Early Access reviews check out a title but never have a final score, just the writers thoughts and recommendation.
Every so often a game emerges that defines its own genre.
Something like Minecraft, EVE, or our game today, the popular early-access title Robocraft. Robocraft is a designer sandbox where you build bots (manned robots aren’t robots, but for simplicity’s sake we call them such), then pilot them in team matches against other designers.
The matches themselves are fairly standard: two teams, beginning at their own base, attempt to either destroy all enemy bots or take the opposing base by sitting uncontested on it for a length of time. I found this quite frankly, boring and unvaried. Fight, rinse, repeat. The maps (all four of them) are extremely well designed but quickly become repetitive. Things get a little better when you play with friends in a small platoon, then more exciting when you unlock boss battles where large numbers of low leveled players attempt to bring down a few high leveled one’s guarding a base. But still not very engaging.
What makes the game so interesting to play, and why I sunk 150 hours into it, is the freedom and variety of things you can create. From standard, slow moving treaded smg tanks to giant flying Spongebobs shooting plasma from their eyes, if you can build it from cubes, prisms, tetrahedrons and assorted pieces of hardware such as weapons, wheels, legs, shields or radar, you are free to do so. Everyone has their own version of the perfect vehicle, their own armor schemes, their own weapons and mobility choices and this is what makes the game fun and grants you a sense of individual ownership over each vehicle or construct you make.
Progression in Robocraft follows another linear path. Fight your vehicle against similarly tiered others to earn currency to purchase more and better blocks and tech points, allowing you to unlock more and better blocks for purchase. When your vehicle passes a certain value calculated from the number and tier of blocks in it, you move to the next tier where you can earn that tiers tech points. This continues until you have everything unlocked at tier ten.
The interface matches the building bias well, with a smooth and easy to use build mode, but an extremely minimalist piloting UI featuring little more then a central cross-hair. While the game won't be winning any graphical awards, it isn’t hard to look at either, featuring a bright, blocky aesthetic well suited to the game.
The sound is obviously low budget, but well done. While the music lacks variety, it's repetitive in the same way the sound of the ocean is. Calming, soothing, and easy to lose track of time with, particularly in build mode. The weapon and vehicle noises are equally unvaried, but informative and unique, making it easy to discern one type of bot from another.
My main complaint about this game is that higher tier items, the weapons in particular, take up so much space that robot designs tend to completely revolve around getting enough weapons placed. This makes designing higher tier vehicles more an exercise in space management than anything else, and severely limits designers making the vehicles effective creatively speaking, thus causing a certain amount of stifling design in the top tiers. However this game is in early-access and the developers have time to fix these complaints over time.
- Fun Robot Crafting
- Creative New Genre
- Free to Play
- Repetitive Matches
- Top-Tier bot designing can be limited
It is difficult to judge a game that stands so far on its own and give it a clear verdict as there is no benchmark to judge it against. While the matches and certain designs can be overly familiar, there is a great thrill in building your own bots from scratch into something serious or crazy, and then putting it out on the competitive field against other players. The game is also free to play, which makes it a zero-pressure investment to check out. See you on battleground pilot!
Strong. With nearly 30,000 users having reviewed this on Steam and the developers releasing an update just a few days ago, this title is progressing forward and has a very active community. With any luck my complaints will be fixed in time.