Early access review
of build 0.47. Ignore the steam playtime; I bought this outside of steam at 0.3x.
It's not often I write a negative review, especially of early access games - either it's too soon to tell, or the game is so bad that Jim Sterling will deal with it. Maia, though, I want to warn people off, for now.Maia should not be in early access at this time
, and it certainly should not have a ticket price of $25. This is an alpha stage game, with serious, fundamental flaws that need to be worked on before this can be an enjoyable beta experience.Maia
is a colony builder, like Spacebase DF9
. It takes the Towns
approach of letting you set tasks and build spaces but not directly control the colonists. With good AI and balanced priorities this works well; without it, you get issues as with Towns. Maia is somewhere in between: the AI isn't very good, but there is so little going on in the gameworld that it's just about good enough, unless you do something weird.
Graphically I like Maia. It's got a 1980s styrofoam-and-foil aesthetic, with big-head robots and Space: 1999 jumpsuits. The graphics are very unpolished, but this game I think qualifies as alpha at this stage, so that will come.
The UI is just so bad. It is clunky, awkward to use, with unintuitive keybindings, an absence of necessary information in the overlay, no easy way to check what your colonists are doing, and an annoying over-sensitivity to screen scrolling when you're trying to get the obnoxious and imprecise mouse cursor over the icons. Drawing rooms is a chore, which is an issue when that is pretty much the only thing you can currently do in the game.
It's also very poorly optimised. Running on min settings, with a mid-range computer in excess of the recommended specs, I get memory crashes, terrible frame rate issues, and periodic freezing as the game tries to calculate something. I've spent a lot of time on forums trying to find ways to address these issues at my end, with no luck; I'm not the only person with this experience. A certain level of poor optimisation is to be expected with early access, but not to the degree where it derails your playing.
Development is okay. I feel like they should be further along than they are at this point. For over a half a million dollars in funding and a year and a half since the first playable build, it should be further along than this. I think Maia, Towns, DF9 et al illustrate one central truth about town-management games: they take time to develop. If you over-promise, you get DF9; if you rush and then run out of hype, you get Folk Tale; if you don't nail the AI, you get Towns. Dwarf Fortress didn't happen overnight; without having to worry about graphics or platform integration that game took years to get to anything like a quality gaming experience.
And that's principally why I am warning against Maia. For a well-funded game to be charging $25 for an early access build that isn't optimised, isn't visually polished, doesn't have basic features, lacks solid AI, and is without the diversity of content you need for a game in this genre, that's not a good investment. I accept that an early access game will be content-light, will have areas needing to be polished, but when a colony-manager after this much work still doesn't have basic UI, AI and optimisation sorted out, they are going to have no chance of adding more content without bringing the game crashing down.
I want this game to succeed, but they don't need more money, and you don't need the current experience of Maia. Give them until the end of the year, see where they're at then; they will either have fixed these issues by overhauling basically the core of the game, or it will have gone the way of Folk Tale. Either way you'll have your answer.