REVIEW : MARS HORIZON (XBOX Series X)
Space and space travel has fascinated mankind for the longest time. To observe this, all you require to do is look at movies and TV and to explore a slew of space travel and exploration films ranging from the seminal “The Right Stuff” to sillier fare like “Space Camp”. In the video-game world, there have been many games too, with Buzz Aldrin’s Race to Outer Space as an early masterwork, later re-implemented for the PC. There’s also the apparently silly but quite deep Kerbal Space Program, which provides a person to run a fairly good estimate of a space program.
Mars Horizon takes on the perspective of the space race from the initial space flights of Sputnik and the Mercury plan, all the way up to the initial manned charge to Mars. Horizon plays out in a turn-based fashion, allowing the player to take charge of one of five pre-generated agencies, varying from NASA to the Russians and including a-historical rules like Japan, China and the ESA, who were in truth never truly part of the primary space race. You also have the choice to build your space company. Each agency has its strengths, weaknesses and requirements but is otherwise essentially the same.
History is very much on the back-seat here, and you will not see great scientists and pilots in the spot. Unless you rename them, Neil Armstrong won’t take his great walk, nor will Yuri Gagarin take that memorable first flight. But there’s a large volume of depth to be found in this game.
The game is presented with a view of each planet.
Beginning with Earth and the Moon and later extending out to all of the hidden worlds and then later on to Jupiter and Saturn. Each planet serves as a “hub” for missions which you can study, unlock and then undertake.
The missions themselves open in a sort of mystery game where you have a restricted number of turns to create the required resources. You’ll require to evaluate the power and then later heat, thrust and different mechanical elements to accomplish the mission, or even overachieve and you’ll find yourself earning a reward. Failed charges can, though, result in trouble but you’ll still get some training levels. You’ll need to rebuild all the lost components, mind you, so a big loss can sting!
Mars Horizon has one of the best designed UI’s I’ve seen in a strategy game. Compared to the venerable Buzz Aldrin – even the recent remake by Matrix Games – Mars Horizon is far cleaner, far clearer and far more accessible. The game doesn’t hide anything from you and, in another very smart move, slowly drip feeds new concepts into the game bit by bit so that you can learn on the job. A full campaign of Mars Horizon is a long haul and you’ll constantly have new things to learn, new elements to manage and new resources to the husband.
The graphics are fresh without being spectacular; the audio effects are simple but quite nice and certainly evocative.
It isn’t almost as complicated as many of the other plays in the genre either, but that gives it a big edge in playability and approachability, and there are lots of hard levels, including a choice to set a custom challenge level too. There are question marks, however, on the amount of replayability, as once you’ve completed the full campaign the only draw to return would be to try and do the whole thing better or with another agency.
There are some weaknesses to Mars Horizon though. As stated, the campaign is a long haul and it may not reward multiple playthroughs. The charges can get a bit monotonous too, particularly with those near-Earth, though it will give you the choice to auto-resolve some missions.
The base-building mechanic isn’t very exciting but doesn’t take up a lot of time.