Terraformers – PC Early Access Review

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When it comes to transforming planets to make them habitable I always assumed that Elon Musk would be leading the way. I would be wrong, as Asteroid Lab brings us Terraformers, a game that allows you to do just that.

Was Bowie Right?

Time to pack up my dried space rations (not recommended) and don my space suit for a trip to the red planet and see if I can make it green.


Terraformers start like so many other civilisation development games, you have a base of operations to get started. First of all, you chose some starting resources and a leader. All leaders have different bonuses, so choose carefully to make your strategy a success. So, what’s to do to complete successful terraforming? Well, you need to gather resources, expand your population, explore regions of the planet and integrate atmospheric changes and life forms. Asteroid Lab hasn’t really brought anything new to the table, but I don’t really think that matters as Terraformers comes together very well.

Terraformers really brings strategy to the forefront of your thinking. Think ahead a lot when the harder difficulties are selected. I would consider myself very adaptable at strategy games in general, but even I didn’t just waltz through. There is an element of the random that is thrown at you during play that can really scupper your plans, but as in life, adapt and adopt to stay ahead of the curve. If, like me, you do end up falling behind in any aspect, it can be very hard to regain your position.

Well, there is a lot going on and the tutorial covers mainly the gameplay but less so the concepts you need to employ to be successful. Explore the planet to discover resources. Increase the population or build robots to expand a city’s reach. Extract resources to place buildings. It’s all fairly basic so far, but Terraformers doesn’t make it that easy for you. Sometimes there is a lot of distance between the resources that can be extracted, so the best plan is to build a new city that can expand to gather them. Research projects seem to be a little random sometimes. You need to store the projects to build the buildings from the resources, though you can only store 8 at once, so choose wisely. It can be a little frustrating when no food-generating projects appear for a while as you need food to build new cities. The more of the planet you claim the more you can build, so you have to have a good mix of planetary projects such as launch pads and stations that produce lifeforms. As you can imagine, one of the key aspects of terraforming Mars is the atmosphere. Build buildings that pump out oxygen and the atmosphere to increase these levels to suit lifeforms to get some greenery going and your job will be almost complete.

I’m sure it should be more green than this.

Terraformers is really sticking with tradition. Build a huge factory next to a tower block and the people are not happy. Expand too far and the people are not happy. Leave damaged buildings unfixed and the people are not happy. You get the idea. Obviously, there are ways to fix this such as building entertainment centres, and swimming pools and other fun things to do. The further through the game you get the harder it can be to keep the population happy, they seem to generically be harder to please. Happiness changes every turn based on the demands of the people and the layout of the land. Keep this in the positive and all will be well, but let it slide negative and suddenly things get a little harder. If happiness reaches zero it’s game over, but complete your goals with a happy population and then you can set off the fireworks and retire in majestic splendour.

The more you win, the higher your mastery level. The higher your mastery level the more access you have to harder levels and different scenarios. Higher mastery also unlocks more projects to build.

Terraformers is an early access release and as such, it is not complete, the team are working diligently to their roadmap and more exciting features are upcoming. There are four updates planned to get the most out of the gameplay. The developers are listening to the community on their discord channel and have made alterations accordingly. One criticism that I do have is that you can win without doing much terraforming, I would have liked to have seen that aspect incorporated more to all paths.

Choose wisely for the path is often hard.

Graphics & Audio

Graphically Terraformers hits the spot, there are no ultra-realistic aspects as the gameplay doesn’t call for it. The layout is easy to understand, the screens all make sense and everything is in good order. I did struggle sometimes to rotate the planet as I intended, but I soon realised that it wasn’t intended to move that way so I found a compromise and just learned to accept it.

Once again, the audio fits the bill, there’s nothing super amazing about it, but there is no need to be, it’s a gentle journey through the terraforming process, not a raging gun battle against zombies where you need to listen out for where the enemies are coming from. I have played many games where the background music grates like fingernails down a blackboard, but Terraformers has nailed it.


Terraformers definitely has the replayability factor, the better you do, the more challenging scenarios you face on each of the paths you choose to follow. The civilisation building games have been a staple part of the gaming community since the 80s and a good game is always replayable, even once it’s officially retro. I see Terraformers sticking around with its replayability for a long time, the development team are doing an amazing job. I know that I’m determined to reach max level on all paths because I do like a challenge.

Unfortunately its not just a walk in the park.

Final Thoughts

For an Early Access release Terraformers is well on the right path to being a great fun game. All the right boxes are ticked for the game style and with ever-increasing difficulties, it will be hard to walk away from. The gameplay is challenging but still fun and can be entertainingly frustrating without wanting to rage quit. If this is your bag, then you should definitely bag it, it is definitely worth the investment.


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

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