Preview: JCB Pioneer: Mars – Mars is Harsh and Deadlier than Ever


[Credits: Atomicom]

At its core, JCB Pioneer: Mars is a survival game that imagines players taking on the role of an astronaut whom has been forced to colonize Mars after their lander has crashed on the planets surface. The game is a unique partnership between the industrial vehicle manufacturer JCB, European astrophysicist Dry. Maggie Lei, and indie developer studio Atomicom. In Early Access on steam, we get to see what the realistic colonization of Mars may look like within the next several years as plans for such an endeavor have gotten underway in the real world.

PC Setup Used
Motherboard: MSI Z720 M7
GPU: MSI Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 6GB Game Ready Plus
CPU: I7-7700K | OCed to 4.2GHz
RAM: Corsair Vengeance 16GB RAM
Cooling Unit: Thermal Take V8 GTS Radiator
Game Settings: Ultra-High
Average FPS: 120 post stability update.

For the game, Dr. Lieu serves as Atomicom’s technical advisor for JCB Pioneer: Mars. To keep the game as accurate as they could get it to be, Dr. Lieu serves as the games technical advisor, helping them create a realistic version of the Red Planet itself. Features for it include a realistic take on falling debris, storms, radiation issues, and even what may lie within the planets core. Within the game, Dr. Lieu guides players through the game as their digital assistance. This includes her digital likeness and even her voice.


[Credits: Atomicom]

With the game being in its Early Access stage, JCB Pioneer: Mars has seen steady growth, and development. Minor bug fixes such as frame rate issues, text tools, and load times have seemingly been shorten within days of the games release. Though for fans wanting quite a bit of writing within the game, they may notice that there is little to none at this point, and what is there is rather well edited allowing no discontent with grammatical errors.

With the game still being within its extremely early development stages, bugs are there, and some features you may look forward to are not present within the game itself. Players looking to have options to customize button configurations and keybindings aren’t present at this time. However, core elements related to gameplay are. Features such as construction, resource gathering, and survival are completely alive within the games current state.

Since the game is currently in early development, this also means that cooperative play is unavailable and is in its developmental stages. Single player itself, however, is extremely enjoyable with the games current state. Just surviving meteor storms, harsh weather climates, and day-to-day threats are quite fun. But how does the game start out? That’s something you may want to know before throwing down the $24.99 before experiencing the Red Planet for yourself.


[Credits: Atomicom]

The Story for JCB Pioneer: Mars In Its Current State

When starting the game, you may come to discover your day is about to be rather lousy. You’ve crash landed on Mars and currently a meteorite shower has begun to strike the planet. Upon witnessing this, you quickly find yourself in a fight-or-flight situation where you must desperately run for safety as you search for your industrial vehicle. Once inside, you’ll be forced to once more flee from the meteorite shower, but this time with your vehicle.

Upon finishing the tutorial of how to drive, you will find yourself in search for a small colony that lies in wait not far ahead, which will be your base of operations. During your first few hours, you will be requested to hunt resources such as ores to expand your pace, food, water, and oxygen to help you survive, as well as upgrade your gear in order to enhance your chances of survival.


[Credits: Atomicom]

Let alone do you have to do such tasks as above and constantly do so, you will also find your life at risk due to meteorite showers, high radiation zones, corrosive clouds, lava, and lightning strikes that could quite easily take you or your rover out. Even with proper upgrades, these threats are very real, and most of them will not offer any safety not avoided.

Looking past these heart pounding moments, JCB Pioneer: Mars is already a surprising experience, one that does not come with any dull moments. While things do tend to calm down once you begin to build your base, exploration is anything, but safe. Players will find themselves constantly eyeballing their O2 supplies, inventory space, water, and food supplies while out exploring. Let alone do supplies matter while exploring, hazards still lay in wait while players go mining for ores and resources or simply exploring the games environmental hazards on the Red Planet itself.

Since the game only supports the most challenging difficulty at this time, survival is difficult, and death will remain imminent to even the most skilled of players. I found death within a matter of hours as I was still learning the games current systems. Since tutorials are few-and-far between, I did find moments of frustration when attempting to find out how to access storage crates for supplies needed in order to survive.


[Credits: Atomicom]

There’s a Lot of Content the Game, but it’s Current State is a Smaller Scope of Things to Come

In the games current state, it presents players with a rather short quest system, one that teaches players the basics of the game such as repairing their colony, farming essential elements, adding onto their colony, and even searching for essential elements in order to repair, upgrade, and expand their base.

Since the quests, as stated, are rather straight forward, players can find a bit of frustration with the games current state. When farming for minerals, players will need to take note of what minerals they find in each node, as currently there isn’t a way to tell what node contains what contents.

Since these raw minerals are unlisted in any form, you will need to take note of what node is what based simply upon coloring and texture. Since there is a decent tech tree to work through within the games current state, it is worth noting that any and all minerals can help out quite a bit within the long run, and that storage containers will help alleviate some of this struggle. If you do find nodes, the map does give a rather vague description of the nodes rarity, but it seems this might be alleviated in future updates to the games tech tree.

When not farming, colony management as well as expansion is rather easy to understand. Each unit of the colony will need wired to the rest of the colony’s power. This includes the use of wind generators and solar panels being able to connect to water, and or oxygen. Since this is mostly done through menus, they are rather easy to navigate, making setting up your new buildings as painless as possible.

While the tech tree is present, it is something that won’t be often visited while playing the game. Since it is in its early state, the tech trees are still hard to approach as they require the games in-game currency (no microtransactions are currently present) in order to upgrade, but also the needed points do to do so by completing assigned tasks.


[Credits: Atomicom]

Final Thoughts

In its current state JCB Pioneer: Mars has a chance to shine as a well greased machine that combines both the survival genre and construction vehicle simulators together. The addition of heavy construction vehicles has added a new twist that can be fully explored within the games late-stage experience. Since it does seem the game has plenty of room for development, I do hope to see this rather playable Early Access title expand upon its need for exploration, story, and attempt to survive on Mars.

I do hope to see threats such as storms, lightning strikes, and the elements force me to better prepare for the hazards that lie in wait across the Red Planet. While Atomicon does have a lot of roadwork ahead of them, I do hope to see new features, content, and the quality of life features the game needs make their way to it sooner than later. Content such as cooperative play is highly desired, but so is the need to expand upon the games current story.

In its current state, the game is a great pick-up and play title for a few short hours before moving on, and coming back to at a later date. Graphically and audio wise, the experience is quite wonderful. Voice acting is astonishing, even with the silent protagonist scheme. As players are the astronaut, I do hope to see the game take full advantage of such features at a later date. For now, this is a highly enjoyable title, one that deserves a chance from those that enjoy titles such as Farming Simulator and Rust.

About the Writer:


Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.


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