I’ve followed Seasteader for quite some time, and was eager to finally found my own sea based colony. Rich in micro management, and with surprising depth, Seasteader is a solid simulation game that fans of the genre will love, despite a few mechanical issues.
As the founder of your seastead, a floating community over water and outside of the laws of nations, you will create a society entirely managed by you and your fellow settlers. How much freedom you wish to give them to compete with you is entirely in your hands.
Will you establish a sprawling maritime metropolis, or a tight-knit colony of neighbors?
Will you welcome and work together with entrepreneurial fellow seasteaders, try to undercut them at every corner, or perhaps simply run them out of business using your own authority?
Will you be an exporting powerhouse focused on maximum production, or maintain a closed system where everyone contributes and everyone’s needs are met?
Will you become a ruthless autocrat, a benevolent overlord, or something in between?
With the potential for endlessly different playthroughs, the choice is entirely yours
Seasteader puts you in the role of designing and managing a seastead, a largely self-sufficient community based on the open ocean. Seasteads are a real world endeavor, most often being built on derelict oil platforms, but your’s is built on an ever expanding raft of sorts. Each story mission gives you a set of goals, mainly to reach a certain population and profit, to meet in order to be considered a viable investment.
The main things you’ll be working against in Seasteader is your budget and your people’s happiness. Your budget is pretty self-explanatory: money in (trade profit and rent) versus money out (construction and upkeep expenses). Happiness is a little more nuanced though. At first, your initial colonists will be happy just to have a paying job, a roof to sleep under and food to eat, and having these things will always guarantee some immigrants are eager to come to your seastead. However, as your colony grows, you’ll need to provide other forms of diversion and entertainment.
While things start slowly and are relatively manageable, as you progress you’ll see things get more and more complex. Supply chains combine to let you make incredible profits by manufacturing more complicated good. You’ll become more and more self reliant, producing the different parts each of your buildings need. The depth of Seasteader is really quite impressive.
One of the things that set Seasteader apart from other simulation games is the lack of terrain. There are no mountains in your way, no streams to build along, no forest to be situated near: there is only the sea. The game only has two resources (oil and shallow water) the effect the placement of a few key production buildings, but otherwise, you have free reign to design your seastead however you’d like. It’s quite liberating to be able to build on a blank canvas, and it’s a very nice change of pace.
Seasteader’s controls aren’t incredibly intuitive. I wouldn’t in any way call them bad or impossible to use, but they do make a departure from many standard keybindings and layouts to other games. This means that it may take you a little bit of time to get use to what does what. All of the controls are explained very clearly in the game’s tutorial, and it didn’t take me long to adapt, but it was something the stood out to me.
The only parts of the game that gave me significant trouble was the Demolish and Walkway mechanics, which I found incredibly difficult to make work correctly. Certain tiles just could not be deleted no mater what I did, and walkways were very finicky to get laid down where I wanted them. The frustration that these two pieces of the game gave me was significant enough to cause me to restart more than once.
Seasteader is, like its counterparts, a micro management heavy game. You’ll be spending a lot of time looking at different windows, adjusting work shift, wages, and rents. Some people will eat this up, and others wouldn’t dare touch it with a ten foot pole. That’s fine, and Seasteader won’t be a game for everyone, just know that this is a slower paced game focused on numbers.
In fact, I particularly like the pacing of Seasteader. You’re punished horribly for over expanding too early in the game, and it is very important to watch your profit and expenses, figure out what your growing seastead can bear, and not be too tempted by every investment opportunitty that comes along. Everything is focused on getting the most economic efficiency out of every part of this seastead, and the game very quickly becomes a very dense, numbers focused affair, less about providing food to people and more about rent and wage control.
Visually, Seasteader doesn’t push any artistic boundaries, but matches the aesthetic it is aiming for perfectly. All of the buildings, people and environments are depicted in a style that reminds me of an architectural program, which fits with the general aesthetic of this kind of simulation and management game fantastically. Once things get on there way, it’s enjoyable to watch your carefully crafted seastead bustling away, watching people going to and from work, or to get food at the canteen. One thing that particularly surprised me was the quality of Seasteader’s music. It’s an incredibly peaceful soundtrack, with a distinct seas shanty vibe I absolutely fell in love with.
Seasteader is a niche game that fans of dense simulation games will enjoy. This goes doubly so if you enjoy the economic side of colony management, as this is where Seasteader really shines. Despite a few rather glaring mechanical issues, I found the process of planning and constructing a seastead both incredibly calming and stimulation, where the serene environment combined with some intense number crunching and micro-management.
Read our Interview with developer Hannah Keane here.