The Epic Games Store often courts controversy with its business practices. However, this is not the case with its incredibly successful weekly free games policy. Every week, a new game becomes free to download on the store, running from Thursday to Thursday.
Science fiction is a hugely popular genre in gaming, and the Epic Games Store recognized that this week with its free indie offerings. As such, the company has Surviving Mars available this week, with The Fall following next week. Both of these titles are incredible pieces of sci-fi, and both take the genre in very different directions. With homages to great authors and some incredible atmosphere, these free games are brilliant value. Interestingly enough, several of the Epic Games Store's free-to-play titles on its "Discover: Free Games" page are also focused on interesting interpretations of science fiction.
"Hard Science Fiction" is an interesting subgenre within sci-fi. It focuses on the gritty details of theoretical science, hard choices made for survival, and the power of human cooperation. This is the prevailing theme of the brilliant Surviving Mars. Unsurprisingly, the game is a city builder/survival simulator, so in this instance, survival is about more than just gathering food and making campfires. The city that the player is building in this instance is a sprawling colony across the surface of Earth's scarlet astral neighbor. Commissioned by a space merchant company to build them a brilliant Mars colony, the player begins the creation of a Mars base.
If players want their colonists to live through the red planet, the ability to make hard decisions around research, resource management, and understanding individual colonist needs is essential. Although many fans wondered about a Surviving Mars multiplayer mode, it does not exist. What players instead get is a solitary experience of survival. Arguably one of the deepest sci-fi survival games out there, this title has many intricate mechanics. One of these is having to meet the needs of specific characters so that the colony can carry on. For example, it is possible for a scientist to develop a cure for a horrid disease one week but fall to alcoholism the next if they are not supported.
Scattered throughout the game are nods to the great authors that inspired it. References to the work and styles of Isaac Asimov, Liu Cixin and Arthur C. Clarke abound in the game's hidden stories. Secret plotlines about the red planet's mysteries appear throughout the game, emerging alongside the unique procedurally generated research trees that Surviving Mars also employs. It was announced with last week's free Epic Games Store games, and remains free until March 18th.
After its release in 2014, The Fall won big in The Game Awards for its incredible story. While Surviving Mars might channel the spirit of hard science fiction's giants, The Fall focuses on the claustrophobic atmosphere of classics like Alien. In The Fall, players take on the role of a semi-sentient space-suit AI 'ARID', whose only task is trying to save its unconscious wearer. Throughout ARID's journey, The Fall deals with ideas of rules, moral relations, and what it really means to be human.
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