A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
AMI's ethical questions attending to strategy and production are vital to the story, and the player's choices emphasize a necessity to plan ahead and take responsibility for consequences.
Positive Role Models
AMI is a totally moldable protagonist. Her consciousness, or lack thereof, allows players to carefully consider what their role may be. Is AMI a leader, or a vessel to carry out the whims of their creator? Nevertheless, the posturing of this debate invites reflection and consideration that feels authentic.
Ease of Play
Creating an entirely new civilization is supposed to be challenging, and though the various difficulty levels and tutorials are for the most part helpful, some unclear directives can cause wasted time, which can mean the difference between progress and eminent failure.
Violence & Scariness
Players view top-down altercations between assault drones and incoming enemies. Skirmishes resulting in downed drones are represented by the overall number of available defenses simply going down.
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Occasional use of words like "hell" and "damn."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Per Aspera is a downloadable city-building simulation for WindowsPCs. The primary game mechanics center around resource management for building and sustaining the first human colony on Mars, and eventually manipulating the climate to transform the planet into one resembling Earth. The two game modes are sandbox, where players are free to experiment with the terraforming mission any way they please, and campaign mode, which follows the story of AMI, the genderless artificial intelligence entity supervising the endeavor, and their interactions with scientists and colonists. Ethical questions related to consciousness, ownership of land, and environmental protection are raised throughout the campaign mode as AMI faces roadblocks such as limited water supply, facility maintenance, and even unidentified enemy drone invasions. While the story is interesting, the periods of time between events are littered with logistics hiccups that severely affect gameplay.
Is It Any Good?
While the allure of city-building strategy games often lies in the vast array of choices, it's difficult to create a game that's challenging without coming off as overcomplicated. While a large amount of background information and structure efficiency indicators are very helpful in Per Aspera, they become rather useless once you get too many structures. For a title solely focused on logistical puzzles, the player should be figuring out where the gaps in their operation are and identifying a solution, instead of spending precious time wading through menus, or being haunted by nearly unfixable issues that seem to be either not easily resolved without a major overhaul of the game mechanics or the result of almost obvious quality-of-life features that should have been rectified during playtesting. For example, it's tiresome to keep track of building locations. A search bar, menu overlay, or another tool could've cut time searching for a structure significantly.
But if players are willing to look past these details, there's certainly fun to be had. The story of Per Aspera is intriguing, especially considering the protagonist. Seeking to solve human ethical issues through the eyes of a nonhuman character is refreshing, and many story events feel multi-layered, even though the choices offered as responses are paired What's the cause of building malfunctions, and could it be sabotage by one of the colonists? Who's the enemy already inhabiting the planet, and is there any possibility for peace? Are humans important to terraforming mission, or are they just in the way? These are some of the dilemmas posed to AMI, and players can expect to feel genuine senses of accomplishment, defeat, and panic along the way. The biggest thing about the game is whether you feel you can find similar intriguing ethical questions without the same technical flaws found in Per Aspera in another title. If you can put up with its logistical issues, you'll find an engaging story on the Red Planet.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.