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I was going to post this as a steam review, but I guess since the game isn't actually available for purchase outside of the direct link, I'm unable to do so. Which is fine! I'll just copy paste what I had and add a bit.

As with all early access games, the review I can give at this point will have little merit moving into the future. That could mean a few weeks from now, it could mean a few months from now. Please keep that in mind.

Core Gameplay
Oxygen Not Included is a basebuilding and management game not unlike others in the genre. The core concept of the game is to harvest materials and build to support a growing space colony of Duplicants who serve as your workers. Each worker has needs such as Oxygen, Sleep, Food, Stress, and Excretion.

The core gameplay loop is well polished and fun to play, even in the game's alpha state. This is what has me most exciting about the future of the game. The start of the game is always nice, even if it's just setting up a simple starter base. Your Duplicants have jobs they're good at, but especially when the base is small they'll all get their hands on everything. You start off catering to basic needs, and being plotting your expansion.

Priority
Rather than micromanaging your colony on an individual basis, you send out orders to your Duplicants that any of them can fill. You can choose to have certain Duplicants avoid specific tasks if they're too weak in that area, such as having someone with 0 Learning avoid scientific endeavors.

Setting up orders is simple and easy, and the only major issue I've had is with the priority system. Often times I've had situations where if a priority 6 or 7 was out of a Duplicant's reach, they'd ignore many other 5's in favor of simply going about a standard routine. As soon as you remove the 6 or 7 and place it back to 5, they'll go about doing other 5 priorities that were in their que.

Aesthetics
You should be able to judge for yourself from previews and videos whether the aesthetics appeal to you. I personally love the style, and think they did a great job of the animations. It's fun to watch your Duplicant's run around and do just about anything.

My largest gripe is the lack of individualization between Duplicants. I understand from a lore perspective they've decided to go a route where all Duplicants are similar, but as far as visual clarity goes, once you're running more than a few Duplicants at a time, it's hard to keep track of who is who. Thankfully this doesn't matter too much, but if you're trying to keep an eye on a few during fast speed, perhaps their stress is high and you want to make sure they're getting where they're suppose to be, it's easy to lose them in the crowd. This issues is compounded when you can actually have Duplicants who have no differences between their looks. 

I'd like to see the ability to customize a bit more on the Duplicants, specifically the color of their outfits. That way I could set up my runners as red, my cooks as pink, my diggers as purple, etc. It'd help streamline the flow of micromanagement later down the line.

Science
The current science system is a major weak point in the game for me. While the system exists, and has the potential to be neat, it's currently executed poorly and feels tacked on. The general idea is that you use some common resources and a Duplicant's time to generate a green or blue science point. Once you've generated enough of these points, you unlock the technology you're researching. And that's about it. There's not a whole lot involved in this. If you want to research agriculture, you don't need to use Algae or plants, you use the same materials you'd use to research plumbing or decor. And while that's a minor complaint, the bigger problem for me is what the technology tree accomplishes.

As it stand the technology tree is there as a time sink for a Duplicant. There's no sense of customization based on where you spawn or the resources around you. The kinds of technology you invest in can be researched on an as-needed basis, and often times you'll have researched what you've needed long before you get there. In my eyes, the technology tree should be what helps differentiate each playthrough of a game. Players examine their immediate environment and make decisions on how they'll adapt. As it currently stands I follow a nearly identical build each run through. If I spawn near a grove of Metalwood trees, going a route that's focused on farming and using it's materials to build and self-sustain should be an option, not just a blanket research that covers everything.

That being said, the game is in alpha and lacks content, so I don't expect it to stay like this until release. It just felt odd to have so many core systems flow well and integrate into each other, yet have an unpolished tacked on system as the primary means of progression in the game.

Objective
Speaking of progression in the game, I feel the largest flaw in its current state is something that makes you want to keep playing. The start of the game is fun, and developing and designing your own base layout based on your Duplicants and surroundings is something I don't think I'll get bored of, but as you progress past the "safe area" into the different biomes, I found myself losing the will to play.

The primary reason for this is that the only objective you really have is to support your growing colony as long as you can. The idea of self-sufficiency doesn't really exist, because there are two non-renewable resources that govern your survival: Algae and Water.

Algae serves as the primary producer in Oxygen, however, despite being provided with water and light, Algae doesn't seem to have the ability to reproduce. This creates and environment in which your primary Oxygen generator is a quickly depleting resource. As you progress through the game, you unlock the ability to turn Slime into Algae. Slime is a part of a biome that is in no small demand, but takes time and energy to refine into Algae and Contaminated Water. This wouldn't be a huge issue if it didn't feel so inefficient. The time it takes to refine Slime, combined with the amount of Algae it produces creates scenarios where you produce 1kg of Algae at a time. This means that once you start to run low on Algae, Duplicants will spend their time to run over, grab the 1kg of Algae that was just produced, then run over to a machine, feed it, and repeat. They're on what feels like an infinite journey.

Even if Slime was an infinite resource you could dig, if the biomes went on forever (which I'm not sure if they do), Oxygen Not Included would not be a game of building up a grand base. It'd be a game of migration. The game would rapidly be about setting up excavations of slime areas to generate as much Algae and Water as possible. As you continue to mine further, the time it takes to dig and bring resources back quickly becomes inefficient, so you need to establish a new forward base. 

This is in stark contrast to the gameplay in many other games in the genre. You start micro, and work your way up to macro. Due to how pathing and priority works in Oxygen Not Included right now, you'll have Duplicants run across the map to do a task that another Duplicant a few feet away could have finished quicker. They set a priority and go. Once your base gets big, having Duplicants spend large chunks of time traveling destroys any effiency you might have, and you are eventually required to have a large base due to the need for biome mining and refining. However, there's plenty of room for design to improve this in the future, whether it be teleporters or transportation systems.

Klei have already expressed interest in adding hard objectives to the game, which I don't mind. What I'm more interested in, is their desire to add more self-sustainability options. As it currently stands, the methods of self-sustainability are incredibly inefficient. Ideally, I'd like to see more interactions with plants, both from a food perspective, and their ability to generate Oxygen. This is my number one concern with the game, as it's what would help promote the game being more centralized around a base, and expanding and exploring as a steady pace. I understand that there should be some sense of urgency, but I don't think they've got that right currently.

Resources
Outside of a handful of key resource, many feel like they're just there. At the rate I've tended to expand, I've never been strapped for anything, be it Raw Copper or Obsidian. Many resources feel like things you just end up getting as you go, as the demand for them are considerably smaller than the quantities you can find around in the starting biome.

I'd love to see a bigger push towards resources matter. I know this can be overwhelming for new players, especially if it's hard to eyeball them, but part of customizing each run's experience should come from what materials are available to you. Adaptability in sciences and resources!

Summary

Great game, great start. You can tell what areas they haven't had time to refine, but they've already expressed desire to fix a few things that I've seen as critical issues. I'll probably end up waiting a few months before diving back into it, but the game is fun enough to sink a few hours into for now. Hope Klei keeps up the good work!

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