God games are in short supply these days, especially science fiction ones, so it was refreshing to know about The Mims Beginning. This is a science fantasy strategy game where you control the fate of bizarre and odd humored creatures called Mims, which dwell in a strange galaxy full of floating islands. What’s different about this game, and the main reason it caught my interest in the first place, is its bizarre nature. It looks interesting and plays out on an original setting where your mission is to grow plants, harvest fruit, raise cattle and then sell it in the intergalactic market.
The story is about the Mims, which somehow got marooned and now seek to find and assemble the parts needed to construct a space ship in order to return home. Or so I understood, as the story is told in a very light-hearted humor, but it should be mostly it. As in other god games, your task is to look after your loyal servants while they work towards accomplishing goals that will ultimately lead you to finish a mission, or level.
The Mims Beginning is currently on Steam’s Early Access program, offering a campaign with 12 of promised 20 or so missions. Here’s my first impressions after completing 4 of those missions and quitting on the 5th, not really in a fed up boring way, but because I was surprised by it, had to restart and decided to call it quits.
Early Access Impressions
The game starts a bit slow with a couple of tutorial missions where you’re taught the basics. You need to do base building, resource management, look after your minions while you devise the best strategy to achieve each mission’s objectives. The typical god game. So, the game plays in real-time and you can adjust the speed but you can’t pause the game to assess the situation and give a few orders while the game is paused, for example.
So, after a somewhat gentle learning curve you’re on your own to pursue the strategy you think is best to complete your missions. Your starting resources are limited, and there’s no way to generate more too quickly, or at least that was the case in the 5 levels I played. Now, will you seek a more defensive route and unlock police Mims to fight off threats as soon as possible? Or maybe start off by growing a few more plants to boost resource production? Mims go tired and unhappy very easily, will you grown them a home so that they can rest and work more efficiently, or will you go straight ahead to research and produce cattle in order to generate gems, the game’s currency? And what about that electricity, required to keep your colony fully functional?
So, at first glance, there’s plenty of options offered to the player and it’s not so obvious what path is optimal at first. Of course, level repetition is almost inevitable. For instance, I got stuck in level 3 because I neglected my industry, so to speak. I spent all the starting gems in wind mills, a research lab and silos, only to realize later that I didn’t have the needed resources left to build the only vehicle for generating additional gems, which is to build a Bio Lab to research and breed cattle and then a spaceport in order to transport them to the intergalactic market for selling. In the game’s Steam forum I read that there will be other ways to generate gems as the missions progress, but in the beginning be prepared to replay a few missions until you learn the basics.
And speaking of missions, and having to replay them, this leads me to the worst aspect about the game at the moment. It doesn’t offer a mid-mission save function. The only save point offered is after you finish a mission. The problem is that a mission can take between 30 minutes up to 1 hour or more, so while you can pause the game by opening the game menu, there’s no way to save and resume later if you can’t leave your game running. The fault was obvious and the devs stated that they’re working on it, but be warned that while they state to be working on a mid-mission save feature they’ve also said that they can’t make any promises to effectively deliver it.
We are working to find the fastest and the better way to implement mid-game saves into the game. We can’t promise that we will for sure implement it, but very soon (few days) we will inform you about it. It could takes us even 1-2 months to prepare this feature. –Squatting Penguins Team
Apart from the lack of mid-mission saving, the other big issue with this game – which is largely reported by the community, and I agree – is that the controls aren’t very intuitive. Zooming, rotating the camera and moving around (which you’ll be doing a lot) are not bound to the right keys, in my opinion. However, while a serious issue at the moment this one should be much easier to tackle, and the devs have promised to implement a way to solve it.
You noticed that camera controls needs improvement.We are working on it. (we are considering to prepare setting menu for camera control keys). –Squatting Penguins Team
But apart from the lack of a save function and the odd controls, the game is somewhat enjoyable already. The light-hearted humor, the charming looks and the somewhat challenging missions succeed in grabbing your attention and offer some pleasing moments. However, be prepared for repetition, some of it inevitable due to the puzzle nature of a god game where you’ll discover exactly what you need to do only after you play the mission for a while. You’ll feel that you didn’t prepare the right colony layout for the threats and challenges imposed by the level, which will lead you to repeat it until you mastered it enough in order to solve the puzzle.
Other features worth mentioning include powers you can use wherever you want in the map (according to a few restrictions). Ideally, you would want to have Mims militia to fight off pests, bugs and other hostile creatures that harass and kill your mims and foil your plans, but you can also rain fire and thunder to soften or kill them off by yourself, although mana is scarce and it recharges slowly (the recharge rate can be increased with certain buildings though). You can also improve the mims’ skills by spending resources in certain buildings. There’s also an interesting feature that allows you to predict future events, like when certain enemies will strike you. The features list also mentions natural disasters (meteor shower, acid rains, infections) but I didn’t experience those in the first 4 levels.
Currently, the game offers a campaign/story mode with 12 missions but the devs state their intention to offer a total of 20 or so missions when the game is officially released. On top of the campaign they also promise a “Survival mode”, although the nature of this mode is still uncertain as they’re still implementing and throwing ideas around in the forums to possibly see what people have to say. So, this “survival mode” may or may not be a complete sandbox experience with no objectives, possibly “connected with achievements”. They are also teasing some randomization aspects in this survival mode, although not exactly “in a terrain topography, but more like a randomness of trees, stones etc.”.
My first experience with The Mims Beginning was a positive one and I certainly took some enjoyment out of playing this title at its current form. Its looks, light humor, surprises, original setting and solid mechanics held me fairly interested in progressing through the game’s missions and its challenges. So, I can’t say I didn’t have some fun.
However, sometimes I wished the levels didn’t feel so repetitive (always doing the same thing in the beginning: grow plants, build bio lab, build silo, check electricity, build a wind mill, fight off pests and check if you have enough gems left to build your space port or you’re stuck); you feel like you need to take a considerable chunk of work out of the way each mission before you’re able to start experiencing the new content the level is supposed to offer. The lack of mid-mission save and the odd controls certainly didn’t help either.
I don’t feel compelled to return, at least not until the issues described above are fixed. I did appreciate the content offered so far, which I think is very original and is quite polished already, and I was left somewhat curious to experience the remaining content offered by the 7 missions I didn’t play. But, I’m more than willing to wait until I can save my game, can redefine the control keys and the devs are allowed to complete the story and materialize the promised survival/free mode.
The Mims Beginning is an indie science fantasy god game developed by Squatting Penguins. It’s available for the PC, Mac and Linux on Steam’s Early Access program for $19.99/£14.99/€16.99. The game entered Early Access in January 2015 and has an estimated released date for Q2/Q3 2015.Subscribe RSS
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