Video games where your base is mobile?
January 1, 2021 7:16 PM   Subscribe

I have just had a really compelling gaming experience, and I'm looking for games with similar elements!

I have just finished my second playthrough of Subnautica, and I had so much fun!

Reflecting on it, I think the part of the game I loved the most was the early late-game, when I had a fully upgraded Cyclops submarine. The submarine was big enough to walk around in, with several rooms. It was ponderously slow and clunky to maneuver, but I could fit an entire base's worth of supplies inside, and there was enough room to grow food and manufacture new tools and upgrades. I was theoretically vulnerable to large sea creatures, but so long as I piloted slowly and carefully, I was secure and self-sufficient in my sub. I would explore around the ocean, mining for resources outside of the sub, and then return to eat, drink, and process whatever I found.

I find this style of play really, really compelling, and it’s a totally new experience for me. I haven’t played a wide array of video games, so I’m struggling to find points of comparison.

Sid Meier’s Pirates and Windward are the main ship games I’ve played, and in those games you play, effectively, as the ship itself; you aren’t a person living on the ship, so this isn’t what I’m looking for. There was a mod for Mount and Blade called Brytenwalda in which you played as a Viking; you could buy a longship and then travel around on the sea, which was really fun, especially when combined with the trade and combat mechanics of the underlying game, but, again, the ship wasn’t a mobile base; it was just a method of transport.

The closest to this that I can think of was a mod for Minecraft that allowed you to build pilotable boats or airships, but resources in Minecraft aren’t distributed in such a way that doing this makes any sense from a gameplay perspective. You didn't need to have a mobile base, since you could get all the resources you needed from any biome.

What I’m really looking for is a game where I can have a single-player RPG base, like the houses in Skyrim or the camps in RDR2, where I can store my loot, build upgrades, and, when I’m done in a particular area, I can weigh anchor or pull up stakes and then take the base on the road. I’d be happy with a truck, a submarine, an airplane, a ship, a spaceship, whatever—I’m not picky about the setting, just about the game mechanic. It’s also important to me that the game forces you to do this—if I can just chill in any part of the game's world and get all the stuff I need, I will probably just do that. A pretty world, or at least one that's interesting to explore, would be a nice bonus; so would survival/immersion elements like hunger, thirst, exhaustion, and cold. Combat is fine, but it’s not a requirement for me—I’m mostly interested in the experience of upgrading my living space and exploring.

Can you think of a game that fits this description? Thank you!
posted by Black Cordelia to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'll defer to someone who has played it, but No Man's Sky came to mind.
posted by booooooze at 7:18 PM on January 1 [3 favorites]

You might like Satisfactory. It's a factory builder at heart, but with a first person perspective, resource gathering, and a lot of automation and chaining together machines to make more stuff.

I really enjoyed the vehicles and automation aspects, along with realizing you can just build stuff anywhere. Need to climb a big hill? Just build some ramps. Cross a canyon? Build some foundations across it. I went into it a bit too hard, so I'm on hiatus but definitely enjoyed exploring the biome and building stuff. Hypertubes are really fun!
posted by spbb at 7:23 PM on January 1

I have been playing No Mans Sky for about a week and it’s really close. You start on foot but quickly repair a space ship. From there you fly from planet to planet and star to star. Hop out to mine and gather, jump back in to travel. You can build bases but that’s pretty much optional.

There’s much larger ships called freighters that you can park your ships in and travel around in instead, but I literally just got mine and I’m sure others can chime in with more details.

When I bought No Mans Sky, I tossed a coin on whether to get it or Subnautica, and I think you just talked me into my next game!
posted by Eddie Mars at 7:36 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]

Outer Wilds might scratch this itch, and is one of the best game experiences I've had in the past few years.

You are an explorer with a little spaceship and travel between the planets/objects in a single solar system. When you land and get out to explore you're limited by oxygen and fuel, but the ship refuels you so you're "tied" to the ship by how far/long you explore.

The world itself is fascinating to explore. Each planet unique. Lots of interesting secrets, details, and beautiful scenery. There's no base-building, combat, or upgrades. The only unlocks are in your mind as you yourself learn about the game world and systems.

(I'd recommend not reading a lot about the game ahead of playing, as the greatest joy really is in experiencing and figuring out the game world.)
posted by Wulfhere at 7:51 PM on January 1 [4 favorites]

Definitely worth looking at No Man's Sky, although not having played Subnautica, I can't compare the two. In NMS you can rescue/purchase a freighter ship that functions as a mobile base, but you can also have unlimited upgradeable bases on planets that you visit. The freighter base has some limitations (eg the layout of every freighter is the same at first, and currently you can't teleport to it, but you can teleport from it) but the buildable space inside can be fitted out and decorated. NPC pilots will visit your freighter and you can trade with them or make an offer on their ships (currently, you can own up to six starships, which can be purchased or salvaged and then upgraded, swapped, or scrapped for valuable parts).

I do consider my main planetary base to be my "home" base, mostly because of the lovely views, but there's a lot of freedom to play different ways. One of the essential themes of the game is impermanence. Organic forms can be lost through destruction, but anything you build or create can be broken down again with no loss of materials.
posted by notquitemaryann at 7:53 PM on January 1

You might like FAR: Lone Sails, which is more linear and less complex than the examples given, but is about piloting a large, mobile base inside which the player character can move around, or disembark from to overcome obstacles and gather resources.
posted by subocoyne at 8:22 PM on January 1 [2 favorites]

Raft is currently on sale, and has almost the same gameplay loop, just buggier and a bit more cartoony. My friends are very enthusiastic about it presently.
posted by Scattercat at 8:28 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

I also felt like I should recommend Outer Wilds, which I think you will love based on your enjoyment of Subnautica but does not quite feature the mobile base mechanics you’re after. Still highly, highly recommend, and also agree to avoid reading pretty much anything at all about it before giving it a shot!
posted by caitcadieux at 8:56 PM on January 1 [1 favorite]

A lot of people who like Subnautica like No Man's Sky. After the first 10-40 hours it is very much self-directed, so be aware of that. It does keto getting better, as Hello Games has been releasing patches with new content several times a year. Not only has it grown well beyond what people were complaining about back at launch, but it has exceeded all the overly optimistic expectations Sean Murray's interviews created.

I've been playing it off and on for over three years at this point. It still occasionally surprises me despite having been to literally thousands of different planets.
posted by wierdo at 11:47 PM on January 1

I've been playing Spiritfarer all week, it's a ton of fun, it's kind of a management/platformer/open world game about death - you are the new ferryman of the dead, but the spirits spend a while on your boat and you have to attend to their needs for a bit before you can send them on. It's absolutely beautiful and also heartrending on occasion, well worth a try!
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 4:03 AM on January 2 [1 favorite]

Kingdom. It's not QUITE what you want, but it IS a profound game that literally to me reminds me of what's important in life. You are a royal person who must expand your kingdom, fight monsters and destroy their portals. But there is so much peace and beauty in it and most of your time is spent relaxing in that beauty. A simple side scrolling type game, but give it a chance!
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:43 AM on January 2

Space Crew? Basically Bomber Crew in space getting into Star Trek-like adventures.

Genesis Alpha One -- you control a ship that you can explore in person, and as you build onto it. You move from system to system, mining and so on. You get invaded by enemies all the time, and pirates may try to raid you. Your objective is to find a planet you can settle the new humanity on, even if you have to engineer them to breath different air. But a LOT of enemies will come after you, and your survival... is doubtful.
posted by kschang at 9:40 AM on January 2

Suikoden IV is exactly this.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:32 PM on January 3

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