Originally released back in 2019 on PC, Autonauts made its console debut late last week. While I really didn’t know much about the game, it seemed like the type of game that would be right up my alley. I generally enjoy crafting/survival games and find good programming/automation games kind of addicting. This is why I was so intrigued by Autonauts as it combined these two genres together. Autonauts is not quite perfect, but it is a fantastic and ultimately addicting game centered around building your own civilization from scratch.
In Autonauts you play as a traveler exploring the galaxy. You visit uninhabited planets and try to colonize them. Starting with sticks and stones, you will use your technology to build your own civilization. You will grow your civilization from the most basic levels to a state of transcendence.
I think the best way to describe the gameplay of Autonauts is to say that it feels like a combination of Minecraft with a programming/automation game. There is no death or dangers in the game. You can take your time as there are no time limits or other factors that force you to play in a certain way. The game is built around gathering and using resources that you find in the environment. You start the game with the basic knowledge and tools. You will pick up sticks and stones that are lying on the ground. These resources will then be used to craft tools which are used to gather other resources.
The game is divided into different eras of civilization. The goal of each era is to build certain structures, research specific technology, and gather the required resources. Basically you have a set of tasks that you need to complete. Once you have completed all of these tasks, you will unlock the next era which gives you new tasks to complete. Each task builds on the knowledge, structures, and resources you acquired in previous ages.
If you had to do all of this by hand, it would be overwhelming. You technically could, but I would highly advise against it. Instead you can build robots which will help you with tasks. Robots can help you with many tasks after you give them the proper programming. Instead of having to know a programming language, the game utilizes a visual programming language. Basically you turn on the record feature on a robot and then perform the action you want it to do. After you are done you can then play back the robot’s recording and it will repeat the action(s) that you showed it. As you advance in the game you can give your robots upgrades and more complex tasks to complete.
Unless you want to do everything yourself, you will take advantage of your robots to build various industries. One of your first will involve lumber. Instead of cutting down trees yourself and then replanting them, you can train your robots to do it. You can take that further by then teaching them how to further process the lumber into other resources that you need. Eventually you will build several different industries to handle resource production while you focus on growing your civilization.
I had pretty high expectations heading into Autonauts. Yet the game still found a way to surpass them.
On the surface Autonauts is not your typical video game. There are no enemies and no concrete goal to it. You ultimately want to advance your civilization to create a more efficient society. You can do whatever you want though. In a way this reminded me of Minecraft. The game takes place on a much flatter surface as you can’t build up or dig down. It still has a similar feel to it though.
The game is built around acquiring resources. You will then use those resources to construct structures that help you acquire new types of resources or produce resources quicker. At the beginning of the game you start with just sticks and stones. As you progress in the game though, you will create significantly more advanced resources. This isn’t going to be for everyone. If you don’t like games where you mostly turn one resource into another, it likely won’t be for you. In my opinion there is something really satisfying about these types of games. After you play the game for a while, it is satisfying to see how far your civilization has come.
On its own this resource gathering gameplay would be pretty fun. It would get a little tedious though if you had to make everything by hand. Instead you really need to start automating the process as soon as possible so you can focus on other things. At first I didn’t know if the idea of creating programming by performing the actions for the robots would work. It does have a little bit of a learning curve, but I think it usually works well for the game.
I would say that my programming skills are decent enough, even though I don’t really do much of it in my everyday life. I am not sure how those with no programming experience will handle this element of the game. It seems straight forward enough where you just show the robots what to do by doing it yourself. The game has things such as loops and if statements which might not be as straightforward. I think the game does a good job being accessible enough that children and those with little to no programming can still enjoy it.
The ability to program the robots is what makes the game really shine. While it is fun crafting things yourself for a while, this would get repetitive after a while. It is more satisfying to teach a robot to do the job, and let them do it for you. You can then move onto the next task of acquiring new resources. When you come back you will have a pile of the resources waiting for you. You technically don’t really have to use the programming all that much if you don’t want to. I would highly recommend against it though. First it is fun to see the little society of robots that you end up creating. Second it would take forever to get some of the later tasks completed without the help of the robots.
A lot of the game is about trying to create the most efficient supply chain imaginable. At first you will just use the robots to gather raw resources. As you progress, you will further refine these resources so they can be used in other processes. The game rewards you for coming up with clever ways for handling problems. There is no real way to lose the game as you can take your time to build the world how you want it. It is really satisfying being able to create an efficient system through. I thought the game started off a little slow, but I soon became addicted to it. I would play for hours at a time and not even notice how much time went by. If you generally enjoy these type of games, I think you will love Autonauts. I sure did.
While I really enjoyed Autonauts, there were a couple smaller issues which I think kept the game from being perfect.
The biggest issue with the game is the fact that the game’s interface takes some time to get used to. The premise of building a programming game where you perform the action instead of using menus is an interesting idea. This makes the game much more welcoming to people that normally wouldn’t be interested in a programming/automation game. Most of the time it works really well.
I wish there was an option to change a robot’s program without having to redo actions over again though. If you make a mistake or have to add something to a program; it requires to open up the recording again, perform the action again, and then delete the old programming to replace it with the new actions. I wish there was a way to change portions of a process easier. This is kind of annoying as there should have been an easier way to edit the robots’ actions.
While the visual programming will make the game easier to learn for those not familiar with traditional programming, it does have a learning curve that you have to get used to. This might just be the console version of the game, but there are a number of menus that you have to move between. It takes some time to get used to programming the robots. The game doesn’t give you a lot of guidance in how to use most of the mechanics. It somewhat guides you with the various tasks that you have to complete in each era. You mostly have to learn the game yourself though through trial and error. Eventually you will hit a point in the game where everything falls into place and you can breeze through setting up robots to perform new tasks.
I am not sure how the console version of the game differs from the PC version. I believe some of these issues likely come from the fact that the game has to use a controller instead of a keyboard and mouse. Autonauts is still great on consoles as it is still a blast to play. If you have a choice between playing the game on consoles or PC though, I think the game will play better on PC. The game does about as good of job as you could expect with a controller though. It still isn’t the ideal way to play the game. If you can’t play the game on PC or generally prefer consoles though, I would still recommend checking it out on consoles.
While not quite perfect, Autonauts gets really close. The whole game is built around automating the gathering of resources, and using them to advance your civilization. You start off with basic resources and then further refine them as your technology advances. While this is fun enough on its own, the game really works because of the robots that you can build to help. The game uses an interesting visual programming system where you program the robots by performing the actions yourself. This has a learning curve which mostly comes from the controls not working as well with a controller than a keyboard and a mouse. Once you get a hang of it though, it is quite easy to create your own workforce of robots doing the simple tasks while you work on advancing your civilization. It is really satisfying seeing your civilization grow and your whole system working together. If you like these type of resource gathering automation games, you will love Autonauts.
My recommendation for Autonauts is quite simple. If you don’t care for resource gathering or programming/automation games, it isn’t going to be for you. If you generally like these type of games though, I would highly recommend checking out Autonauts as it is a great game that I had a lot of fun playing.
Release Date: October 17th, 2019 – PC, June 16th, 2022 – Consoles | Systems: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S
Developer: Denki | Publisher: Curve Games | ESRB Rating: Everyone
Genres: Indie, Sandbox, Simulation
Official Website: https://www.denki.co.uk/portfolio/autonauts/
- An accessible game that everyone can enjoy.
- It is really satisfying seeing your civilization grow from sticks and stones to an advanced society.
- Has a learning curve as you adjust to the visual programming system.
- Probably controls better on PCs with a keyboard and mouse than with a controller.
Recommendation: For anyone at all intrigued by the resource gathering automation genre.
We at Geeky Hobbies would like to thank Denki and Curve Games for the review copy of Autonauts used for this review. Other than receiving a free copy of the game to review, we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation for this review. Receiving the review copy for free had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.