It’s always worth keeping an eye on Steam’s early-access game inventory; sometimes you’ll come across real gems that are easy to miss because they’re too early in development for real marketing push or hype to have built up. Spacebase DF-9 from Double Fine is one such discovery.
Spacebase DF-9 is a classic base-builder game, a type that has been sadly under-represented in recent years. It’s currently in early-alpha access, so it’s VERY unfinished, but it’s also remarkably impressive for being in such an early state. The idea is that you’re a seed colony, sent out to establish a space base in a distant part of the galaxy. Your three colonists travel for some 300,000 or so years to get where they’re going, and when they arrive, they awaken with 8 minutes of suit oxygen available to them to start building a livable base.
You’ll have to build an airlock and a life support facility pretty fast, and then once that’s taken care of, you’ll have a bit of breathing space (heh heh) in which you can start to get additional base systems running. You build stuff out of generic “matter,” and you have only so much of it at the start of the game. To get more, you’ll have to construct a matter refinery, and then get some of your colonists to start mining asteroids.
With the most critical resources of oxygen and matter taken care of, you’ll be free to turn your attention to other needs, like residential quarters so your colonists can sleep in real beds, and a pub so they can relax during time off. The more you build, the more infrastructure your base will contain – doors, machines, fire extinguishers, etc – and all of these devices require periodic maintenance. You’ll have to start managing the roles your colonists are assigned to and guide them as they gain experience in different jobs to best serve the needs of your growing station.
You’ll have the opportunity to add to your population periodically as random events bring visiting ships into your area. Often you’ll be asked to allow them on board; if you accept (and once in a rare while if you don’t,) they’ll join your population and be available to work where you deem them most useful. Just be careful; sometimes these visitors don’t take rejection well, and sometimes they’ll have no intention of joining peacefully anyway. You’ll eventually need citizens on security duty to deal with these hostiles.
There’s a remarkable amount of game play for such a simple system, and a look at their development plans show that they’re not done by half; they’re working towards a food and garden system, enhanced morale and personalities for citizens, science and tech development and much more. It’s a little on the pricy side for an alpha at $24.99, but you get a 20% discount if you already own another Double Fine product on Steam, and buying the alpha means the game is yours forever; you won’t have to re-buy the final product later. It’s available for Windows, Mac and Linux, and supports Steamplay.