A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this game.
The game both highlights and celebrates the challenges of exploring, colonizing, and converting Mars into a second home for humanity. It promotes puzzle solving, creative base planning, and balancing the needs of growth with the limited resources that you have at hand. Planning for, reacting to, and responding to disasters are also measures of success within the game.
Positive Role Models
Technically, you act as the administrator of the Martian colony, so there's no actual growth or portrayal of yourself in the game. You act on your own goals and milestones to lead, or potentially doom, colonists and robots on, and below, the surface of Mars.
Colonists can be from a wide number of races, countries, ages, and professions. A majority of what you're interacting with are robots, though.
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Ease of Play
The original Surviving Mars was already difficult, but the addition of underground areas raises the substantial levels of micromanagement to intense levels. That's assuming that your territory is broad enough and safe enough to support a large colony after significant development. Even with skilled practice, many of your plans can be undone by random events, building leaks, and other hazards. That's also on the lightest difficulty, so expect lots of trials and error during play.
Violence & Scariness
While violent scenes aren't shown, there are many discussions of colonists committing suicide, dying of old age, going insane and attacking other people, freezing to death, and more. Players can potentially be the cause of these problems based on their decisions.
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Products & Purchases
This is the latest expansion of the Surviving Mars franchise.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Conversations arise about some colonists being drunk or drinking to excess, and alcoholism can be a character trait, but it's never shown during play.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Surviving Mars: Below and Beyond is a downloadable simulation game available for Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Windows PCs. This is the latest expansion of the Surviving Mars franchise, which tasks players with setting up a thriving colony on the surface of the Red Planet. This expansion adds new dimensions to the play by allowing colonies to tunnel below the surface to fully take advantage of the world's resources. Players will be able to select from a range of ages, nationalities, and professions for their colonists, but for the most part, they'll we working with automated systems and robots to help with colony creation. So, while there are discussions of alcoholism and drinking, these activities are never shown on screen. Similarly, colonists can commit suicide, suffer sanity breaks and injure other people, or die from a variety of causes, but these are never shown, and are described to the player. What's more, players should be aware that this is a challenging game, requiring a lot of attention in micromanaging multiple sectors of the colony at the same time, while responding to catastrophic disasters and random events that suddenly arise. Multitasking needs across the planet, under the surface, and interstellar demands at the same time can be challenging even for experienced simulation players on the lowest difficulty level, so expect a lot of trial and error, as well as frustration, while playing. This could make a number of players hesitant or even resistant to exploring the title.
Is It Any Good?
While this is still an engaging sim, the challenge of managing multiple locations with the random nature of game scenarios makes this one for hardcore sim fans only. Surviving Mars: Below and Beyond brings new territories to fledgling commanders, allowing them to exploit the natural resources below the surface of Mars as well as the asteroids that float past the planet in its skies. As you might expect, there are plenty of resources on the Red Planet, and if you have the tech and the access to an underground entrance, you can carve out new caverns to access these materials. Your exploration could uncover new Martian anomalies and artifacts, but it can also add new spaces for your colony to grow and thrive in. Similarly, players can also take advantage of asteroids that go racing by, which are packed with resources as well. But these locations come with their own set of hazards – underground areas are prone to frequent cave-ins and underground Marsquakes, while asteroids can float out into space, stranding any workers or gear left on their surface forever.
In many ways, it would seem like this would be a high risk, high reward opportunity, but it's more underwhelming in practice. The resources that you find both underground and on asteroids are rarely worth the cost and the effort it takes to actually acquire them. Exotic minerals, for instance, are really only useful for structural reinforcement, but you'll only find a limited amount either underground or on an asteroid. Access to subterranean rifts are few and far between, and there are usually only one or two per map, so accessing them frequently only occurs after you've got a well-established surface colony, at which point there's little reason to go beneath the surface anyway. But perhaps the roughest issue with Below and Beyond is that it adds extra complication to an already difficult title. Players find that they're juggling a surface view, underground view, and occasional asteroid view all at the same time, and are forced to hop between each to micromanage every building and alert. Considering that best laid plans can be upended by a random catastrophe, like a dust storm, meteor strike, industrial espionage, or space disease, even the most patient sim player will rage at the stacked deck of disaster placed in front of them. If you take time, reload your games frequently, and persevere through these difficulties, Below and Beyond is still an engaging game, but many of its new play features are largely forgettable.
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