July 20, 2023
The Iterative Collective
Colony simulators can be unforgiving, demanding your full attention if you want to succeed. Homeseek takes that unforgiving nature and puts it on the level of tough-as-nails titles like Dark Souls and Elden Ring. You must explore a ruined world and do your best to make it hospitable for human life. It will be a tough challenge as new obstacles force you to adapt quickly.
Homeseek’s appeal is learning from your repeated failures. You will lose your settlements multiple times and must replay each scenario until you succeed. It can be frustrating because not every concept is explained clearly. The trial-and-error gameplay eventually pays off when you find a winning formula. Homeseek is a game that demands your time, but it’s a true test of your strategic prowess.
Taking back the world above ground
The story of Homeseek isn’t new, being similar to games such as Floodland. The world was ravaged by warfare and humanity retreated into underground shelters. But shelters are running out of resources, prompting the return to the world above. While the initial settlers are optimistic, the challenge of returning to a working society is anything but easy.
It’s not an original story but it sets up the stakes nicely. Settlers are confident in their plans but that optimism can quickly turn into pessimism. Unexpected events can occur which derail your plans and cause people to leave. Make too many mistakes and your settlers will die or leave your camp.
The challenges you face are realistic and dire, which puts pressure on you to make decisions. Comfort is a rare commodity as you must always move from one location to another. If you aren’t trying to find a new home, you are wasting your time. This is what sets Homeseek apart from other colony simulators; establishing yourself is never an option. You are either moving or you are doomed.
You can’t run a society without people and Homeseek is no different. Every mission gives you a set number of people that need food, water, and housing. Citizens help you build structures and run your operations. Without them, you won’t be able to survive or explore new areas. But they also constantly drain your resources and leave whenever they want.
Losing citizens is the most common reason you fail. Without the proper infrastructure to keep your bases running, you run out of resources. There isn’t a constant flow of replacements, meaning everyone is precious. But it’s also easier to run a society with fewer people because you require fewer resources. Keeping people happy is also easier since you can address their needs faster.
“The immediate advantage is obvious but you may have doomed yourself in the future.”
It’s a constant balance that forces you to prioritise and juggle different needs. Do you accept new settlers coming in from a random event? Or do you let them go since your society is working? The answer isn’t obvious, which makes every decision tough. The immediate advantage is obvious but you may have doomed yourself in the future.
Failure around every corner
Homeseek is not a colony simulator where you can get away with a decent and functional society. Like Dark Souls, you will fail as unexpected events take away your resources or claim the lives of your citizens. Sometimes you build technology that helped you in the last mission, only to realise that it doesn’t work now.
Exploration is your main source of obtaining new technology to help you survive in the current mission. But it’s easy to select the wrong choices while exploring and doom your party. You can also explore locations that aren’t as helpful, wasting precious expedition resources. Sometimes an event will occur which prevents you from getting water, dooming your society.
Your society can crumble for a number of reasons. But as Homeseek tells you before you begin, you must learn from your failures. Events in a game don’t change, allowing you to decide better exploration routes and production strategies. You learn what is and isn’t helpful, quickly cutting out the fat. When you finally succeed, the taste of victory is amazing because you worked hard to get there.
This is Homeseek’s double-edged sword because you must be ready to learn. Just like Dark Souls, you cannot lose faith at the first sign of failure. Pick yourself back up and start again because you know what will happen this time. Missions aren’t very long and you can easily make decisions that insulate you against future crises. However, it’s punishing for a colony simulator that doesn’t always explain everything upfront.
Hammering in the hopelessness
In Dark Souls, you keep your equipment when you die and you can retrieve your last soul count easily. Homeseek forces you to either reload from a previous save or restart the entire mission. The latter is more common because saves don’t work when you don’t know what’s coming. You can reload repeatedly but realise something you did before ruined your progress. It’s easier to start over.
While learning is part of the fun, it’s frustrating to keep starting over, especially from the beginning. Technology from previous missions carries over but you still start with the same resources every time. Starting from scratch or seeing your efforts amount to nothing is more discouraging than usual.
Finding the eventual path to victory is rewarding, but it takes a long time to get there. The amount of experimentation you must do is similar, if not more than survival colony simulators. Fatigue builds up quickly and it’s easy to feel like it wasn’t worth it. Unless you are a glutton for punishment or have a guide, it’s tough to hang on.
You must balance your citizen’s needs with the technology available to you. That means constructing buildings and taking care of valuable resources to survive another day. The problem is that not every concept is clearly explained, which makes missions harder than they need to be. Some are hidden due to the progression, but others could use a better explanation.
For example, water consumption is important for your team and you must have a constant supply. The buildings are explained to you but the water connection isn’t. Water connection is important because it determines how much water is “lost” while travelling through pipes. It’s easy to go with the default option but realise you are losing large quantities of water.
Sometimes buildings come with filters that must be replaced or production stops. But you didn’t know about filters and wonder why there’s no water. That’s not to say buildings don’t work as intended. But sometimes you build structures for a mission and you don’t fully understand how they work.
That affects your future strategy because you believe some structures will save you. When you realise that there’s more behind the scenes, it can be discouraging. While learning is part of the process, it would be easier if concepts were fully explained.
Pushing the frustrating limits
Surviving in Homeseek is difficult and truly demands your time. Several challenges will come your way and it’s not uncommon to start again from the beginning. But if you are willing to learn from your many mistakes, the seemingly insurmountable challenges start becoming easier. There’s enough challenge for everyone, but the willingness to learn will determine your enjoyment of this game.
- Difficult situations provide an adequate challenge
- Emphasis on progression rather than safe comfort
- Learning from your mistakes provides a great sense of accomplishment
- You often have to start again from the beginning of a mission
- Not every concept is fully explained
- There is a steep learning curve
Homeseek is a colony simulator that frequently puts you in uncomfortable situations. Just as you think everything is going well, it pulls the rug out from under you and forces you to react. You must balance short-term survival with long-term exploration to find new livable areas. Instead of building a self-sustaining civilization, you must move to greener pastures while surviving against the odds. The learning curve is steep as you are expected to make several mistakes. Not everything is explained to you either, forcing you to learn as you go. But if you are willing to stay with the game and adapt, you will find a great challenge that forces you to really think.