Preview: Colony Builder Ragnorium Takes a Familiar Concept and Adds a Sci-Fi Veneer

Screenshot: Ragnorium

A few years ago everyone was excited for Banished—a colony building game where you had to see a group of people create a home for themselves in harsh wilderness. The goal was, hopefully and eventually, have a large settlement that is sustainable, even through the game’s harsh winters. I mention Banished because there are so many similarities between that hotly anticipated game and Ragnorium. Both are games about seeing a colony grow. Both games have the NPCs perform actions by assigning roles rather than direct intervention. And most interestingly, both were developed by single individuals–in the case of Ragnorium, developed entirely by Finnish developer Vitali Kirpu.

Ragnorium is a city-building game with a sci-fi twist: you control groups of clone colonists as they try to make colonies. It’s a lot simpler to type out than it is to accomplish, though. The elements, alien life forms, and more work against your ragtag group of naked humans as they try to harvest materials, build homes, and survive the elements until fire, clothing and shelter can be established. No one said it was going to be easy, and the first few days in Ragnorium can be tough as you establish a base for your first group of colonists.

Screenshot: Ragnorium

In Ragnorium, your colony starts from space. From your mothership, you have to design a colony drop ship that is most suitable for your current situation. Load it up on supplies and colonists and off you go. Once launched, you are given a view of the potential landing sites as the craft flies overhead. Mousing over potential sites lets you know how hospitable they potentially are—choose a site for your colonists to land, and then get them to work harvesting and building.

The planets you can land on in Ragnorium contain hostile alien life and opportunities to explore. You can’t assign tasks to your colonists directly, however. You can set tasks for them to perform, but it’s up to your colonists to take those tasks. Soon they might develop specialties, and one might even take over as the leader of the group. Each colonist has different skills you can assign and develop—much like the colony—so you have some choice into how to specialize your people.

Screenshot: Ragnorium

To start in Ragnorium, your colonists will have to survive on primitive technology. You won’t be forced to stay in grass skirts and wood huts, though. Eventually through objectives and milestones, your colony will expand technologically. With Ragnorium’s objective system and research trees you will begin to get out of the stone age, and face any threat the planet can throw at your group. But for now, only the first “era” of technology is available, with more coming as the game progresses through development.

Ragnorium is currently in Early Access, and as such, it is not quite finished. According to the Steam store page, the Early Access period is planned for 12-24 months. Currently, the game contains “the base game loop” of preparing dropships, and then launching them with colonists. In the future, new eras of technology will open up, as well as boss battles, more colonists, characters, etc.

Screenshot: Ragnorium

As it is right now, Ragnorium is fun to play, but I’m not super keen on its graphics. It uses a “3D rendered pixel art” that really makes everything look more muddy than “cool.” The developer heard this complaint, and patched in some graphics options—but those aren’t accessible until you already have your first colony ship down. The inability to change graphics settings immediately was something that was uber annoying for me, since I play at a slightly unconventional aspect ratio.

Overall, Ragnorium is a pretty solid game, even in Early Access. I’m holding off on my final judgement until I can see all era of technology, but I enjoyed the few hours I spent guiding my naked colonists to their first stable home. I love the colony dropship aspect, but even that could use some gameplay enhancements and fleshing out—something the developer sounds keen to do. In fact, the developer is actively listening to community feedback in a constructive way, and I am thrilled at where this game could end up.

Ragnorium is currently in Early Access on Steam.




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