How to Play Guide for Surviving Mars

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This guide will cover how to play Surviving Mars to reduce the learning curve and survive the first hour, maybe two... Ideally until you solve the mysteries of Mars!

Controls[edit | edit source]

  • Tilt or rotate - hold MMB or Alt and move the mouse
  • Zoom - mousewheel or PgUp/PgDown
  • Overview mode - Maximum zoom out or M

Use the controls on the HUD or the following shortcuts to control the game speed:

  • Space - pause/unpause
  • +  key - increase game speed
  • - key - decrease game speed

Basics[edit | edit source]

Rover and Drone Control[edit | edit source]

All Rovers are manually controlled via the commands available in their Infopanels. They can either be given orders to go to a map location or to interact with a contextually specific map object - such as Anomalies or Surface Deposits.

Drones are semi-autonomous and will queue up tasks that are flagged only if these tasks are within the Service Area set for each drone. However, the player can take direct control of a Drone if needed.

Change your preferred controls and mappings using the Options menu.

Dust and Maintenance[edit | edit source]

All buildings deteriorate over time. When a building's maintenance bar is filled a drone is dispatched to bring the required maintenance resource and service the building. If the resource is not supplied within a Sol the building will stop operating until the maintenance resource is delivered and the building serviced.

Martian dust and disasters contribute to the deterioration of buildings outside of Domes.

Extractors, Martian dust geysers, rocket landings and launches spread dust in the area around them causing increased maintenance to nearby buildings.

Drones are also susceptible to dust which may result in a breakdown. Recharge Stations clean drones during the charging process.

Map and exploration[edit | edit source]

The map is divided in Sectors which need to be scanned to reveal what resources and Anomalies they hold - if any. 

Sectors can be queued for scanning from the Map Overview. Sensor towers drastically increase the scanning speed of sectors near them and provide a smaller overall bonus to sector scanning.

A fast and expensive way to explore the map is to buy Orbital Probes from Earth which instantly scans a chosen sector. 

Building in unexplored Sectors carries the risk of building directly on top of undiscovered resource deposits.

Probes will instantly scan a Sector of the map, revealing resource deposits and Anomalies in the area. Deploy a Probe with LMB after selecting the option or X.

Resources and Construction[edit | edit source]

Construction of Buildings is the main use of resources on Mars. If a new construction site is placed within the Service Range of a Drone control point (Drone Hub, RC Rover, or Rocket), the Drones assigned to that hub will begin stockpiling the resources needed for construction.

IMPORTANT: Said resources also need to be within the Drone's Service Range, either in Storages or in raw, surface deposit form.

Resources are either gathered from deposits or are produced in Extractors, Factories or Farms.

Deposits may be surface (Metal and Polymers), underground (Metal , Rare Metals, and Water) or terrain (Concrete).

Deposits have grades (very low, low, average, high, very high) that impact the base production of an extractor. A deposit with an average grade will produce the base value of extractor, a higher grade produces more, and lower grade produces less. Example: Base production of a Water Extractor is 5, however, when built on a deposit with a "Very Low" grade, it will produce only 3.

Surface deposits are mined directly by Drones, while underground and terrain deposits require Extractors to be built above them. Resources are stockpiled in Extractors until Drones come to take the extracted resources away where they're needed or move them to a Depot. 

Extractors also generate Waste Rock and have limited space to store it. If said facilities are full, the Extractor will stop working until Drones move the Waste Rock to a Waste Rock Dump.

Late game deep scanning can reveal deep underground Metals, Rare Metals and Water deposits which require specific techs before they can be extracted.

Anomalies[edit | edit source]

Anomalies appear all over the map in scanned sectors. Sending a RC Explorer to analyze them will trigger their effects. An anomaly can be one of the following sorts:

  • Event Anomaly (eye) - These anomalies trigger events, which can be associated with Mysteries or not. 
  • Research Anomaly (flask) - These anomalies instantly generate Research Points, which then contribute to any ongoing research.
  • Breakthrough Anomaly (magnifying glass)  - These anomalies reveal a tech on the Breakthrough tree in the Research Screen.
  • Tech Anomaly (key)- These anomalies enable specific techs to be researched, no matter their place on the tech tree. 

Research[edit | edit source]

New technologies will unlock new  buildings, upgrades, colonist perks and other benefits for the colony. Standard technologies are divided in five fields with different themes. Researching any technology will make a new technology within its field available for research. Some technologies have fixed positions in their fields, others have randomized positions.

Individual technologies are researched by generating research points equal to their costs. The mission sponsor may provide a fixed amount of research point per Sol, but research buildings will be needed to discover the later, more advanced, technologies in a timely manner. Outsourcing research is another option granting a fixed amount of research for a certain period in exchange for Funding.

Analyzing anomalies with an Explorer vehicle may grant research points or make new technologies available for research.

Breakthroughs are extraordinary technologies with powerful effects that are discovered only by special means. One way to unlock a breakthrough technology is to discover it in an anomaly on the surface of Mars. Different breakthrough technologies may appear in each playthrough.


Wonders are exceptionally advanced and expensive structures that provide major benefits for the entire Colony. They are unlocked at the far ends of the Research Tree.

Each wonder is unique and can be constructed only once.

Environment[edit | edit source]

Resources are either gathered directly from Mars, or later manufactured in resource production buildings - most commonly from other resources.

They keep the Colony operational by being used for life-support, construction and building upkeep.

There are two types of resources: grid and non-grid. Grid resources use Pipes and Cables for distribution, while non-grid resources have to be moved around with Drones or RC Rovers.

Building a better colony[edit | edit source]

The Martian Colony is made up of a variety of buildings which provide power, life-support, comfort, protection from the weather, information, resources and a lot more - all things without which humans cannot exist on the red planet.

Buildings are built by using Martian resources while some can be brought from Earth as prefab buildings. All buildings, however, require a resource upkeep for maintenance. 

A construction site must be within the Service Area of Drones (relative to their control hubs) in order to receive the resources needed and then erected.

Some buildings require Power to operate, other are staffed by Colonists living nearby.

The Performance of any building indicates how effectively the building is performing its primary function. It depends on many factors such as researched technologies, upgrades and the current individual performance of the specific colonists working in the building. Qualified specialists and workers with high Morale will increase the performance of a building, while empty work slots, Renegades and workers with low Morale or other issues will be detrimental.

Buildings can be set to operate in three Work Shifts - first, second and night. Turning off some Work Shifts will conserve power and workforce. 

Power Distribution[edit | edit source]

Power is distributed along power cables from Power Production buildings (or Power Accumulators) to all buildings connected to the same grid. 

Power Switches can be constructed along cables, allowing us to connect or disconnect entire sectors of the grid at will. 

Power cables can sustain Cable Faults (either from Meteors or just because of general erosion) and will need repair every now and then by Drones - provided there are Drones within reach.

Cable Faults drain power from the grid. Repairing them requires Metals and may take some time

IMPORTANT: Denser power grids develop more Cable Faults.

Sustaining colonists[edit | edit source]

Colonists arrive by rockets. In order to support them, you need to build Space Domes and provide them with a supply of food, water, and oxygen at the very least. Colonists are defined by the following characteristics:

  • Health: Represents physical injury, illness and exhaustion. Lowered by working on a heavy workload, having no functional home, shock when deprived from vital resources or when the Colonist is injured. Colonists can be healed in Medical Buildings in a powered Dome, but only if they are provided with Food, Water and Oxygen. Colonists can't work at low health unless they're Fit.
  • Sanity: Represents mental condition. Lowered by working on a heavy workload, in outside buildings and during dark hours, witnessing the death of a Colonist living in the same Residence or various Martian disasters. Recovered when resting at home and by visiting certain Service Buildings.
  • Comfort: Residences and visited buildings improve Comfort up to their Service Comfort value, but Colonists will try to visit only buildings that correspond to their interests. Colonists are more inclined to have children at higher Comfort. Earthborn Colonists whose Comfort is depleted will quit their job and leave the Colony at first opportunity.
  • Morale: Represents overall happiness, optimism and loyalty. All other stats affect Morale. Influences the Colonist's job performance. Colonists with low Morale may become Renegades.

Colonists need Life Support resources in order to survive in the short term. These are Water, Oxygen and Food. Without access to any of these, a Dome will die out, with a shortage of Oxygen being the deadliest.

  • Both Oxygen and Water are supplied to Domes via a Pipe Network which must be connected to Oxygen and Water production buildings to ensure the possibility of using Water and Oxygen Tanks to manage temporary shortages.
  • Pipes are built by Drones and deteriorate over time, resulting in Pipe Leaks which drain Water and Oxygen from the system. Drones repair Pipe Leaks at the cost of Metals.
  • If a Dome is left without power it won't provide heating to Colonists and they may die due to exposure to the intense cold of the Red Planet.
  • Food, which can initially be brought from Earth via Rockets, can be grown later on using Farms, Hydroponic Farms, and Fungal Farms. In contrast to Water and Oxygen, Food is not a grid resource and needs to be transported with Drones.

Founders[edit | edit source]

The Founders are the first human pioneers of the red frontier and the first residents of the fledgling Colony. Their initial task is to prove the potential of the Colony and the viability of a permanent settlement on Mars.

After the Founders arrive on the planet, the Colony will be under evaluation for 10 Sols. No new Colonists will be available until the Colony is evaluated positively. A positive evaluation will be awarded if any Founders survive a certain number of Sols, or if the first child is born on the Red Planet.

Since the Founders number is limited to the capacity of the rocket, you may wish to handpick them using the Review command on the passenger rocket screen. Take care to micromanage their priorities during their first days on the Red Planet, using building priority and work slot management to guarantee that the crucial buildings are staffed.

Every Colonist is a unique individual defined by his or her name, age category, workplace specialization, traits, and stats.

Colonists will automatically staff Residences within their Dome. Take care to provide enough living space for all of them.

In detail[edit | edit source]

Children and senior Colonists cannot work, but still require sustenance and residential space. The rest of the Colonists will seek jobs in and around their Domes, according to the building priority and their individual work specialization. Buildings with higher priority will be staffed first.

Specialized colonists will prefer to work in buildings corresponding to their individual specializations and will have better performance at such workplaces.

Traits define details about the individual Colonists. Traits that provide beneficial effects are called Perks, traits with negative effects are called Flaws. Quirks are neither positive nor negative. Rare traits define truly exceptional individuals.

Every Colonist has four stats defining his or her current condition. Health represents physical fitness. Sanity represents mental wellbeing. Comfort represents the quality of the Colonist's life on Mars. Morale represents happiness, optimism and loyalty. For details about individual stats and a more comprehensive description of their effects, refer to the Colonist's Infopanel.