Autonauts is a cutesy looking autonomous factory game from an indie outfit called Denki. It has cute graphics and cute little tunes playing and as you start playing there is a helpful cute little tutorial that shows you how to control your cute looking Autonaut.
Then the cute monster shows its real face, and you understand that under all that cuteness there is a behemoth of a game with incredible depth and planning needed to progress. This is not a cute game by any stretch of the imagination.
Autonauts is incredibly fulfilling and you will be managing a maelstrom of bots, their work and your sanity trying to keep everything running.
Planning ahead is key as there is a myriad of upgrades to complete. Upgrading your tools and technology is handled by way of stuffing your colonists full of food and collecting the ‘wuv’ they produce, how cute!
This, in turn, is placed into a research station with whatever you would like to research and the cycle continues. There is a lot of ‘stuff’ to research and build too.
Did I say a lot, actually, there is more ‘stuff’ in Autonauts than in a stuffed turkey on Christmas Day walking around Stuff town wearing all his Christmas stuff.
Ramping up production from a few bots felling and planting trees to making tools, farming, building and all manner of upgrades is an absolute treat.
I particularly enjoyed showing my son how to program the robots to complete tasks. We kept things simple for him but if you have a little experience with the way a program works you can set up quite complicated routines. I did notice that giving a robot too much to do can mess up tasks if for example, if your bot cannot complete one part of a job, maybe adding sticks to a crate because the crate is full, it will not continue with other actions.
I found it more efficient to keep bots rigidly completing one type of task, collect seeds from an area and add them to a crate, then have a second bot taking seeds from a crate and filling the holes to plant trees. When I had one bot doing the same task there would be no seeds to collect so it would not continue to plant meaning there were no trees being felled and therefore no seeds.
Another example of this is when I unlocked the mallet and was able to hit trees without felling them so that I was able to produce sticks and seeds. I found it more efficient to have a separate area to complete this task than to share the space with the tree felling crew.
Programming your bots is handled by way of a series of arguments that you can group together. Anyone familiar with Scratch will understand how to put the command sequences together but in short, you tell a bot to go to an area, perform a task and then repeat. Within this you can nest other arguments but rather than try and explain the concept it would be far easier to understand with an example.
In the image above you can see that the bot will pick up a crude hoe, just so you aren’t as confused as me this is actually a piece of gardening equipment and not a vulgar prostitute, it will do this until its hands are full, then it moves on to its nested argument, find soil, move to the soil and use the held item. It will do this until its hands are empty at which point it will start at the top of the argument string and so you can let the bot run on autopilot.
Well, that is until it needs winding. Rather than do this yourself you can have a bot in charge of powering the other bots in an area in much the same way as you can get them to do anything else, by teaching them.
It’s a truly ingenious control system for two reasons, 1, it’s very simple and easy to understand, 2, you can create quite complicated tasks with variables depending on the current situation.
To be honest, it’s not until you progress in the game and unlock higher tier bots that you will be able to construct complicated arguments as you are, initially at least, very limited on the amount of memory each bot has for commands.
Autonauts isn’t a perfect game and I have been frustrated by a few things. I suspect the slow rate at which you can acquire and add ‘wuv’ to the research stations is a design choice to lengthen your playtime, however, you can overcome this by automating the life out of it and it is at best a minor gripe.
Sometimes a bot will stop carrying out commands even though the arguments are logical and within the very tight memory constraints. I have been forced on more than one occasion to alter a process just because a single bot, who has the capacity, by the way, is unable to carry out the tasks without going “off-book”.
Setting up for a certain task requires some thought and planning which is totally ruined by some upgrade or another.
The storages can only be joined in threes. Combine limited storage space with the inability to assign multiple collections or drop off points with ease and I found I needed to use 3 bots where 1 would have been sufficient.
It would be nice to have the ability to just mouse over a bot and see its effective area of operation instead of having to go into its code and look at the area assigned.
I would also like a bot to move on to the next available task rather than get stuck holding an extra tool that you hadn’t accounted for.
These are minor gripes and overall I have been having a really good time getting to know Autonauts.
Graphically the games cutesy appearance may put some people off but I think it has a charm of its own and my son was instantly drawn to it. We have played a little together and he enjoyed the game for entirely different reasons to me. I like the complicated nature of programming a self-sustaining work pod with as few bots as possible whilst he didn’t mind having one bot for each task. We both achieved our goals, he just took a little longer than I did.
Autonauts is going to be on my install and playlist for a very long time. I have almost become obsessed with automating as much as I can with as few bots as possible and trying new and clever ways of programming a task is a joy in and of itself.
Autonauts is easily one of my favourite games this year. I think Denki has done a wonderful job of making a fun game that is at the same time simple enough for a child to play and complex enough for an adult to find it challenging. It’s a real treat to sit and play and the visual style, the music and the gameplay combine to make something very special.
Add Autonauts to your wish list for the 17th of October and thank me later.
- Gameplay - 96%96%
- Graphics - 90%90%
- Sound - 87%87%
- Longevity - 95%95%
- Value - 92%92%
A truly fantastic game and one that I will enjoy playing for a long time to come.