REVIEW: Oxygen Not Included

Thursday, July 20th, 2017

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oprainfall | Oxygen Not Included
Title Oxygen Not Included
Developer Klei Entertainment
Publisher Klei Entertainment
Release Date May 18th, 2017
Genre Indie, Simulation, Base Building, Survival
Platform PC (Steam)
Age Rating N/A
Official Website

Have you ever wondered what you would do if you were stranded in space and found yourself in charge of a space colony? Your colony is never truly safe, and one bad decision can bring it all crashing down. Do you have what it takes to build out your base and keep your duplicants happy so they don’t destroy the base and themselves along with it?

Oxygen Not Included | Main Menu

When you begin a new game, you start with three duplicants. These are your colonists, and they’re called duplicants because they are clones created at the Printing Pod. At the starting spot is a permanent, arch shaped building, and that is the Printing Pod. Every so often it allows you to choose from three randomly generated duplicants to add a new colonist to your base. If you don’t want to increase your population you can simply ignore the Printing Pod entirely, as the window doesn’t open until you click on it. If all three randomly generated duplicants suck, you can reject them all and wait for the next set once the Printing Pod charges again.

As with some of Klei Entertainment’s previous games (Don’t Starve and Don’t Starve Together), Oxygen Not Included has a touch of rogue-like in it. In those previous games, you had to survive as long as you could because death was permanent. In Oxygen Not Included, if all of your duplicants die, then it’s game over!

Oxygen Not Included | The Printing Pod

The Printing Pod is the big arched structure to the left emitting light.

Managing your growing base is no easy feat. You need to have enough cots for all of your duplicants, and they need oxygen and food. The light blue you see in the air space of the base above means there is oxygen there. There are other gases like carbon dioxide, polluted oxygen, natural gas, and chlorine. There are also different liquids like water and polluted water. Gases can even be turned into liquids (and liquids into solids) via the mechanical systems you can build in your base.

Once you have the required research, you can build gas and liquid pumps, temperature management devices, medical bays, and much more. Many of these machines require power, too. As with everything else, research is a task you set out for your colonists, who will run around and do the jobs you’ve created for them. You can use the dig tool and click or drag to set an area to be dug out. The deconstruct tool works the same way when you want to tear down something you previously built. There are also different biomes. For example, on the right in the image above you can see the edge of a cold icy biome.

Oxygen Not Included | The research tree

The research tree allows you to choose which set of technologies to have your duplicants research next.

You might imagine it could get confusing once you start building power systems, liquid systems, and gas systems. The developers did something that helps immensely with this, though. The game has a number of overlay modes. Three of them are for the various types of systems you can build. There is an electricity overlay mode that shows your electric wires, and other overlays that show only fluid pipes or gas pipes. This allows you to focus on one thing at a time, which is very nice.

There are also a bunch of other overlays that let you see things like how temperature or oxygen levels vary across the map. Some of your machines will generate heat, too. Your duplicants need the temperature to stay reasonable and some plants have temperature preferences too. The gas pressure in an area can also affect your farm plants and duplicants. Some gases are unbreathable, and some plants prefer certain temperatures and gases. As you can see below, the temperature overlay shows the cold from the ice biome to the right bleeding into my base a bit.

Oxygen Not Included | Temperature Overlay

The temperature overlay is one of many overlay modes in Oxygen Not Included.

Oxygen Not Included has a host of other nifty features already in the game. For example, you can prioritize certain jobs to let the duplicants know what to do first. The priority levels range from 1 to 9, so you have a lot of power. You can also use the buttons at the top-right of the screen to tell an individual duplicant to only do certain types of jobs via the jobs window. This allows you to further manage your base and what goes on within it. Duplicants are better at some jobs than others based on their stats, but they can also level up in a skill by doing it a lot.

You have to take care of your duplicants, though. One of their many stats is stress. If it gets too high, they will begin to do things you won’t like. Depending on their traits, some will start having angry outbursts and damage things in your base! Some will vomit on the floor, leaving a puddle of polluted water. Polluted water and oxygen increase the risk of sickness. Walking in water (polluted or not) can make duplicants get cold and even lead to hypothermia if they do it enough! Fortunately, there are ways to manage stress, such as the massage tables you can build. You can also look at your duplicant’s vitals via the Vitals button at the top of the screen to see specifics on how each one is doing.

Oxygen Not Included | The Jobs Window

The more red a square is in the Jobs Window, the more skilled the corresponding duplicant is at that task.

You also need some storage boxes to store all the materials your duplicants get from digging. The initial ration box next to the Printing Pod will quickly become obsolete, as you’ll gain the tech to build refrigerators to keep your food lasting longer. There are better food production stations, too.

As you explore more of the map, you’ll find more types of plants and creatures. For example, the Pufft is a creature that floats around in toxic biomes, inhaling the polluted oxygen and pooping out balls of polluted dirt. You can make use of all things polluted, though, as most everything in Oxygen Not Included¬†has its uses. Polluted water can be cleaned, and polluted dirt can be made into slime, for example.

Oxygen Not Included | A growing base.

It’s night time in my growing base.

The gameplay in Oxygen Not Included is very fun and addictive. You’re always looking ahead to the next piece of tech you can implement in your base. You can play for many hours in a single run depending on how well you do and how things go. The game starts off easy for a while, until the cyan oxylite blocks run out and stop producing oxygen for your base. You can find a few more in the surrounding area, but you’ll have to start producing your own oxygen soon. It can be unforgiving later in a game as your colony can spiral out of control quickly. It’s hard to get things back under control if all of your duplicants become highly stressed. Then they start not doing their jobs, and worse, damaging stuff, or doing other counterproductive things!

There are of course more renewable sources of important resources like water, such as a steam geyser. While your initial power will come from your duplicants running in giant hamster wheels, later you can burn coal or get hydrogen and natural gas generators. These can produce more power in less time.

Oxygen Not Included | The oxygen overlay.

The oxygen overlay lets you keep an eye on how breathable the air is throughout your base, as your duplicants can indeed suffocate.

The sound effects in Oxygen Not Included are great. The duplicants make goofy little sounds when they get mad, or sad, etc. It’s a nice touch and it goes perfectly with the humorous animations of the characters. From this, you can also see that the game doesn’t take itself too seriously with its goofy, fun art style. Another example is the animation for crying when some duplicants get too stressed. Their eyes get all huge and they flood the floor, just like vomiting duplicants (except crying makes clean water). Oh, and if you haven’t built toilets or they don’t get to them in time, they will pee on your floors (creating polluted water).

Overall, Oxygen Not Included is an excellent game that can bring you countless hours of fun. The game is very deep with all the skills and traits duplicants have, plus the gas and fluid simulation (yes liquids and gases will flow around in the world on their own). There are endless possibilities with the systems you can build to automate certain things and regulate your base. You can also cheat and just mess around using the debug tools to spawn things. The game is still in heavy development as it just entered early-access on its launch date, but it’s already a well-polished game. The developers are still adding lots of new goodies with each major update. A single game of Oxygen Not Included can take from a few hours to perhaps hundreds of hours depending on how long you last and how advanced you want to get with your systems.¬†Oxygen Not Included is available on Steam for $19.99, and owners of other Klei games get a loyalty discount. How long will you hold your colony together as it teeters on the edge of collapse?

Review Score
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Review copy provided by publisher.

About Michael Fontanini

Michael is a veteran gamer in my early 30s, who grew up around video games, with fond memories of the oldies like the NES and SNES. He loves Nintendo but also plays a lot of games on his PC. Michael also enjoys going for walks or bike rides, and loves animals.

Michael is also a computer programmer. This started with a toy he got as a kid called PreComputer 1000 that was made by V-Tech. It had a simple programming mode which is what started him down the road of being a programmer! Michael can program in BASIC, Visual Basic, C++, C#, and is familiar with Java and Lua Script.

Putting programming and gaming together, Michael became a hobbyist game developer which may give him some good insights on game development! Most recently, he has been playing with the free version of the Unity engine (a powerful and easy-to-use game engine).

I love Nintendo but I also play a lot of game's on PC, many of which are on steam. My favorite Nintendo game's include Zelda, Metroid, and Smash Bros to name a few. On PC I love the Half-Life games, as well as most all of the Source Engine games just to name a few.