Review: Oxygen Not Included

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a game. But this was too cute not to play. Created by the same folks who made Don’t Starve, it’s got a similar graphic style. But this is perhaps my favorite type of game, a base-builder! 2-D style similar to Craft the World, only with ‘Duplicants’ on an alien world opposed to dwarves underground.

Note: This game is in Alpha right now. It’s still pretty complex for an incomplete game, but of course, like any game in development, the bugs and kinks are still being worked out.

You start out with three Duplicants that are “printed” … you know there’s a story there, right!? The fun bit is they have stats and traits – kind of like the colonists in Rimworld. Once your three people are available you start digging.

There’s a lot going on here visually. Basically, the blueish air is oxygen that you can breathe. Not all pockets have oxygen, some are filled with dangerous chemicals or are merely vacuums. But the gases flow, and since oxygen rises, I decided to build my beds at the top of my base. That’s what they’re currently doing. With kind of vacuum sucker-shooter things. We lucked out here with a couple of nice pockets of oxygen nearby. Almost all the nearby pockets are oxygen, water, and vacuum. We’re surrounded by pockets of poison gasses like chlorine.

The big archway is, of course, the duplicant printer. You get a new duplicant (again you get to pick!) every three days or so. As you assign jobs, the duplicants go about working as they see fit. If you look off to the left of the main area we have our toilet. Lol. Watching their faces as they work is a hoot by the way.

Directly below the printer I put my machines. It ended up perhaps a bit too crowded, but this was a first attempt. I also opened up the last large oxygen patch for planting and harvesting once I teched up. Yes, there is a tech tree! At first there’s very little you can build, beds, an outhouse, a basic research bench, basic power and wiring…

Power is generated via large hamster wheel!!! It’s adorable. Okay so here we have our research bench on the left, two batteries, the hamster wheel power generator, and an algae to oxygen converter. This low down we needed the extra production and you can see we’re still getting an alert in the upper left that we’re not producing enough oxygen.

My other production item is “food.” This is um… muckbars. Using the very basic ingredients of dirt and water. Appetizing, no? Poor little dupes, I hope I can tech up to make something more palatable soon. The muckbars have a rather unfortunate side effect. It can cause diarrhea. And Sybil, one of my dupes was unlucky enough to contract it before we teched up sanitation.

I had to pause playing about an hour into the game.So here is the “final base” at the end of my first day playing. We have played for 9 cycles and now have 6 whole dupes. On the top level is bedrooms. Below it is storage (far left), dup printer, and toilet and compost. We are starting to make poison air from that, so I now have to find a way to purify the air. The next level down is our machine level and garden. Two of our plants are struggling because it’s too hot for them, so I need to figure out how to drop the temperate. The bottom level is our water source, a random hospital bed for injuries (I had kind of hoped it would help with Sybil’s issue), and a newly opened area that I hope will drop the temperature in my base. Probably not.

My plans are to expand left of the machine area to make a nice dining room. We are pretty okay on our oxygen source for now, and our food as long as the dupes don’t protest the muckbars. But sanitation and clean air is going to be an issue soon.

I have now played for 15 cycles and have 8 Dupes. I also managed to grab some better shots of the game and features. I’m trying to add showers. I’m sure most folks have showers by cycle 15, but I’m trying to build slow and steady…and well – you’ll see why I don’t have a shower yet. Nor do they have a dining room. I am a cruel overlord.

First off the Dupe printer (Dup? – yea I see – I think it’s Dupe singular) in all its glory. This one’s got a dupe all ready.

As I said, you have three options to print. And you can compare their stats and skills. Our three choices were Bubbles, Celeste, and Gossman. Bubbles is strong and creative. Celeste and Gossman were both pretty skilled all-around, but I I picked Bubbles. Mainly because I wanted a more creative dupe to make paintings and stuff. Her “negative” trait was Narcoleptic meaning that she’ll randomly fall asleep from time to time, but she also is Robust and less likely to get sick. She expects a pretty nice place level 10…uh…yeah. That’s not happening.

Anyway next up Bubbles arrives. If you liked the Don’t Starve aesthetic, watch these little dupe’s faces. They are hilarious.

The heart of my base is the power and research area. You can see Howard is having his snack by the ration box upstairs. While Sybil is busy with Muckbars and Nails is researching. I forget what we were researching here – I think he’s grabbing the last of the tier one techs.

The tech tree is just three levels right now – but as I said – Alpha. I’m mostly done with the level 2 techs now and we’ve got all the tech we need for a while. So just last cycle I paused the research so we can concentrate on getting our showers.

We’re actually in the middle of a kind of crisis. An Oxygen crisis. Surprise, Surprise. It snuck up on me as most of my oxygen requires algae and I ran out so my generators weren’t working. Poor Vernon is gasping for breath. This has caused a major delay in showers.

There’s a lovely oxgen overlay to view your colony…er science experiment? Honestly, I’m not really sure WHY I’m printing dupes here. Perhaps they are mining something important for the home planet? Or maybe we’re experimenting with how to make self-sufficient colonies? Anyway – the overlay. I have to say I love watching the air swirl.

From the above key, you can see in cycle 13 I had a lot areas that were teal (very breathable), while most of my base was breathable with pockets of either slightly toxic air (from the toilet) or unbreathable accumulations of carbon dioxide. I wasn’t paying all that much attention. I even used the sealable doors to seal two of my “digging” areas away from my “living” area. That way as they exposed more space, I wouldn’t loose too much. 

Unfortunately, I forgot to pay attention to my algae makers.  I have two, one just the one next to the production area and one below that, near my water pool. My thought was that since oxygen rising, putting them lower in the base would be best – although they don’t travel quickly through the tiny ladder spaces. This left my top floor a little more starved, but it had been manageable. Until I looked down and saw the “needs algae” on the oxygen maker!

By cycle 14 you can see that I have a lot more unbreathable air…and worse, it’s in my main working area! Folks would be making food one moment and gasping for air the next. It really slows down production. There’s also a lot of pollution here – which the filters (there are two) don’t seem to be picking up. I ended up building a third one over by where the yellow splotches were congregating.

I quickly mined as much algae as I could. Using the priority setter to override the digging. And to combat the pockets of red up on the top of my base – where my poor dupes slept and to help even out the oxygen, I replaced the majority of my floors with air-permeable floors. So the oxygen can flow but water still can’t get through. It’s now starting to (slowly) recover by cycle 16 when I quit playing. I am interested in how the floors help out.

Building in this game is just a matter of picking what you want to build and placing it where you want it built. There are a few items in the categories – although it’s hard to tell sometimes what is coming. You only see the tech you have researched and the very next level of tech you can unlock. When you start playing for example in this Base category you had Ladder, Tile, Storage compactor, and pneumatic door unlocked, but could only see that gas permeable titles were coming. Now I can see I’ll get mesh tiles, insulated tiles, and a powered airlock – the manual airlock is sooo slow. Sometimes I’m afraid my Dupe will die if they run out of oxygen and it takes too long to cycle open.

The Dupes handle the delivery of materials and construction. All you can do is increase the priority. Same works for digging such – just mark where you want the job done and wait. Here Tilly is delivering cogs and screws and bolts? to the picture frame. (Nails is generating power on the Hamster wheel, and Pierre is carrying water somewhere – probably to algae). You can see in the previous picture with Pierre on the tredmill – that we did a decent job with this painting. At least better than my original stick figures that you might have seen in my first night of playing.

So the shower story – my epic shower quest. I wanted to place it near my toilet…for um…reasons? It made sense? Right now I only have one source of water at the bottom of my base. And already we’re two tiles lower than when we started. There isn’t another large source of water expect for over our heads. It’s kind of hidden behind the materials list, but I have built the shower now. You can even see that pipes are being built. The shower needs two pipes – inflow and outflow. As will the toilet if we ever get more advanced that our outhouse-with-compost-pile.

But I have to run the pipes all the way up to the top of my desired water source. A huge lake over my heads. (I’m heading to the top so I don’t flood the base). It’s a loooong path in both directions for no other reason than it seemed like the best long term solution. My tiny lake seemed like it was going to be out of water before I could sneeze. I was just over halfway built on the pipes when my oxygen crisis diverted my attention.

That crisis was followed by my copper crisis as I replaced all the floors with the gas-permeable floors and no longer could build pipes. BUT my dupes are pretty stress free. Now. My pre-oxygen crisis was earlier this evening. We had a hard time when I had two bladder failures almost in a row. (The toilet takes a while to be emptied into the compost and I think Tilly has a tiny bladder or something. She’s always waking up in the middle of the night to go.) We mopped that right up, but between being grimy with no shower, and stepping in dirty water, a few folks (Howard) were stressed out. His stress got up to 34%. When they get to 100% they freak out. So I built them a massage table.

Now whenever someone gets into the double digit stress zone, I assign them a spell on the table.

I think, I think, I’m ready to finish my shower quest. I honestly thought I was building it tonight. Nope. Next time then. For now, the Dupes are off to bed.

Oxygen Not Included is only in Alpha right now, but you can get the pre-release on steam for US $19.99. Since Don’t Starve is a pretty awesome game as well – I trust they’ll do a good enough job – and frankly – I’m enjoying even this tiny bit of the game. At least the 2.9 hrs I have played. I know I’ve just scratched the surface. If you like base-builders and resource management – check it out!


    • It is! Sadly I may have lost the colony last night. Our oxygen was still low on algae after we finish got our shower, so I made new machines that turn water into oxygen. That worked, but now the too of my base where my dupes sleep is filling with in breathable hydrogen gas and I’m not where near the tech to fix it.

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