Rokh, developed by Nvizzio Creations, is a game that sits on a precipice between a potentially addicting survival sandbox and a frustrating foray into a menu system that might end your time on Mars before death has a chance to sap you of oxygen, deplete your battery, kill you with radiation, or fatally dehydrate you (all of which can happen). To say that Rokh is like Minecraft in space would do an injustice to both titles. Rokh’s building system is on the one hand significantly more complex, but the time needed to gather materials, the somewhat convoluted crafting system, and the lack of any other goals will make this trip a buzzkill for many except the most diehard of astronauts. Of course, the game is still in Steam Early Access, so the future might hold some improvements, but those may not be enough to make the game appeal to a wider audience.
I tried to shake off my first impressions of the game as I discovered myself on a sparse, red, alien landscape surrounded by what appeared to be an abandoned Mars expedition. Beeping sounds lead me to supply boxes that gave up everything from building materials to oxygen and fresh batteries. I was even able to find a few radiation shields that were, oddly, consumable but at least they reduced the radiation I would slowly acquire while walking about the planet’s surface. But, I also noted there was nothing in the old base of much interest. The buildings and lunar modules served as nothing more than decoration. Aside from a battery charging station, there was nothing more for me to do, and so I moved on. I roamed from structure to structure over expanses of red dirt and rock to locate more supplies, and this was an ongoing cycle that made of most of my time in the game.
What Rokh does well is making sure the player has what they need to survive in ready supply as long as you keep exploring. At no time was I at any great risk of running low on any of my life supporting devices. This, I thought, was a very good thing since the progress in Rokh is slow and often tedious, so having the added stress of a fast depleting oxygen supply or battery pack could easily end in a rage quit before you have the chance to even build the floor on your new high-tech home. Speaking of building the floor (or just building anything in Rokh), the actual crafting and construction process is going to make or break the game for most players.
Very early into the game I was able to make my first tool, a pickaxe I would need for mining materials. Though I am not a survival game aficionado by any means, I usually find it quite easy to learn menu and item inventory systems. However, the menu I was faced with immediately appeared unintuitive and unorganized. In fact, as I gathered more items and created more tools the menu organization became a much bigger issue. There is no simple way to organize your inventory by type. I always had to take from an increasingly long list of items, some for survival, some for making materials, and others for crafting new tools or other objects I could use for building. To make things even more confusing, many of these items or materials are differentiated by one letter. Do I need an [M] Spike or an [S] Spike? What is the difference? At least the crafting menu gives you the recipes so I could locate the needed item (hopefully hidden in my increasingly long list of items) and drag it over to the designated slot.
But, wait. There’s more.
As I mentioned above, aside from crafting building materials you will also have to craft tools that open more crafting recipes. For instance, the Emergency Screwdriver will allow you to craft only a few materials such as certain spikes and rods. Crafting an Assembly Tool (that looks just like the emergency screwdriver) allows for a greater range of crafting, including additional materials and tools used (you guessed it) for additional crafting. There is even a crowbar you can craft that allows you to salvage already crafted items and materials for reuse. This is actually a very welcome addition, and a recent one, particularly because your tools can and do break and you will need to craft more of them.
Of course, no one expects space exploration to be easy. However, with Rokh I kept asking myself whether the time and energy spent creating my tiny, unimpressive shelter was worth the struggle? Is the crafting system and the need to build more tools to build more materials to then build new tools and then, one day, create a large base really worth all the trouble, or is it just needlessly complicated? Well, much like the crafting system, I don’t think the answer to that is simple.
The game is only in Early Access now and so it is continuing to find its footing. Looking through the updates and logs, the developers plan to make Rokh a game where players can get as close to actually surviving on Mars as one can from the comfort of their PC. Players will be able to grow food, reclaim atmospheric gasses for survival use, analyze raw materials for refining and smelting and the creation of additional tools and machines. All of this will, ideally, justify the complexity of Rokh’s crafting process and the time consumption needed just to get started. However, that doesn’t mean simplifying the menu system when possible, adding a sorting mechanic and perhaps not requiring players to switch tools in order to open different crafting menus wouldn’t be a positive change for the better.
Despite the complication and tedium I experienced, Rokh does have some moments of beauty and grandeur. Mars is called the Red Planet for a reason, and therefore one cannot expect a highly variant color palette. However, the sun does cast warm shades of orange and red across the landscape that feel rather welcoming at times. The occasional meteor shower is a wonder to behold. I once ran rather close to one and despite the danger to my virtual person, I stood and watched as space rocks crashed around me in bursts of bright flame. The night sky is a cascade of stars shining down on the dark landscape. At times I was tempted to think that if the crafting system had just been a bit more streamlined, if I just didn’t have to wonder so far and so often, I might have extended my stay. But, perhaps I simply am not fit for the great unknown. More likely, Rokh just doesn’t offer enough reward for me to justify the effort.
I was able to speak with a few fellow colonists using the chat function the game has and could tell Rokh offered a pleasant pastime for some. If the game progresses in the direction the developers have indicated, those who love construction simulators (because that is what Rokh is in practice) will enjoy it. Survival enthusiasts who are uninterested in combat and story elements might also be drawn in. However, anyone seeking more from their exploration of a distant planet won’t find much on Rokh to keep their interest and may find more entertaining pastimes closer to home.
- A highly complex crafting system
- Chat function allows players to connect
- Future updates will allow a more fleshed out survival experience, including growing food and harvesting gasses and raw materials
- The crafting menus are non intuitive and lack needed organization
- Players who are not highly interested in construction focussed titles will likely find Rokh time consuming with no real payoff
- It takes too long just to build basic materials for construction and players will spend quite a bit of time strolling across empty expanses