I would be shocked if since humanity’s first moments space hasn’t awed each of us at least once. Even the most serious-minded individuals, necks craned toward a night sky must pause and consider the immensity of the universe. Or maybe some of us share the experience of looking inward, taking a small step in contemplating who we are as a person or as people. And they’re experiences Per Aspera seems to be aiming to take one giant leap further.
Announced in June 2019, the game is the first from Tlön Industries, a small indie studio from Buenos Aires, Argentina. A base builder with heavy story and strategy elements, Per Aspera lets players take the reigns of terraforming Mars. Landing north of the planet’s Schroeter Crater, the game casts you as Autonomous Machine Intelligence (AMI for short), an artificial consciousness designed for bootstrapping humanity’s latest attempt to colonize the planet. From there, AMI leads resource extraction, manages human migration and guides research to further expand colonization while battling the elements and unforgiving climate.
Per Aspera is attempting to go beyond the usual strategy genre basics though. The game teases a number of interactive story elements at its core. As players settle across Mars’ Terra Sabaea region and eventually beyond, they’ll explore the narrative as well. Via choices while interacting with human team members and in AMI’s more introspective moments, players will influence how events unfold. Exploring the planet surface and uncovering the artifacts of previous expeditions, players can also piece together Earth’s current state and the history of Martian exploration that built towards AMI’s mission.
While not much of a wonk for strategy or base building, the window dressings for Per Aspera have me rabid. The game itself is built around NASA’s geographical data of Mars, meaning you can spin the globe and explore a true-to-life landscape where you land, watching it change as you and life flourish, using hard sci-fi technologies like mirror arrays and polar cap melting dust.
The planned sandbox mode looks promising as well, offering the chance to try my hand at optimizing terraforming. I could see myself digging deep into this as post-game content, trying to beat scientific models by decades for how long it would realistically take to get a colony up and running. The narrative elements look to add something new that should be fun to gnaw on as well. The idea of an entire, explorable planet available creates more than a fair few opportunities for environmental storytelling.
Just the thought of hopping into an airport-bound taxi makes me break into a cold sweat. So technology limits notwithstanding, the idea I’ll play a role in Earth’s reach for the stars is slim. The game in its current form though is shaping up to be a great escape for timid daydreamers like myself seeking to go offworld and make the galaxy a little greener. Whether or not Per Aspera will give city building genre devotees the hardcore experience they’re looking for will have to wait until the final release.
Per Aspera is scheduled for release later this year on Steam.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites at twitch.tv/bokor