who isn’t in the spot they originally were for a quest. I literally cannot find them anywhere.
Minigames will prop up when a planet storm destroys any electrical gear and works by spinning electrical parts to create a current. Players will eventually be able to mine for minerals instead, gaining the chance to collect multiple at once. This mini-game is actually really fun and an ode to the old school Minesweeper game on desktop. If you do manage to run into a hazard you are removed from the mine and some of your yield is taken for compensation but once these new mechanics came into play I did find One Lonely Outpost most much more enjoyable to play. The environment starts to evolve around you with the alien technology interference and when I started to see actual greenery on my sandy dunes, I whelped with excitement.
I encountered no technical issues whilst playing One Lonely outpost and it would be rude not to mention the very soothing environmental and musical soundtrack that comes along whilst playing.
Overall, One Lonely Outpost is a lovely if rough-around-the-edges farming simulator with a spacey twist. It’s a slow burn to begin with, it is not as advanced as some of the others in the genre and could use some more attention to detail in regards to the important aspects of a simulator; such as inventory, stacking, customisation of character (Your protagonist is literally called ‘Player’ whilst everyone else has a name). Those niggles aside, One Lonely Outpost offers a lot of fun and creativity in its environment, story and gameplay whilst also having an interesting take on a genre that is becoming very saturated as of late. There is certainly potential here.
One Lonely Outpost is a slow burn that develops into a fresh take on a saturated game genre. An interesting story that stands out from the norm, a relaxing soundtrack and only some minor frustrations around the finer details of the game, this is an easy recommendation for anyone looking for something fresh within the farming simulator niche.
One Lonely Outpost is available June 26th Early Access on PC via Steam.
Developer: Freedom Games
Publisher: Freedom Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
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