[BossConstructor] Build Your Way to the Top of the Food Chain

Price as of Writing: $14.99

BossConstructor is a top down physics based shooter where you build your ship using the modules in the game. The game is being developed by a singular developer, Mirko Seithe. The current game is filled to the brim with content, over 60 modules, several game modes, and a ship editor. The current game modes are Exploration, Skirmish, Wave Survival, and Random Skirmish. In Exploration, you start with one of several basic ships or a ship you create in the main menu ship editor that fits the criteria. 330100_2015-12-05_00005Your goal is to fight your way from one end of a galaxy to the other, mining resources, buying from shops, and fighting bosses along the way. You gain more modules to add to your ship through combat and through the store, those modules will vary in effectiveness based on prefixes assigned to them and how much you bought them for. Skirmish and Random Skirmish are where you chose a ship and battle a predetermined or random number and type of ships. Wave Survival is fairly self explanatory, you fight waves of enemies until you are destroyed. 330100_2015-12-05_00002There is a passive game mode called Evolution that has 3 sub-modes, Ship Evolution, AI Battle, and Evolution Pool. Ship Evolution where you chose a base design and it creates anywhere from 15-100 variations that are then battle simulated. The winner of each generation can be added to your hangar as a ship that you can use in other modes. AI-Battle pits 2 AI factions of 8 ships against each other. Finally, there is Evolution Pool, which allows you to watch a smaller portion of ships fight in real time 330100_2015-12-05_00003and it allows you to spawn in as the selected template to participate in the fight.

There are just over 60 modules, not including all the variations between different qualities and traits. There are blasters, missile launchers, mine layers, armor, and others tools at your disposal. You can build a ship that is just a wall of guns or you can build a flying battering ram. Your ship designs are limited to a 14×14 square, but you are able to increase that in the setting files outside of the game.

330100_2015-12-05_00004For most of development, you would control your ships with a standard Keyboard and Mouse, but, as of a few updates ago, you can use your mouse and controllers to control your ship. With the keyboard, the game uses the arrow keys for direction and you can use whatever keys you want for the weapons and utilities, but it defaults to WASD.

Combat is pretty standard, you have to account for inertia and rotation, much like the classic game Asteroids, and you must have thrusters on facing away from a direction to move that direction. Inertia and Rotation does eventually reach 0, but it is enough of a delay that the mechanic is meaningful in combat. You can turn and move with only rear facing thrusters, but turning will also push you forward. The AI can be very dumb at times, pushing against asteroids and shooting their allies, but for the most part they are challenging enough to enjoy. The game offers a large variety of settings that allow you to optimize performance to your machine.

Graphics: 9/10

The graphics, while a somewhat simple looking art style, are very clean and easy to understand. Each module has a very clear sprite that tells you what it is and what direction it is facing. The game, is fairly well optimized, as long as you keep the particles settings down on lower end machines

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is great, if you are interested in physics based games. I believe there are things that do need to be added, but the core gameplay is there and very playable.

AI: 7/10

The AI is one of the weaker parts of the game. It can be less than intelligent in combat, but other parts of AI, like the Evolution game modes are very well thought out and well structured.

Content: 8/10

There is a lot of content for you to dig into for the price. While 60 modules may not include exactly what you are looking for, there is enough variation for you to create a unique ship and the game is still being developed, with an estimation of 80 modules at release.

Setting: 6/10

There really is not much setting in the game currently, besides space, but this game does not necessarily need a defined story setting for the mechanics and gameplay to work well.

Audio: 8/10

The module sound effects, like weapons and engines, can be very repetitive to listen to, but the soundtrack is great to listen to and helps you tune out the repetitive sound effects.

Promise: 10/10

Mirko Siethe maintains a detailed roadmap and puts out regular updates. He also hosts live coding sessions on his YouTube Channel where you can watch him create content that will be released in the next updates. In-Game, there are regular polls where he asks for community feedback on what should be added next and what should be focused on. The dates for the last 5 updates are 11/17/15, 11/08/15, 10/26/15, 10/17/15, and 10/15/15.

Total: 9/10

BossConstructor is very much worth $14.99 in its current state. The developer is very driven towards creating a great product and much of the core components are present and properly balanced. The developer has also shown a great ability to listen to community suggestions and implement them in a meaningful manner.

OS Windows, Mac, Linux
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op No
Price $14.99
Rating on Steam 98%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 11/17/15.

[Angels Fall First] Combined Arms 2.0

Price as of Writing: $17.99

Angels Fall First is a 64 Player Multiplayer First Person Shooter developed by Strangely Interactive Ltd. Strangely Interactive is the same team that developed the other mods set in the Angels Fall First universe. There are 2 factions in the AFF universe, the United League and the Antarean Empire. There are currently 9 distinct vehicles for each faction, 4 ground vehicles and 5 space vehicles. The ground vehicles are a buggy, a tank, an APC, and a gunship. The space vehicles are a fighter, a bomber, an interceptor, an assault fighter, and a dropship that boards enemy capital ships.367270_2015-12-01_00001 There are also over 75 pieces of equipment and weapons, many of which are faction specific. There are 3 types of armor that affect your movement, Light, Medium, and Heavy. Each faction also has 4 capital ships, a battleship, a corvette, a destroyer, and a frigate.

AFF does not use a standard loadout unlock system. Every piece of equipment is unlocked at the beginning, but you must spend combat, command, and/or support points on them. You gain these points by completing objectives in multiplayer game, there is singleplayer/offline mode, but you do not gain points in it.367270_2015-12-01_00012 The gun combat is very straightforward and you have to lead targets with some weapons.

The matches either take place in space or on the ground in one of 2 modes on 6 maps. The modes are objective completion, which is an offense/defense mode, and territory capture, similar to Battlefield’s “Conquest” mode. There are 4 ground maps and 2 space maps. 367270_2015-12-01_00004 One space map takes place around a station cluster while the other takes place in an asteroid field. There is a destroyed city ground map, a desert fortress, a mining facility, and a military distribution depot. Each team has multiple squads and one commander, the commander gives orders to the squad leaders, who pass it on to the squad members. In space, once a breach opens up in a large capital ship, you can take a dropship and board it, allowing you to fight it on the inside. If you destroy the engine core, you have ~45 seconds to escape before it overloads and you blow up. In an unusual twist for games like this, it has bots, much like the Battlefront series.  The bots are actually very intelligent and it is very hard to tell the difference between a bot and a player. 367270_2015-12-01_00006

The developers host numerous official servers and there are a few unofficial servers that are also reliable. You can also host servers yourself, depending on your specs and network speed. Although the game does not have a huge player base, it is a fairly dedicated playerbase. The art style is very well thought out, leaning heavily towards a realistic gritty look, but still remaining colorful on some maps. There are some optimization issues on weaker systems, but for the most part, it is playable. Every model looks high quality and very distinct between factions, except for player models. 367270_2015-12-01_00005It can be difficult to differentiate between faction soldiers. The weapons have unique sounds to them, so you always know what is firing, but they do sound somewhat weak, which is reflected damage wise in some of them.

Strangely Interactive does not maintain a roadmap, that I have seen, but they do release semi-regular updates and they will respond to your suggestions and bug reports. They also have been very responsive to fixing bug reports. There were sever optimization issues at launch, but that was quickly fixed within the first two weeks and they recently fixed an issue that prevented loadouts from being edited or loaded in the menu.

 

Graphics: 8/10

The models are great and the textures work very well with the chosen art style.

Gameplay: 8/10

The gameplay is very solid and the boarding mechanics work very well. There can sometimes be progress stagnation, but that is usually because of evenly matched teams.

AI: 9/10

The AI in AFF is some of the best multiplayer bot AI I have ever seen, much better than Battlefront 2’s Bot AI.

Content: 6/10

There are a lot of weapons, which are mostly balanced, but there are not many maps and the combat on the maps can become very predictable because there is no randomization.

Setting: 7/10

AFF has a very solid sci-fi setting and the factions are very distinctive.

Audio: 6/10

The vehicles sound find and fit their vehicle, but the weapons sounds sound light and sometimes don’t fit their power.

Promise: 5/10

The developers are active on the steam forums and they do have a semi regular update schedule, but they do not maintain a roadmap, which can harm peoples trust in the future of a project. The dates for the last 4 updates are 11/17/15, 10/27/15, 10/13/15, and 10/07/15.

Total: 7/10

I believe that AFF has a bright future, given that they fix all the outstanding issues that can put off new buyers. The bots are especially promising.

 

OS Windows
Single Player Partial
Competitive Multiplayer Yes (up to 32v32)
Co-Op No
Price $17.99
Rating on Steam 76%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 11/17/15.

[PULSAR: Lost Colony] The 5 Hour Mission

Price as of Writing: $25.00

PULSAR: Lost Colony is a 5 Player Coop First Person Starship Bridge Simulator developed by Leafy Games. There are 5 roles, Captain, Pilot, Weapons Officer, Chief Engineer, and Science Officer. Everyone can do everyone else’s job, excluding the captain’s job, but with lesser ability. This allows for groups of 2-4 people to fully control a ship. The game also has AI, which allows a player to play alone with an AI crew or a small group to fill the rest of their crew slots. The captain has the ability to control the priorities of the AI crew members. The AI is one of the weakest parts of the game, being very limited in their scopes. I usually set the pilot priorities to man weapons turrets and repair systems while I pilot the ship. The Science Officer is not that helpful, but they sometimes use programs, but beyond that not much else. The weapons officer does not fire rockets, but is fairly well-built. The Engineer has trouble managing the heat sometimes, but is otherwise also well-built. 252870_2015-12-01_00007The pathing for all AI can start to break during combat, leading them to shoot at doors and run against walls. As it stands, only the captain can plot Warp Jumps or access the ship stores.

PULSAR also allows you to board enemy ships, capture enemy ships, beam down to planets and stations, and use cyber-warfare against the enemies. When beaming down to planets with hostile atmospheres and ships with destroyed life support, there are Exo-Suits that protect you from the environment. 252870_2015-12-01_00009The Captain can give orders to the AI, plot jumps, and buy from space stores. The Pilot pilots the ship and lines up jumps. The Weapons Officer can fire missiles, the main gun, secondary guns, and nukes. The Chief Engineer controls the warp core, controls core temperature, controls power management, puts out fires, and repairs damaged systems. The Science Officer controls the shields, deploys viruses, activates anti-viruses, uses boosts, and does sector scans. After battles and other successful events, you will gain experience that you can spend to level up your character, which are several class specific skills.

There are close to a hundred different modules that you can attach and use for your ship, including rail guns, armor, jump drives, computer programs, and other ship essentials. There are currently 5 starter ships, ranging from a small frigates to heavy warships. 252870_2015-12-01_00004Most of the story content is not in the game yet, but there are a few missions to keep you sated or you could just take your ship and go exploring.   The gameplay mainly consists of you and your crew battling enemies, running around the ship repairing systems & putting out fires, beaming down to planets, and upgrading the ship to match your enemies, which appear to scale with your experience. 252870_2015-12-01_00006The art style of the game is nice and flow well, but there are issues with bad textures and the character models are not that great.

The game is not amazingly optimized, but it should work for most systems. It is available on Windows, OSX, and Linux. The gameplay can get repetitive if you are not interested in the game, but it is mostly about the shared experiences with your crew rather than gameplay elements. The game is set in a sprawling galaxy that has 2 main warring factions, the W.D. Corporation and the Colonial Union. There are also infected sectors which have noxious clouds that damage your ship. The audio can be a bit tinny and there are issues with it “breaking” and looping, but the sounds themselves work well and don’t feel out of place.

The developers have a roadmap on their site and they are somewhat active, releasing video devlogs and updates every few weeks. PULSAR uses a cloud gaming service called Photon Cloud, which sometimes has network issues, but the developers want to use their own system, which would allow for LAN play as well.

 

Graphics: 6/10

The ship models are great and the general textures are good enough, but there are some texture stretching and player model issues that need to be addressed

Gameplay: 7/10

The gameplay is still being worked on, but the core systems are there and can provide a fun enough experience for a group of friends. The Multiplayer service, Photon Cloud, can sometimes have outages, but they are working towards their own system later down the line.

AI: 4/10

The enemy ship AI is very good, leading to great space battles, but AI crew logic still needs a lot of work.

Content: 8/10

There is a fair amount to explore and a lot of upgrades to add to your ships. This allows you to create memorable stories with your friends.

Setting: 5/10

The setting for the galaxy is well thought out, but without the core story, it feels empty and without context.

Audio: 6/10

There are abundant audio issues that need to be addressed soon, but besides that, the sounds fit the atmosphere.

Promise: 7/10

Although Leafy Games does maintain a roadmap & devlog, their update schedule is somewhat slower than others. The dates for the last 5 updates are 10/28/15, 10/23/15, 10/21/15, 09/30/15, and 09/26/15.

Total: 6/10

I personally love PULSAR: Lost Colony, but I can easily see how these issues could put people off. I have had fun with my friends, but it can get difficult and it is missing core story components.

 

OS Windows, Mac Linux
Single Player Yes
Competitive Multiplayer No
Co-Op Yes (2-5)
Price $24.99
Rating on Steam 95%

Disclaimers: I DID NOT receive a key from the developers. This review is based on the build published on 10/28/15.