Autonauts does not really bother much with a story, apart from starting on off landing on a planet with nothing at all. Upon starting a new game, you are given the choice of three game modes consisting of Colonise, Free, and Creative. For my play through, I stuck with Colonise, which is closest to a campaign mode. Game play itself is the same for each mode, the only difference is what the player starts out with. For example, Free mode starts you off with all structures unlocked, which would typically require meeting certain gated task requirements in Colonise mode. Creative, as the name suggests, is complete freedom of resources, unlocked structures, and so on.
Upon landing on this uncharted world, I found myself being told to grab a rock and start beating up a tree. In other words, the traditional sandbox starting task of punching a tree works on random planets as well I guess. Once said tree is knocked down, the tasks become more varied and complex in order to help teach new Autonauts to colonize planets, hence the game mode name. Following the standard tutorials for things such as gathering resources, crafting tools, and creating initial robotic helpers (more on this in a bit), I was congratulated by the game, and given a commemorative slab, and sent on my way to colonizing greatness!
Well, I was given the CHOICE of being sent on my way at least. When complete with the initial tutorial the game gives you the choice of fulfilling gated tasks independently, though if this seems too daunting for the first play-through the tutorial system can be activated for most sub-tasks as well to get things moving along. I played with these tutorials initially, then started a new planet without, and found that the tutorials were quite effective at training me as my second go around without tutorials was a much more efficient and speedy process than my sadly disorganized first planet. Before too long, my commemorative slab tower was an impressive monument...near my somewhat less disorganized settlement. Perhaps I need to work on that a bit in future play-throughs!
One thing I had to get used to with Autonauts is the auto bit itself. Being so familiar with actively doing things in other sandbox-styled games, I had to train myself to not just do everything myself and instead rely on the adorable, craftable bots in the game. I mean, at it's heart, Autonauts is about automation after all. Bots are created in much the same way as other tools, requiring an odd assortment of wood-based products to construct initially. Once constructed and hand-charged, though, the bots essentially become an extension of the player-controlled character. Everything you can do as the main character can be accomplished by a bot, assuming that you can train it to do so appropriately. Instructing your shiny new bot consists of pressing record in their "brains," completing the task you want them to be in charge of manually, and pressing play. Starter tasks such as chopping down trees, replanting trees, and the like are not too complex, and I was simply able to perform the task, put them in an infinitely repeating loop, and go about my way doing other tasks. But for true automation, I had to get a bit creative with nested loops, and backup bots to walk around and recharge other bots, bots to create replacement tools, and so on. It was admittedly pretty satisfying to finally get everything the way I wanted it to run, and just sit back and watch it all happen autonomously.
The odd thing about setting up autonomy like this early game, though, is that you either go stagnant in your world or you have to start manually doing things again. Not that your bots cannot work and work and work, it is just that they cannot progress without new and changing directions after a while. For example, part of colonizing a new planet is actually having non-robotic colonists to do so! This is achieved in a quite odd way in Autonauts. In order to begin colonizing, I was required to create a colonist seed dispenser, which gave me colonist seeds to be placed in a colonist incubator...which popped out a baby colonist. Baby colonists, much like actual human babies, are completely reliant on the player. They literally just lie on the ground where they popped out of the incubator until you move them, and then they just lie wherever you put them down. The purpose of these colonists? If you feed them, as long as they are eating they will periodically excrete out Colonist Wuv, an odd heart-shaped currency used to further research.
Researching new technology opens up new research opportunities, new structures, and new things to do. This was where Autonauts really took off for me. I found myself excited to complete a research or task gate just to know how much more complex I could make my automation, whether by changing the bots themselves or simply having new, more efficient ways of doing things. And thankfully, after advancing a bit the colonist babies can improve their life satisfaction by moving into shelters, all the way up to full-blown colonies. This is definitely a game that has massive replayability. Even if Denki Games does not continue to update the game after release, I can't wait to colonise new worlds and try new automation configurations. Though, with how the game is setup, I would be quite surprised if future additions are not added to keep things intriguing.