HERE'S a peek behind the scenes for you - this review almost didn't make deadline because I was playing Robocraft until dawn, for three days running.
The game's not perfect - it's not even completed - but if you ever had 'play' wars with lego as a kid, this will take an ancient part of you and satisfy it completely.
The concept is simple. You use different types of blocks to make a robot with propulsion, weapons and other tricky bits before taking to the battlefield in a 10 vs 10 capture-the-flag.
If you've played them, imagine Minecraft and World of Tanks had a child. Got it? That's Robocraft.
Robocraft is currently in early access on Steam, but the guys over at Freejam games have made a surprisingly playable and full-featured compared to the usual fare in that pit of horrors.
Kieran: He's gone behind the hill, get him, get him, get him.
Joe: Where'd my wheels go?
You start in a hanger orbiting Mars with a default robot. It's stylish(ish) but made of basic white blocks, windscreens and a handful of turrets. You have that and some extra armoured blocks but no decent technology and very little chance of winning. Yet.
As you win (or lose) battles, you collect in-game currency to buy blocks (weapons, wheels and radars are also known as blocks) and repair your robot. You also collect tech points used to unlock better blocks, though it's not the most intuitive system at first.
You'll notice three things very quickly.
Firstly, the block-by-block system of building your robots (similar to Minecraft) is sophisticated for an early access game, but that doesn't mean coming up with an effective design happens easily.
Joe: Stay on point, almost there!
Kieran: I should put a jet engine in my cockpit.
Secondly, the designs people come up with, especially early on, are hilarious. I was somewhat upset that I couldn't get my design perfectly symmetrical until a spawned into my first match and saw what looked like an upside-down Christmas tree that had sprouted laser turrets fighting a jet-powered trike with one laser.
Thirdly, the end-game can have you in stitches with how stupid everyone looks. As you're damaged, blocks and parts get blown off, ruining your pain-painstakingly crafted design and often crippling your steering. It's not rare to see a tank with one wheel and the rear chassis blown off on its side trying to shoot a pilot hanging on to a jet engine spinning through the air as the clock runs down.
Justin: Rhys, are you ready?
Rhys: Just wait, I'm putting my tiers on.
As you win battles, several things happen.
- You gain levels as a pilot, which lets you strap more and better blocks to your robot.
- You gain tech points that give you access to a large tree of different techs so you can customise how you fight.
- Your robot's components have levels that determine the 'tier' of robots you fight against, the higher the tier, the more powerful the robots.
Brad: How do we unlock the parts for flying vehicles?
Joe: Are rail-guns like Robocraft's AWPs?.
Kieran: I'm upside down right now. Disregard my advice.
There is a freemium model built in as well, where real money can be used to upgrade lower-ranked tech points to higher-ranked ones, and in most cases bypass the in-game currency earned through fighting.
Fortunately, all the money in the world doesn't mean you can avoid combat, as tech points can still only be earned in multiplayer.
Robocraft is quite family-friendly. The devs ban people for abusive language and I can't imagine anything better than mum or dad teaching their kid how balance works vis-a-vis designing a 'lego' tank.
But with game mechanics as hilarious as this, you wouldn't want to miss the lower tiers. This game will keep the hardcore gamer occupied, casuals entertained, and even give kids a fun (and family friendly) introduction to engineering.
Kieran: That flying guy just blew my cockpit apart.
Joe: Same, we might win still.
Brad: I doubt it, the only ones left on our team are either spinning in circles, trapped, or going the wrong way.
*A big shout-out to Rhys, Justin, Brad and Joseph for letting me use the Skype call we had while testing the game in this article.
Justin: How many wheels do you have?
Rhys: Eight! Two are for steering and six are for speeeeeeeed!
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