A surprise release from last month really is quite fun: Nova Lands is a casual base-building and exploration game that blends the automation satisfaction of something like Satisfactory with the delightfully unserious vibes and “but wait, there’s more!” energy of incremental crafting in Forager to create a nice little sci-fi adventure that’s easy to spend hours on.
Nova Lands is one of those games where you’re always unlocking or upgrading a new system, subsystem, resource, or item to play with. You’re constantly figuring out how to export and transport more, bigger, better things. None of it is particularly overcomplex, but that’s a nice change of pace in a genre—automation—that more often than not makes you feel the need to break out the spreadsheets.
The game starts you crashed down on a little hexagonal island where you’ll need to gather and craft raw materials into the basics of survival. From there, you start unlocking equipment and discovering new little hexagonal islands to jet over to, along with a cast of other space weirdos to hang out with and do quests for.
You eventually unlock tools to mass-produce materials yourself, alongside logistics robots that you get to instruct and upgrade. At first that’s simple stuff like a robot that will find and harvest ore for you, or move things to processors that need resources. Later there are arms that pass things between islands, packaging machines for mass transport, and flying drones that move things several islands at a jump.
It’s all overlaid with a ton of weird little progression mechanics to work on. You get experience for doing things and can spend it to unlock or upgrade your bots and yourself, or get new recipes. You can also upgrade equipment, and eventually visit a space station, and then build a house and decorate it for… even more automation bonuses. I’ve been playing it on the Steam Deck, and I think it’s perfect casual couch playtime or small window beside your big streaming video window fare.