Quite a few indie games released in the past couple of years can be described as “Minecraft, but…” and ProjectorGames’ FortressCraft Evolved is certainly no exception. I would describe it as “Minecraft, but harder.” While Minecraft, the hugely popular sandbox game from our favorite Swede Notch, focuses on exploration and is basically Legos with monsters, FortressCraft is the nerdier older brother who prefers erector sets to Legos, and it focuses more on automation and tower defense.
After a meteor impacts your space station you crash land on an unexplored planet with few supplies and little knowledge of what to do next. Armed with nothing more than a 3D printer, a solar power station, a smelter, and some automated mining machinery, you’re left to your own devices to defend yourself from the hostile forces of the alien planet. Alright, so maybe you don’t start off quite like other survival games since you’re equipped with a small factory upon landing, but you get the picture.
In the beginning you’re limited to making a few handy items, such as torches, to ease your survival, but with your handy research scanner you can unlock new recipes using points gained by scanning unknown blocks. Eventually a whole factory can be automated, with conveyor belts bringing ore from your mines directly to the smelter, which in turn sends freshly smelted ingots to more machines, and those machines lead to more machines, and so on. After about six hours of playing, however, I had barely managed to scrape the surface of the research trees, so there’s quite a lot to take in.
Survival in FortressCraft can be quite frustrating. Your spacesuit, the only thing keeping you alive, has a limited amount of power that needs to be refilled from your base every so often, with battery use increasing if the outside temperature grows too cold or too hot. Unfortunately this acts as an annoying leash that prevents you from exploring too far from home, which means you won’t be able to easily get the materials you need to progress in the game. Run out of power in the wilderness and you’ll die sooner than you can say hypothermia.
With so much to take in you’d expect there to be a very in depth tutorial, and while the game does teach you the basics, you’ll be left to figure the rest out yourself through trial and error, mostly error in my own case. Another detriment to getting started is the way the world is randomly generated. My own world started me above a deposit of copper and tin which got me through a lot of the tech tree, but without iron I couldn’t progress further, and the only iron deposits to be found lay deep, deep underground, in an area infested with enemies.
FortressCraft Evolved has managed to set itself apart from other sandbox games of the same vein by trying something new, and while not everything it does is perfect, it’s a good attempt at the genre and certainly worth a try. Multiplayer is currently out but quite buggy, but the developers are quick to point out that it’s being worked on and will be for the foreseeable future. As with most Early Access titles, proceed with caution. All it needs is a little polish, and perhaps some better prop designs, and it could be a big contender on the “Minecraft, but…” market.