Build me a narrative and I will play. That's probably the most succinct way of describing how to grab my attention and hold it, possibly indefinitely, keeping me enthralled. Lacuna Passage, an upcoming exploration and survival game set on the surface of Mars scratched that little itch, leaving me wanting more.
While my time with Lacuna Passage was shorter than I had wanted it to be, it was pretty damn neat. Set on the surface of Mars, you play as Jessica Rainer, captain of the Heracles and of the second expedition to Mars. You are tasked with investigating what happened to the first crew and its efforts to establish a foothold on the planet. Made in the vein of story epics like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lacuna Passage sets players on a course of discovery and intrigue, as you find out the details behind both missing crews.
Perhaps one of the greatest pieces to this game is the ability to explore Mars. During my conversation with Tyler Owen, Creative Director on the game, he broke down the exploration aspect. Set on the surface of Mars, players are completely free to explore and move about as they wish. Granted, they are restricted by oxygen and power levels in their suit, but given some planning, they will be able to cover some large distances and see the surface on an up close and personal level. Mars' surface is generated using images from NASA (while they fill in some details on their end), but for many it will be one of the neatest ways to explore Mars, well, without having to actually be there. The terrain itself will cover 20 square miles of the Red Planet, offering plenty of opportunity to get lost in the dusty landscape.
While exploring, players will learn of the fate of both their own crew and of the previous expedition. From my time with the game at PAX East, the story was told through found datapads and the station's AI computer. This leaves the storytelling aspect up to the player – you're free to explore and learn more to flesh out the gaps in story, or you can also skip some pieces and rush to the end and escape the planet. Jessica is seemingly stranded on Mars with no way home, but through her efforts to learn what happened to the previous crew, she might be able to figure out a solution to her own problems and make it back to Earth in one piece.
The team has been working on the title now for two years, but expects a PC and Mac release via Steam sometime in 2016. There is also a possibility of a Linux release, but no guaranteed details on that one just yet.