How would you beat the red planet? Surviving Mars, a video game that launches Thursday, gives players the power to tackle a question that science fiction fans and scientists have grappled with for years. Would you take a Matt Damon approach, putting your botany skills to good use as in The Martian, or would you take an Elon Musk approach and use your SpaceX-like skills to kickstart a thriving metropolis?

The game is created by Sweden-based Paradox Interactive, whose 2015 release Cities: Skylines was widely praised as a version of SimCity for the modern age — far better than EA’s negatively-received 2013 reboot. Players in Surviving Mars are tasked with working with a space agency, building infrastructure, and managing resources to improve your chances of survival. And with a touch of the “disaster” options beloved by SimCity fans, players can choose to invoke a “mystery” plot point into their colony that takes inspiration from Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov.

“We drew our light-hearted and optimistic viewpoint of the future from classic authors such as Clarke and Asimov, and from TV series like Star Trek: TNG,” Momchil Dilov, one of the designers of Surviving Mars, tells Inverse. “Post-Mariner Mars fiction, such as Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy or Andy Weir’s The Martian gave us some nice ideas what would be the first challenges the colonists would face and how their life would be on the red planet.”

The game’s release comes at a pivotal time for Mars exploration. Musk has thrown down the gauntlet with his BFR rocket, predicting a manned mission as soon as 2024.

“Elon Musk is a visionary who inspires not only us, but also millions of people around the globe,” says Dilov. “He has shown our generation that dreams are achievable, that the future is right there, if we only reach our arms towards it. We watched the Falcon flights in awe like the rest of you and felt that Surviving Mars has become one idea closer to reality. Our culture is one of desire to have, to know, to see, to experience, but Elon Musk’s achievement is teaching us how to achieve.”

NASA and the Chinese government are also on their way to the red planet. Buzz Aldrin, the second person to walk on the moon, has used his “Get Your Ass to Mars” campaign to encourage humanity to explore further. Stephen Hawking, who died on Wednesday at 76, urged humanity in the final years of his life to leave the Earth and venture forth into the cosmos. Surviving Mars is launching just as the top minds are grappling with that exact question.

“Our ancestors didn’t find it easy to wander far from their cozy settlements, so they invented stories about brave explorers who ventured into the unknown to find great riches and wisdom,” says Dilov. “Nowadays we continue to be mesmerized by the stories of exploration which fuel our imagination and let us banish the fear and uncertainty that await us beyond the metaphorical ring of light shed by our campfires. With Surviving Mars we hoped that we could contribute to the great line of stories which inspired generations to seek out the mysteries of the universe.”

What sort of sci-fi inspiration does the game follow on from?

Surviving Mars is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Photos via Paradox Interactive