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A surprisingly authentic, gritty Mars experience with an eerie atmosphere begging to be explored.

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The Red Planet is a vastly unexplored territory – at least for me – in the survival genre. My fascination with Mars started when I learned the planet is the major focus of scientific study for human colonization. The water present on the planet and surface conditions theoretically make it one of the most hospitable planets in the solar system. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a pioneering professor in engineering at the University of Southern California, has pitched the idea to NASA to 3D print structures using materials on the moon and then later on Mars. The United Arab Emirates also plans to colonize the planet in 2117. It’s a heady subject matter and the stuff of science fiction, but it’s also entirely possible.

Nizzio Creations and Darewise Entertainment took this sci-fi concept and ran with it, creating an interesting and believable environment to explore. Rokh is their creation which recently entered early access, but there were hiccups along the way. Landing on the surface of Mars, the mission of new colonists is to set down roots for those to come. The problem? The colonists before have been wiped out with no signs of life present except for their abandoned buildings and equipment. Broken down vehicles lay baking in the red soil and structure supports are falling over; giving a sense of mystery and untold horror awaiting the new blood with the desperate hope to build a life.

What happened to the original colonists? No one knows; the only signs are leftover crates scattered about with scant supplies to survive the harsh environment. New colonists have to scrape out a living on their own; harvesting materials from formations scattered around and building a base to take shelter in. They also have a limited oxygen supply, forcing them to start building and gathering the minute their boots touch the blood red dust.

Attacking buildings or poking around abandoned vehicles yields no supplies, except for the occasional supply crate. Why can’t I use the abandoned structures as a temporary base or repair any of the broken down vehicles? It felt like an oversight considering any good colonist would make use of what’s already present, working smarter not harder in the present. Perhaps that’s what happened to the old colonists, at some point they were unable to use their structures anymore and were forced out. If so, why aren’t there any signs of a struggle or dead bodies?

If the eerie silence and rolling hills of crimson don’t drive new arrivals insane, the weather system presents its own set of unique challenges. My first encounter started with hearing a weird sound like an explosion going off in the distance. Confused, I searched for the source thinking either I’d gone insane or there were Mars monsters lurking in one of the craters. When I looked up, meteors bathed in fire were entering the planet’s atmosphere to come crashing down all around me. This threw me into a panic, dashing for the nearest cover underneath the supports of a crumbling structure. The FPS drops added another fit of anxiety into the mix, but who am I to judge?

Being completely alone on the surface of this planet felt like entering a horror game without the creepy notes and monsters lurking about. Just walking away from a crumbling, albeit previously occupied colony, made me anxious. The only source of comfort I had was a simple and thorough tutorial on how to build and survive. Once that was gone, I was left on my own to either explore or build my own base in hopes of surviving.

Other than small complaints, Rokh had me impressed. It felt like a genuine experience of what I imagined it would be like to live on Mars. There are challenges both told and untold lurking around each new day the sun rises across the crimson dunes. While it’s still rough around the edges, this is a survival experience anyone with an interest in Mars colonization should try.

About the Author: Nia Bothwell