Homeseek Hands-on Preview – Building a shelter in a brutal world

Posted on January 9, 2023

Homeseek is an upcoming survival strategy game that’s being developed by Traptics and published by The Iterative Collective. In it, you’re in charge of looking after a small group of survivors in a post-apocalyptic world. At Checkpoint Gaming, we were lucky enough to get a sneak peek of the build, test out a number of different levels, and learn more about the game’s story.

Set a century in the future on an earth ravaged by climate change, you play as the leader of a small group of survivors trying to make a home for themselves in a hostile world. As you start your Homeseek playthrough, you learn that your group of survivors has been living in an old, abandoned bunker for some time. However, disaster struck when the group ran out of clean water. There’s only one option: find another source of drinking water as fast as you can. Armed with a map of the surrounding wastelands, you set out on a quest to locate water, and in the process, find a new place for your people to build their homes.

Practically, Homeseek’s user interface and game mechanics are reminiscent of games like Frostpunk and Oxygen Not Included. The game has a dedicated menu visible at the top of the interface so you can keep an eye on your colony’s key resources: salty water, contaminated water, irrigation water, clean water, food, and scrap metal. You also have the option to pause and speed up time. Like other survival games, you won’t be able to purify water or build complex structures straight away, and resources like water, food, and scraps – which are used to build new buildings – have to be extracted from the environment by citizens before they can be consumed or used to start construction.

In this sense, the game’s different levels are a great way to ease players into Homeseek’s core mechanics. In the first level, you’ll work through a range of missions that will not only help you expand your first base, but also help you learn about the way food and water storage work. Once you’ve built the relevant storage facilities, you’ll be able to link them to multiple sources of water and food on the map that are within range of a storage building. For this reason, you’ll have to pay attention to the placement of your buildings, making sure they’re built as close to multiple food and water sources as possible.

“…engaging and promising gaming experience that thoughtfully tackles topics of climate change.”

On top of this, you’ll start the game’s first level with roughly twenty citizens, who you can put to work across different tasks and buildings. Only having twenty citizens at your disposal, however, means that you’ll have to be mindful as to how you distribute your labour forces; put too many people on scrap duty and you might end up with not enough food to go around. On the other hand, not having enough scrap means you run the risk of not having enough forces available to build houses for your people. Added to this, you’ll have to keep a close eye on each citizen’s health and happiness. Once these levels drop too low, a citizen will abandon their work duties, or, if their health bar is depleted completely, die. Then, there are also the environmental effects: dirty water means sick citizens and perhaps not enough forces to construct a medical bay. Dust storms will mean any citizen caught outside their house will die instantly. All these things matter in a brutal world where resources are scarce and every worker counts.

As you progress through levels, you’ll be able to unlock more buildings that will help you research different technologies and, in turn, refine resources and unlock buildings with different effects. Research can be selected through a dedicated skill tree, similar to titles like Civilization and Frostpunk. As with the first level, subsequent levels in the Homeseek preview take you through the more complex game mechanics at a gradual pace. While the first level walks you through the inner workings of simple water storage facilities, for example, later levels have buildings to purify water from irrigation and build wetlands as a means to purify drinking water. You’re also able to build more community-centered buildings, and enact laws for your colony. These mechanics not only added variety to the gameplay from moment to moment, but also helped paint the harsh conditions of Homeseek’s world in more detail.

Having more advanced buildings at your disposal, however, does not mean gameplay gets significantly easier. As you progress through the game, resources will be harder to extract and, at times, they will run out completely. You’ll also have to migrate to different terrains to ensure access to food, braving the elements in the process. To ensure continued access to enough resources, you have the option to build an expedition centre, where you can put together a group of citizens and send them on an expedition to another town on a different map. Before they take off on a mission, you can indicate which resources and how many of them you want them to return with. Depending on the destination, they might be away for a few days or a few weeks.

While the explorers are away, gameplay at the home base largely continues as normal. Every now and then, you’ll get pop-ups detailing a conundrum the expedition party has come across, along with three choices. It’s up to you to decide what the explorers should do and ensure they make it back to safety. These incidents range from helping a wounded animal, to exploring abandoned towns and buildings. Depending on the choices you make, you may end up with bonus resources, lost supplies, or, in the worst-case scenario, fallen explorers who never make it back to base.

So far, Homeseek is an engaging and promising gaming experience that thoughtfully tackles topics of climate change, overpopulation, and survival. While the main mechanics will not be anything surprising to fans of other strategy survival games, the expeditions are an interesting take on a familiar mechanic and a great way to raise the stakes. Considering how important each citizen is to the extraction of resources and the continued survival of your group, your decisions carry a lot of weight. This adds suspense to an already interesting gaming experience. Traptics is also planning on adding a multiplayer mode to Homeseek, which should also add a layer of depth to the gameplay mechanics.

All in all, it looks like Homeseek is shaping up to be an interesting title that is sure to entertain fans of strategy and survival. We’ll be looking forward to the game launching in full on Steam in 2023.