Damn this is a LOT of fun. It feels like a nostalgic game from the past that came out of a time portal and appeared today. It's got it all - the lo-fi dark theme ambience, the brightly coloured insect enemies, and the obsession with lasers and mirrors befitting its likely inspiration in the form of classic laser puzzlers like Aargon Deluxe.
Things that work great:
* The SimCitying. Every tile is precious in this game. It's simultaneously an obstruction for you and your lasers, a target ants can take out, necessarily dependent on the surrounding terrain and an absolutely vital component of your burgeoning colony. The minimum requirement of having to house colonists and keep them safe has knockoff effects on everything else that happens. The need to gather resources and refine them. The need to produce power. The need to store and consume. The need to improve your combat capabilities. Initially I thought reactors overloading would be a gimmick, but it's actually a non-stop tightrope dance you have to do. 'Oh shoot I need more power and I'm out of windmill/solar panel space, better build a reactor' turns into 'oh shit, I have too much power, I need to slap down a battery or uhhhhh projector' turns back into needing more power, especially since the differing production and consumption between day and night and sometimes because structures fall apart mean you're constantly threading the needle.
* The lasering. The visceral thrill of threading mirrors through tight spaces to blast as many ants as possible. It's the perfect level of difficulty - not impossible to optimize, but constantly making you think about the geometry of your space. About keeping lines of sight open. About lining up your farms and solar panels and mining spots, and contemplating NOT upgrading to mines just because they get in the way. About where to place projectors so you can get around pesky moutnains and lakes. About not constricting your highways too much or else reducing the number of lasers you can fit through them. About cursing your colony's need for growth because it makes your life more difficult. And getting those multi-kills off is just pure fun.
Things that intrigued me, and make me wonder what might come in the game's future:
* Splitters are INCREDIBLY strong. It's first order optimal, after you get your initial projector network up so you can defend your whole base without moving, to get a bunch running. I used three for most of the game, and eventually moved up to four, and it just feels like you get ahead of the power curve and stay ahead if you're able to do this. The 'action economy' of being able to shoot faster is incredibly powerful, and doesn't have enough opportunity costs - but it's also by far the most interesting part of the game, since it makes you weave multiple lasers alongside each other to route them to where you need, and makes the geometry of buildings and obstructions matter more. It makes me imagine either a Hard Mode for the game, where you absolutely HAVE to make as many splitters as possible because the threats are so insane, or some bigger cost or slower unlock for splitters so that the enemies are keeping pace with you the entire time.
* Burrowers are very interesting. There's so little you can do to interact with them - it's like it's the game's way of making sure that no strategy is foolproof. And in a roguelike-adjacent game, that's a good thing to have - uncertainty, fear, the need for backup plans. If burrowers are going to pop up on adjacent turns then you basically ARE taking damage. But there's so many things you can do to plan around it - you can shoot them on the first turn to blow them up, or blow up a volatile (or battery??) next to them. You can entice them with earlier targets, put a shield generator up around your residences. The rest of the enemies once you're ahead of the power curve all feel about the same, since you just blast them at max range (twice if armored) and then their unique gimmick matters little. It makes me wonder what other kinds of enemies (or limitations on the player's power) could be interesting.
* The first two days are really pivotal. You should farm for only a few ticks (and then have one full farm happen on the second day) and otherwise be making nothing but metal, setting up roads, setting up your projectors and splitters and generally not wasting time. If your action economy on the nights sucks, then you're probably going to die in the first few days. But if you get setup, you have smooth sailing for the rest of the game - you can reach effectively maximum power very quickly. It's fun for a romp, but it does make the difference in experience between a good starting strategy and a bad starting strategy massive. I watched my brother play the game and declare it to be too hard after dying on night two, but he spent lots of turns moving manually to places instead of being able to just sit still and laser them. I don't know if 'doesn't know the optimal strategy' is or should be a fixable problem, but it is interesting to note.
* Map RNG? And speaking of, my first map rolled was like, *extremely* bad. It had a diagonal strip of mountain and a diagonal strip of water in the middle, and my colonists spawned on the *wrong* side of the lake, so most of the first night was spent with no productive activity. And the nature of the terrain meant that all the places I'd want to put projectors or myself were either over water or basically a whole day's away by travel. Meanwhile, my second map had a super nice + shape open in the middle and was smooth sailing. There definitely should be easier and harder maps, it's an interesting difficulty slider the player can adjust, but it feels to me like the new player experience should be less wildly different than that.
Overall, this was a blast, it was a great and memorable experience and I'm glad I got linked it.
Notable screenshots from my playthrough:
* My first map. The colonists spawned on the other side of the lake from me, and all the mining spots are very far away, so I had a slow start to my economy. You can also see how awful it is to defend and build with the giant lake in the middle.
* How far I got before deciding to start over.
* A really good second map, and a flawlessnight one. I killed an ant every time my laser recharged after I started firing!
* I got one splitter night 2 and got to work with many double shots.
* By night 3 I had three splitters and was getting quadshots on the regular.* Night 7, my first 5-fer! Burrowers are starting to get spooky and get incidental shots in.
* Night 10, my biggest shot of the entire game, an 8-way kill.