Parents' Guide to

Surviving Mars: Below and Beyond

By Jeff Haynes, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Difficulty, limited resources strand colony simulation.

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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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