Stranded: Alien Dawn Console Edition Review
Stranded: Alien Dawn is one of my favorite survival/crafting games on PC. It doesn’t take huge chances with a well-established genre, but adds depth and enough new ideas to keep things interesting. Like all survival games, there’s a lot going on. After several years in early access, Stranded: Alien Dawn has moved to final release on PC. How does the game’s complexity translate to consoles?
you start with a party of survivors instead of a single character
Lost in Space
All survival and crafting games start the same: with basically nothing. The player character has to scavenge for materials while attending to basic needs like food, water, and rest. Several hours of gameplay later, they’ve moved up the tech tree and have fashioned weapons, armor and housing. Probably a lot more.
Stranded: Alien Dawn follows the template, but instead of a single character, you start with a party of survivors. You and your spacefaring crew have crash-landed on an alien planet and your task is to build shelter, find food, and start to reclaim the land. Being from a technological society, you do at least start with some advanced tools. You’re not filing pointy sticks into weapons.
Like Rimworld, your party is not made up of anonymous characters, but folks with very specific personality traits that must be considered. They have varying degrees of fear, courage, boredom, suspiciousness, or friendliness. While you can assign them to any task, some are better suited to specific objectives. Keeping your people emotionally healthy is as important as physical well-being.
On the Outside Looking In
Over its development period in early access, Stranded: Alien Dawn has really come into its own. Tons of content and features have been added along the way. A recent update added livestock and tamable pets that can be used for defense. There are now three campaigns, each of which starts the game with varying degrees of technological advancement, and each with specific objectives.
Aside from your starting characters, you can discover and recruit other survivors, set up trade, or make war. The planet has an abundance of wildlife and much of it is dangerous or hostile. You’ll find that fortifying and protecting your camp becomes an early priority. One of Stranded: Alien Dawn’s strengths is that it can be played very creatively and has a lot of depth in the middle and end games.
Any Port in a Storm
I auditioned Stranded on a PS5, and the journey to consoles has preserved everything fun about the game. There are still lots of ways to modify the difficulty and starting conditions. Of course, the console version doesn’t include very many ways to adjust the graphics, which remain sharp and detailed.
Probably the biggest challenge to porting Stranded: Alien Dawn to console is the UI, and the way controllers have been implemented. For me, the experience was mixed. Using the thumb sticks to hover the cursor over objects was infinitely less precise than using a mouse and keyboard. In fact, camera movement in general was challenging to control. The camera’s ability to zoom and strafe likewise felt limited. Aside from that, actions and options were hidden under layers of button presses, versus using something like a radial menu.
For fans of futuristic survival games, Stranded: Alien Dawn is just as fun on consoles as on PC. It’s deep, engrossing, and customizable. Although controller implementation is a mixed bag, overall the experience remains engaging and addictive.
***PS5 code provided by the publisher for review***
- Engaging survival
- Lots of depth
- Looks sharp and detailed
- Controller and camera can frustrate
- Some UI awkwardness
- Can be challenging