In this Dev Diary we talk about the mysteries – our way to inject a little bit of story within the sandbox game, to introduce additional challenges for your developed colony and to make each playthrough different!Our mysteries are long epic scripted sequences of events that tell an interactive and often fantastic story. Only one of the several available mysteries can be active during each game. You will be prompted to choose which one at the start and you can also opt to play a random one. Even though the mystery is chosen this early, it will not start until much later, usually, after you are done with the early-game problems and have developed your colony for several hours.
Without going too deep into spoilers territory, let’s just say that mysteries more often than not are centred on strange phenomena and alien artefacts. Clarke’s Rendezvous with Rama was our first inspiration, specifically the theme of encountering and exploring what is not only unknown but also possibly not entirely knowable.As you can see in the screenshots, the mysteries are the one feature where we let our imaginations run wild. While we are committed to keeping the core gameplay plausible and realistic, we also wanted a place to tell more fantastic stories, a way for us pay homage to the “fiction” aspect of the sci-fi genre. While we are aware that some players will prefer to keep the things more grounded to reality, with the mysteries being optional, they can always disable them for a more realistic experience that focuses only on Mars colonization.Mysteries are so much more than text windows telling a story, though. Each mystery features unique visual and gameplay elements and some of these have a dramatic impact on the playthrough. Again, I will try to avoid specific spoilers, but in very general terms, here are just a few the unique elements that can be introduced by a mystery:
- Interactive objects in the world that affect your colony
- Visual changes in the environment
- Buildings with unique visuals and gameplay effects
- New disasters
- New technologies
- Colonist traits
- Changes to existing gameplay mechanics – e.g. forbidding contact with Earth or altering drone behaviour
- Anomalies with unique effects
As a genre, city builders tend to become a bit repetitive mid to late-game, especially after several games when you have familiarized yourself with all the mechanics. The new features of the mysteries aim to break this monotony, introduce unexpected challenges and give a different spin to each playthrough.Playing through a mystery takes quite a while even on the fastest game speed. The narrative sometimes branches and mysteries often have more than one possible ending. Based on the length of the average playthrough, we honestly expect that many players will not experience any of the endings and we are perfectly ok with this. Still, if you have persisted and “won” the mystery, you will also receive a reward for your efforts, such as a permanent benefit to the colony or a breakthrough technology that would’ve otherwise been unavailable. Personally, I hope that you will find your journey through the mystery even more rewarding.