REVIEW: Unclaimed World


What would it genuinely be like to set foot in another universe? How would you survive? What kind of tasks would you need to perform to survive on an Unclaimed World? This particular Unclaimed World is a colony simulator. As leader, you give directions as to what the colonist should focus on and then the colonists might go about the tasks they feel like doing at the time. Other than keeping your resources flowing, you have three main gauges you need to worry about: Food, Comfort and Security. Successfully maintaining those gauges is the key to your colony surviving and thriving. Your secondary resources are your colonists (both how many there are and how happy they are) and your currency. While you may not have a quota for either of those, more colonists means more people to get the job done and more currency means you can buy more supplies when you start running low or are unable to currently produce the goods yourself.

Steam: Released

Developer: Refactored Games

Publisher: Refactored Games

Genre: Sci-fi Colony Sim

Release Date: 4 Oct, 2016

Trying to maintain the Food, Comfort and Security gauges at a level that keeps your colonists happy and sticking around is the main challenge I faced in the game. Despite having prioritized food production to build a stockpile and having a lot of food laying around, the colonists were still unhappy due to the “scarcity” of the food supplies. It didn’t really matter that my food stores were overflowing to the point stock was spoiling, they were still claiming it was scarce and people started leaving. Another issue I chronically had was some people being unhappy with my security. Despite having a massive stockpile of weapons, security personnel patrolling and hunting the hostile creatures in the area and having defensive traps around, people were still upset about the security and the security gauge just would not move up more than a few points at a time before falling again. Lastly I always had issues with comfort. Building more and better-upgraded shelters, keeping the provisions at a high level, and keeping all the baddies away from the camp just didn’t seem to help the comfort levels in my camp. Now you might be thinking to yourself, you clearly are just playing it wrong and are a failure at micromanagement. That may be true, but I did play the tutorials, even if I never did manage to pass the third one due to my food stores running out every time despite massive farm lands and foraging quotas. I couldn’t really buy anything due to my scientists ignoring their duties. This was despite their having all the materials, buildings and upgrades needed to do their task, and the task being given high priority. Eventually the two available ports permanently lost radio contact (despite my radio being fine, and even replaced just in case) meaning I could no longer import materials and new colonists.  I failed that one multiple times before moving on.

Once you move past the tutorial there are a couple of maps you can free play on. They are open-ended with no real goal. You just play until you get tired of it and restart… but restarting simply destroys your progress because the map will be identical every time you play it. That’s a real shame. Procedurally generated maps would really enhance the replay ability of the game, but right now you are limited to the Tutorials, which in my opinion could use some work, and a couple of other maps.

The interface of the game I will talk about two-fold. The first is the general game interaction and the second will be the menus. In Unclaimed World, you basically click and drag out an area you wish to work with and then tell your colonists what to do in that area. Scout the area to reveal it. Examine the area to look for useful things the scouts missed. Gather the materials you need from the area. Hunt the creatures found in the area or patrol it to keep dangers away from your colony. This system works rather well. It would be nice if scrolling the screen allowed you to select a larger area, but since you can set up multiple zones, that isn’t really that big of an issue. Let’s take a look at gathering. Once the area has been fully examined, you will get a complete list of all the items that are available in the area and how many of them there are. You can choose which items you actually need right now and tell your colonists to collect just those. You can also tell them to collect everything if you really wanted to, but you are really better off just collecting what you need as you need it just because you don’t want your colonists wasting time and effort on articles you don’t need. Once you have all the supplies you need, you can go into the build menu and find the building/tool/item you want constructed and order it to be made. If it is a building, you will have to tell the colonists where to build it. The rest of the tools/items will be stored in their proper place assuming you have a storage area for them already.

I think the main issue with this game is the fact that the menus are cumbersome. Once you go into the menus you have to dig into the submenus to find what you are looking for. It may or may not even be there depending on which menu display mode you are in and if you even have the components for it. The tutorial suggests you look at a component in the materials submenu, then open that components information menu then go into the uses sub-menu to find what that component can be used in and then click on the item you are looking for to open the menu for it and then open the components needed to make it menu… Needless to say you need to repeatedly dive into deep nested chains of menus to find anything you really are looking for until you just remember the components you need to make something. This whole menu within menus idea actually is not a bad idea. Once you are more used to the game, it actually is quite nice that if you have a random component you can look to see what you can use it in, but for someone just starting out it is pretty overwhelming.

The AI in the game tries to give each colonist its own personality. On the side of the screen there is a running dialogue where the colonists are communicating with each other. The same few phrases are said over and over again verbatim, but it still makes the game seem a little more alive. Periodically your colonists will have a meeting that discusses the issues with the colony at that time. You can use this to guide your development of the colony to ensure everyone’s needs are met. They will also hold votes on which policies they think should be enacted and if the majority of the colony is in agreement, you can enact the new policy if you so choose to. This will open up new tech for you to work with related to whichever of the three gauges the policy was in regards to.

Unfortunately, even if you do your best to improve the conditions, I have found the colonists often ignore my commands and choose to do their own things instead. They then get frustrated that their needs were not met and they leave the colony. This is where the priority system should play a factor. On the right hand side menu there is a button that lets you view all the tasks that were ordered and need completed. You can set the priority to Low, Normal or High so the colonists get a basic idea of what they should be doing. When I noticed they were not exactly listening to my orders, I decided to do an experiment. I had all the materials already on hand to build a simple comfortable hut. I set low priority to everything else and put high priority on that hut. That hut was never built. Its ghosted outline just sat there, doing nothing in its open field. The supplies to build it were dropped off, but no one, not even my dedicated construction people (two of them!) ever touched that building. Also my rubber production scientists randomly decided to not make rubber anymore despite having plenty of materials on hand, and an order to fill 20 units of it (they had made 10 of them, and had enough sulfur and sap on hand to make about 13 more). Even being set to high priority they ignored their task and kind of just milled about. When my colonists started starving (no one evidently thought maybe they should just go cook something), I set food production (gathering, cooking) to high priority. Despite having an order to make 30 hardtack and having the materials to make 70 of them, people just couldn’t be bothered feeding themselves. The cook eventually left…. what with the cook being a lazy person who didn’t feel like cooking, due to the food conditions. You had one job, cook! One job! Luckily though, anyone seems to be able to cook. Occasionally you would even see them making wine or some other bit of food, but my stockpiles were seldom replenished so my colony was never happy about their food supplies. As mentioned earlier, in an experiment I focused completely on food supplies from the very start. My food stores did go up to the 40+ level which to me seemed great! But my people were still upset by the lack of food. I ordered in food making materials, I harvested and foraged for all the different foods around, yet they still were not happy. I don’t know if ultimately it was me just not understanding what goes into the food gauge or if the game was just being a bit buggy. I rarely could get my security gauge or comfort gauge to go up despite doing everything I could to raise them. I believe the game would benefit from a tutorial that holds your hand for each of those gauges to show you exactly how to raise them efficiently. What I learned from the existing tutorial really didn’t help me with those.

This game does have a few bugs. The main menu (new game, load etc.) randomly appeared over my colony as I played. The colony was still working away in the background, it wasn’t game over, it was just that the menu was blocking some of my stuff. Saving the game seemed to clear that issue. The same issue occurs when the mouse pointer randomly turns to scroll arrows rather than the clicking arrow. Saving the game cures that issue as well. Saving isn’t really a bad idea in this game either because there is no auto-save at all. Also the game failed to start for me on a number of occasions and sometimes would crash on exiting the game. It was crashing either with an error message or with just a black screen until I forced it to close with the task manager.

Graphically the game looks okay. It looks like it was made about 15 years ago, but really this kind of game doesn’t need flashy graphics. There were not really any graphical glitches other than the menu and pointer issues I mentioned before. One issue though is scaling. You have a fixed view of your colony. You can’t zoom in or out to see a close up or more of the screen respectively. Also if you have your resolution set too high, you will no longer be able to read the next. There is no scaling in place to compensate for higher resolutions.

So should you get this game? If you really love micro-management games and are willing to put in the time and effort to learn a sort of cumbersome UI, then you will probably enjoy Unclaimed World. If you are looking for a fun colony manager that you can pick up, learn the basics quickly and start off on your grand adventure… well maybe you won’t like it right away. I’ve played about 10 hours now, and still feel lost in this game. If I could figure out how to make the colonists actually listen to my orders suitably, and figure out how to properly manage my colonies needs then I could see this game being a lot of fun. As it stands right now, I can’t say I really enjoyed this title as much as I thought and hoped I would. Unclaimed World is a game I think I would have been better off leaving unclaimed.

RATING: 65/100

Psygineer review

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October 2016

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