Mars First Logistics – PC Preview

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Mars First Logistics hits Steam for early access on June 22nd 2023. With an even earlier look at the game, join me as I check out this Mars-based physics simulator. Currently in development by Shape Shop and published by Shape Shop and Outersloth, Mars First Logistics is playable in both solo and cooperative modes.

Shape Shop is a small studio based out of Melbourne, Australia. Run by Ian McLarty, this will be the 5th game developed by the company. Be sure to check them out if you enjoy this preview.

Did You Know…

Mars is the only known planet in the universe solely inhabited by robots. The most popular being the Curiosity, Perseverance and Spirit – qualities you’ll need to be successful in this game! In Mars First Logistics, we’ll perhaps get a glimpse of what life is like for these rovers, and some of the daily challenges they face.


Mars First Logistics is a physics-based cargo transporting simulator, where the player must move cargo from area X to destination Y. With a distinct lack of hand-holding, players must use their rover, their wits and a whole heap of ingenuity to complete their assigned contracts.

Screenshot shows the players' most basic rover, heading towards a cargo pickup
Our starting rover is fairly basic, and offers a blank canvas to build upon

Whether or not the player is able to utilise other modes of transport later in the game is yet to be seen. Based on the Steam page, there could be more to this game than rovers. At this point, I’m also unsure whether the game features weather effects or not – because yes, Mars does have weather. If not, then it’s something that could potentially come in future updates. A dust storm would certainly add a level of urgency to a contract.

Single Player

The main challenge of the game is adapting your vehicle to suit the current contract. Thankfully, players can make use of blueprints – pre-set vehicle designs which act as a sort of ‘default’. But players must modify their vehicles before each contract – whether that’s with a blueprint or a custom design of their own making. Ensuring the optimal vehicle design will increase your chances of completing your contract successfully. Emphasis on increase chances – as when physics is involved, nothing is guaranteed.

Screenshot shows the blueprint screen, in which players can modify their buggy to a pre-set design
Make use of blueprints, but be ready to make modifications on the fly

There’s a bit of a learning curve, as contracts quickly ramp up in difficulty. Luckily, completing contracts will earn the player some funds, which can be spent on additional parts for vehicles. Funds provide a huge advantage to the player, as more parts mean better designs. An extended arm on the rover or a higher-raising claw can really help when traversing rocky terrain. You never know when you’ll need an extra part, so spend your funds wisely.

Screenshot shows the grabber rover design, carrying a crate of oranges over Martian terrian
Believe me, you don’t want to drop any oranges in transit, all oranges must be delivered

You’re also allowed to modify your vehicles during a contract, in fact, it’s kind of required. Changing design on the fly based on an obstacle or terrain is something you’ll definitely have to do. A clever and reliable vehicle reset system helps recover from any mistakes – and gives you the confidence to explore freely. Vehicles are also customisable with paint, which I thought was a nice little touch. It just adds a little extra customisation to the game – no one said space exploration had to be boring.


With all of the single-player mechanics and design, multiplayer offers the same gameplay but with – you guessed it – more people. You’re able to invite your friends to your lobby, which puts them straight into your game world with no messing about. This means if you’re going to try and help your friends out, be weary of who invites who. Otherwise, multiplayer is more or less the same but allows you to team up for any extra tricky cargo.

Screenshot shows player 1 holding player 2 in his grabber claws, and raising him into the air like Rafiki raised Simba
I know in some multiplayer games you often carry your teammates, but this is just ridiculous

It’s worth noting that the game isn’t particularly linear in design. So if you’re struggling with a contract then consider skipping it for the time being and have a friend help you out later.

Graphics & Audio

I’m playing on my usual rig; Ryzen 5, RTX 3070 and 32GB RAM. Although this game will run on far less; AMD Radeon HD 6970, 8GB or more RAM and Intel Pentium 4 2.00GHz.

It’s fair to describe Mars First Logistics as a low-poly cell-shaded game – think Borderlands meets graphic novel. Making clever use of shaders and colour, the game provides one of the most visually unique games I’ve seen in a while. The style choice matches the mechanics of the game perfectly. The developers have really captured Mars’ atmosphere pun intended using nothing but basic colours, shaders and well-engineered particle FX. It’s barren, but not boring – a well-struck balance not so easily found.

Screenshot showing the screen fade to grey, due to a loss of signal in the big-wheeled rover, as it's too far from a signal tower
Why are there no cats on Mars? Because Curiosity killed them all! Unfortunately, it also killed me… But not to worry, you reset without permanent consequence

In terms of audio, there’s only really the sounds you create. Rover noises, such as whining batteries and wheels gently rolling through dust and dirt, combined with the sounds of our cargo rocking around are the only real-time sounds produced in-game. To keep us from going insane though, we’ve kindly been supplied with an array of calming background music. Think old-school Sega meets upbeat space music. A downloadable soundtrack bundle is also available separately via Steam.

Screenshot shows the big-wheeled rover overlooking a cliff, with mountainous terrain off in the distance
Shaders really bring things to life in this simplistically beautiful art style

There don’t appear to be any voiceovers or communications from people of any kind. Other than the little astronauts we see occasionally bouncing around construction sites, there’s very little human activity at all. Fortunately, a lack of humans also means a lack of human error, so I’m pleased to report no graphical or audio glitches at all – just polished and complete content.


When I first started playing, I thought this was going to be an easy little indie game. Turns out that it’s actually rather testing. Mars First Logistics will test your brain power to the max, it took me a good while to realise that the contract I was working on simply wasn’t possible without acquiring more funds first, to further modify my rover. Once you’ve played a while you realise that the game not only offers you freedom of choice but requires it. Patience, creativity and a whole heap of trial and error are demanded of you here.

Screenshot shows a fully customised rover attempting to navigate a lift puzzle with cargo
This one took me a while to figure out. Puzzles like this require custom builds and a little bit of trial & error

Because of the difficulty increase between contracts, and how quickly things ramp up… Longevity will entirely depend upon the players level of patience and ability to solve problems. Once I got stuck in, I found myself playing in stints of two hours – completing perhaps 2 to 4 contracts before taking a break. Multiplayer offers a slightly different approach, so having someone to play with can change your longevity.

Screenshot shows a fully custom built rover holding a gas tank in the air
Now I’m no engineer, but I’m especially proud of my fully custom-built wide-body grabber rover!

It’s worth noting that if you watch the trailer on Steam the developer has access to more advanced parts and greater funds in the earlier stages of gameplay than we have access to in the build we are reviewing. If the parts used in the trailer are available in full launch, then you’ll have a much easier time than we did now.

Final Thoughts

At times Mars First Logistics is by no means an easy game, quite the opposite. Sometimes incredibly challenging and sometimes incredibly simple, it all depends on the cargo and how you approach it. But in all honesty, it should be a challenging game. At it’s heart, this is a simulation game, which we’re playing from the POV of a vehicle operator. Nothing in space is simple, especially logistics. So when we’re contracted to transport a steel beam across Martian terrain using a remote-controlled rover… and position said beam in an upright position on a construction site… it should be challenging.

Screenshot showing the grabber rover transporting a steel beam across sandy terrain, creating a trail of dust
I won’t spoil the solution, but good luck delivering this beam! Creativity is key

So to conclude, if you’re going to give this one a whirl then just make sure you go in with the right expectations, and you’ll have a blast. If you’re hoping for a hand-holding pass time with minimal effort, then it might not be what you’re looking for. But if you’re looking to give your brain a little squeeze, and feel genuinely rewarded for a job well done, then Mars First Logistics is absolutely the game for you. If you pick the game up, please check out the credits screen. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for future projects from these developers. I know I will.

Disclaimer: A code was received in order to write this review.

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