Planet Nomads Preview – What No Man’s Sky’s Worlds Should Have Been?

Planet Nomads Preview

Planet Nomads is an open-world survival sim which strands you on a foreign world and tasks you with living through your experience. It’s a simple, yet still compelling premise that leaves plenty of room for the player to decide how things are going to play out. This game immediately feels like a reactive development that occurred in the wake of No Man’s Sky. No enormous, empty galaxies here. Just you, one lonely little world, and your laser. This is a very early build, but it shows promise, even at this alpha stage.

Right away the environments caught my eye. The textures lack for polish, but the atmosphere being showcased is clean and clear. This is a world that’s innately alien, but still beautiful in its own way. The light of the sun floods the skies at dawn and dusk, washing everything in soft pastels of pink and orange. The music is restrained and minimalist, skeletal chords follow you like footsteps wherever you wander. The sounds of animals in the distance is enchanting at first, but quickly becomes a warning to your ears. It’s soon after you meet your first alien life that you learn your first lesson about this game’s difficulty level. The peaceful serenity you breathe in when you step out of that escape pod belies a world laser-focused on eliminating you, like an immune system purging a deadly virus.


“The light of the sun floods the skies at dawn and dusk, washing everything in soft pastels of pink and orange.”

Your escape is the first thing you see and the central hub of your exploratory journeys. You can only venture so far before your hunger, thirst, and stamina force you to retreat to the pod for recovery. This leads to your next lesson, about food. You’ll get your hit points back inside the pod, but you won’t get fed. For that, you need to forage. Planet Nomads builds up the tension slowly but steadily. You find food, but it’s toxic. So is the water. So you need a way to purify it. The alien life is all hostile, so you need to defend yourself. You have no lab to work inside, so you’re going to have to build one. The wonderful thing about this game is the succinct nature of the tutorial. Everything you need to know to survive is contained in four static images you can access at any time. There’s no lengthy sequence which holds your hand and shows you how every tool works. The game has an instruction manual mapped to the keyboard, and it’s your decision to read or ignore it.

The process of crafting new machines, tools, and supplies is simple enough. The challenge comes from managing your time and resources. Your energy levels (hunger, thirst, stamina) are always dropping. Supplies start out in short order, so you have to make some critical choices as to what materials will go to what project. Complicating things even further is the fact that you can’t rapidly spam items for consumption. Unlike in say, Skyrim, you can’t just pause the game and eat forty pounds of produce in one go. Items of various categories all have cool-downs. This encourages you to keep a variety of healing items on hand, as well items of a certain potency. You can sustain yourself on a flavorless bio-paste if you’re desperate. But it recovers almost no health, there’s a five-second cooldown between uses and your hunger meter is always draining. I quickly learned that I needed better food if I didn’t want to spend my entire day inhaling bio-fuel.

Planet Nomads

I had some technical problems while playing, but I don’t feel like listing them off would be proper, given the early state the game is in. So long as the team at Craneballs are responsive regarding player feedback, the final product should be an impressive one. Issues with graphics or the framerate at this stage are almost to be expected. One problem I did have during gameplay was gathering resources. A lot of times it felt inconsistent. Training your laser on a big rock, you can’t tell whether it’s going to yield materials until after you’ve broken it down. Sometimes a rock would yield nothing on the first round, and then I’d get materials on the second pass. Perhaps it’s simply an issue with early texture limitations, but I was unable to discern a pattern in certain resources. Another issue I had was with food-related materials. I’m not sure if this is a design issue, but they were very hard to come by. Rather than blame this on the game, I recommend building a weapons crafting system as early as possible. The local wildlife seems to know where the edible materials are, and they’re not keen on sharing.

A good survival sim lives or dies by its pacing. Planet Nomads starts off slow, but the build-up is steady, with more and more opening up to you if you put in the work. On top of that, the constant threat of starvation and exhaustion keeps you on a tightrope of time management. You never feel like you’re on a mindless slog to the next checkpoint. While a system of gates is present, said system is cleverly hidden behind a struggle to stay alive that never lets up. The finished product might be some ways away, but I can already tell from my time with Planet Nomads that it’s going to be good. Be sure to keep an eye on this one.

***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***