Wednesday, July 11, 2012

AirMech for Steam Beta Preview

I don't care what you call them. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. Action Real Time Strategy. Or my favorite, DOTAD - Defense of the Ancients Derivative. There has been a plethora of these types of games to choose from recently all with their own unique take on the genre. From the team that brought you Fat Princess, AirMech leapfrogs from the Chrome Store to Steam as frantically paced cross between real time strategy games and tower defense.

AirMech seems to strike a balance between action and strategy by making your AirMech both a hero unit you directly control as well as your method of moving and managing your lesser AI controlled units. Movement is done with WASD while attacks and aiming are controlled with your mouse. The game adds some depth to the straight up Mech vs Mech combat with the addition of transforming your Mech into its ground form and air form. One can't shoot another Mech in the opposite form. Units you create and manage usually hit one or the other, ground or air. While I don't feel like I have total precise control over my AirMech with WASD, the interaction with other units is forgiving enough to compensate and I got used to the controls rather quickly.

AirMech is easy to pick up and play despite what I consider a lacking tutorial. I suppose the tutorial serves its purpose though; as it does get you into the action and teaches you the gameplay basics quickly and efficiently. I was looking for more information about the systems surrounding the game such as the store, advice on what units to make, not create, monetary system for creating units, etc. I think there is a surprising amount of depth here despite what stigma the game may or may not have coming from the Chrome Store. The combination of different AirMechs with different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses as well as the different ways players can customize their AirMech during play and the interplay between the various AI units should make for a rather staggering amount of gameplay options at any given point.

The simplistic art style works well with clear distinctions and contrast between units and structure so you can quickly discern the information you need in the heat of battle. Weng Chen's character design is very well done and had me wanting it featured more in the game.

Both competitive PvP and unlockable customizations seem to be the hook here. New character skins and AirMechs allow for each player to look and play differently. The monetization method appears to be nearly identical to League of Legends where you can play for in-game points or just pay real money to acquire unlockables. What you get for money isn't better; it's just different. Each Airmech has different strengths and weaknesses similar to League of Legends' various champions. The depth of unlockables is less in this case but it's to be expected considering the newness of the game and smaller development team.

My time with the AirMech Steam Beta definitely left a positive impression. I am terrible at real time strategy games but AirMech's genre blending gameplay allows me to have a fighting chance. I could easily see wasting  away many hours with friends battling back and forth, leveling up, and unlocking cool new upgrades along the way. Carbon Games has me very interested. If they can pump out some steady new content for the hardcore players at a reasonable pace like some big name MOBAs they may have a very big, sustainable hit on their hands.

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