One Lonely Outpost is a space-faring farming game, flinging you out to a distant, uninhabited planet and tasks you with, well, habiting it. There are certainly more than a few similarities to that other cosy farming/life simulator, there’s no denying it, but we’re going to try and avoid alluding to that as much as possible.
After a long time in the space oven, One Lonely Outpost was finally released in early access back in June. You can get your hands on it right now – read on for our initial impressions.
Potatoes on Mars
One Lonely Outpost doesn’t get too deeply buried in the science side of its sci-fi setting. Farming is not any more complicated than you might expect, you just use space-age tools to do it instead of the ones we have now. Instead of a tiller, you have a laser tiller. Instead of a pickaxe, you have a laser pickaxe. The coolest thing OLO does with farming is the constantly evolving encyclopedia your character gathers as you play. You can interact with your crops at every stage of development to update their entries in the Omninac.
As the colony’s steward, you’re tasked with feeding the inhabitants. This is a more or less constantly expanding task that demands specific cooked meals as well as raw ingredients. They do pay you for the food they buy, but it means you’ve got to have a constant conveyor belt of ingredients coming in to satisfy their needs. I’m not entirely sure if there are actually consequences for failing to deliver their meals, but you certainly get a few threatening emails suggesting as such, and that does chip away at your feeling of freedom to play as you like.
This Charmless Man
One Lonely Outpost wouldn’t be a farming game without a colourful cast of romanceable NPCs, and these arrive at your colony in a fairly steady trickle as you complete objectives. They set up their own houses, offering shops, services and sidequests, and… I don’t remember a single one of them. They’re not bad characters, exactly, they’re just sort of charmless. I’m sure as you progress and learn a little more of their backstories they develop some character, but I certainly don’t feel attached to any of them yet.
This isn’t helped by the fact that you have absolutely no customisation of your own character. There’s no gender option yet, absolutely no way to customise your appearance, and not even the ability to name yourself. This will obviously be added in as development progresses, but it seems like a few really important basics have been skipped. Everyone just calls you Star Steward and even your save file just reads ‘PLAYER’ at the top.
Admittedly this is a minor gripe but immersion is really important to these sorts of games. Being able to imagine yourself settling into life as a farmer, in space or otherwise, is part of their soothing charm. And they’re not working with quite as many visual tools as other games, so this small hit to immersion compounds One Lonely Outpost’s lack of charm.
There are good times, though. It’s cool watching our little planet bloom from a desolate, frozen wasteland to a happy little community with you at the centre. There’s a sense of adventure to striking out on your own, and serious satisfaction when you progress the game’s storyline and terraform more of the planet. I actually wish you had to spend a little more time alone – there’s a point early on where your robot companion gets taken out of action, and it really started to sink in that it was just me, alone, against an empty planet that didn’t really care if I was there or not.
One Lonely Outpost Early Access: Is it worth it?
I’ve been excited for One Lonely Outpost for a while, but honestly, it’s not quite living up to expectations at the moment. It just kind of… plods along, occasionally stumbling over a bug along the way. A lot of that initial appeal of setting up your own colony on space’s wild frontiers, Firefly style, quickly ekes away and leaves a faintly monotonous gritty feeling in its place. I guess Space Rome wasn’t built in a day, but even so, I just expected a little more polish out the gate considering how long this game has been in the making.
I know we’re all spoiled for choice at the moment, but right now my little One Lonely Outpost colony just isn’t calling out to me like I thought it would. I’ll definitely keep checking in on it as updates release, but I wanted to love this game more. That being said if you’re interested in it – and loved that other really popular farming game that came out a while ago – there’s probably enough here to keep you engaged, especially with the promise of more on the horizon. If not, keep an eye on it – this has the potential to be a fantastic game on full release.