Moonshot is a game by Pump Action Games set to release on Sunday, December 21st of 2015. You can buy it here. It went through the Steam greenlight process, being Okayed by Steam and the community after only 10 days on Steam greenlight. They made great time, with less than a month between the OK from Steam and their release date. I had an opportunity to play the game before release, and I can tell you that the developers really stayed true to their words with this one. I will cover the basics here, some pros and cons, and give my opinions towards the end. The game was made in Unity, and while at first glance it is a re-envisioning of Scorched earth in space, there is a surprising amount of depth to the mechanics. So, without further ado let's get into the real deal on this game; The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly as it were. Be on the lookout for red text, added after we were provided some new information by the developers!
As I said, the game was made in Unity and on the surface it doesn't seem like much, and in my opinion the graphics reflect this surface level the most. Certainly not bad, but if you are the type to buy games for their graphical prowess it is unlikely you are even looking into this game. But there is more to it than sheer pixel quantity. The art style is fun, and the graphics all appear clean and look as if they had good attention to detail (The tanks discard little shells behind them when after each shot they fire, so careful attention was definitely paid). The graphics fit very well, and in my opinion that is the most important piece of information when you're looking at a game's graphics. You could throw photo-realism quality graphics into any game, but if it isn't a game with a serious tone, I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice. Always choose an artistic style that coincides with the feeling of what your game has to offer; Moonshot knows exactly what it is, and Pump Action Games made the right choice. If I were to nit-pick one thing here, it would be the cores of the asteroids as you blow them away: sometimes they had an almost... fuzzy feel to them as I bombarded the tiny rocks with missiles.
The Audio is another area that fits well with the tone of the overall game. Once you are in-game, that is. The missile sounds, the background music, the thrusters, the supernovas and explosions all fit really well and seem to be clear, crisp, and well-made audio. The voiceovers also are strong quality, even if I can't figure out WHY or WHAT they meant most of the time. But that is another section altogether. I have only one complaint in their audio, but make no mistake it is not about quality. The song that plays at the main menu of the game is a kind of EDM/Dubstep song. I like this kind of music, it's the main genre I listen to. But It felt somewhat odd once I had the much more toned down background music in the game. Still, overall a very minor gripe and one that many may disagree with. the audio quality is very good, does not detract from the game at all.
Here we are: The meat and potatoes of any game review. Let's take our time here and cover the Basics of gameplay, and then break down what the developers have stated are "key features" on their steam store page for this game, and one by one I'll talk about if it is true, fully realized, and well executed.
Moonshot matches consist of up to four tanks on asteroids orbiting a sun on set paths. You are one of these tanks, and your job is to shoot the enemy tanks. Your shells are affected by the gravitational pull of the various orbiting bodies, as are you if you choose to engage thrusters or otherwise leave solid ground. If you are hit, your tank explodes and in most cases your pilot ejects and begins floating through space. You have very limited control of the pilot and again you are affected by gravitational pulls. If you manage to land on another asteroid before you get shot down, you get your tank back and you're back in business! In Deathmatch mode you get points for tank kills and more points for pilot kills. In Last Man Standing, only pilot deaths actually cause you to lose a life.
Play To Your Strengths
Do you crave the unexpected? You'll love the rover with its mobility and reflective pulse shield. Prefer to deliver death from above? Fire the thrusters and bomb your enemies while wowing them with arial acrobatics. Favor the brute force approach? Dig in with Siege mode and coat the cosmos in shells from the cover of a dome shield.
They hit all the bases really well here, and I can say that without a doubt they gave people a lot of options for how to play, again showing the depth belied by the games apparent simplicity. Your first time through you may never move, popping that dome shield and shelling your opponents from an asteroid orbiting the battlefield. The very next game you may spend more time flying through space and bombing your friends than you do on any asteroid surface. And best of all, you can do all of these things in one single game. You're not locking yourself into a play style from the start.
Supercharge Your Arsenal
Collect tiered weapon power ups to amp your arsenal and dominate the score boards.
While this is true, it was one of the more disappointing aspects of the game. The entire time I spent playing this game I only saw two power ups. I don't mean two collectible icons. I mean two different types of powerups, over and over: Homing missiles and a laser. What's worse, the homing missiles seem WAY better than the laser, and if you accidentally grab the laser when you have those sweet missiles, you lose the missiles. And that happens more often than you'd think. And you may be thinking "of course, that's what they mean by tiered weapon powerups!" only that isn't the case. If you collect two of the same powerup, you get... a double version. You shoot two lasers or two missiles instead of one. Which further exacerbates the issue of unbalanced powerups. The double laser is a marginal increase, if that. The double missiles is actually really good. And, once again, if you have a double powerup and you collect the other kind of powerup by mistake, you go back to level one of the new powerup. How they didn't include a shield powerup when they have a deflector shield in the game with timed use is beyond me. And just... only two powerups? It just seems like a bit of a disappointment. After speaking with the developers, I have been informed that they are addressing the imbalance in the lasers for the final build coming tomorrow. I for one am super excited to see what they do!
Bring Your Friends
Compete or collaborate in up to four player local party play.
First of all, absolutely you can have four people play locally. I don't know what they mean by collaborate, since the game is just about killing one another, but if you're working outside the game mechanics to make alliances and wheel and deal with your friends, then more power to you! This point is pretty much spot on.
Mix Up Modes
Switch up your gameplay with various modes including Deathmatch, Team Deathmatch, and Last Man Standing.
This was another big disappointment. While there are definitely Deathmatch and Last Man Standing game modes, I was completely unable to select a Team Deathmatch. I couldn't do it with bots, I couldn't do it when I had 3 players connected. There were only two game modes, and zero customization of those mods. No time selection on Deathmatch, no Lives selection on Last Man Standing. Can't turn powerups on or off. You can only select one of two modes, one of two levels, and the AI difficulty levels. Overall I felt that this could have been an area of improvement for them. While it doesn't make the game bad, it does severely hurt the replay value. The Developers have informed me that Team Deathmatch Mode had been disabled in the build I received due to a UI bug. Having a third option where people can team up against each other or against AI will definitely improve the quality of the game. There is also going to be a total of 4 levels at launch, not just the two more that I had access to.
Man vs Machine
Face off against a range of AI types that leverage their capabilities and unique play styles to push you to your limits.
They offer you three AI levels (Timid, Average, and Crackshot) and one of them cheats. I'll let you guess which. If you choose timid or average, it's pretty straightforward. You're selecting Easy or Average difficulty. If you select Crackshot, the NPCs suddenly no longer worry about the physics, a main mechanic of the game, when they take shots. The AI offers some degree of challenge, but regardless of what difficulty you pick your experience is extremely limited, as they never use Siege mode, rarely leave their asteroids, and don't do anything like trying to mess you up by blowing up your asteroid. I recognize that AI is a huge workload, but they could have really capitalized on their "range of AI types" claim by just making one type of AI that spends a lot of time flying around, or one type that goes into siege mode a lot. Instead, you get basic rover action on two levels, and a cheater on the third level. I have since been informed that the Crackshot AI does NOT in fact cheat. There is a charged shot mechanic that is fully available to the players as well, and they are going to update the controls page to display this. I honestly had no idea!
Keep your eyes open. Any misstep could cost you in these hazardous space battlegrounds. Asteroid belts, solar flares, and the deadly supernova will annihilate the unwary.
This one is spot on, and one of my favorite parts. If you shoot the central object (I assume its a sun) in either of the two maps, a cone of force shoots out on the opposite side, and destroys anyone in the area. If you hit an asteroid enough, you can reach the core and then blow it up completely, killing anyone on it. Every so often our little sun also goes supernova and kills anyone not on the far side of their little asteroid or otherwise shielded by debris. They did a good job realizing this aspect of their game.
This physics based tank shooter game is definitely a good one, and in terms of actual game play I don't have much to complain about. They missed the mark on a few things in terms of customization of matches, but once you're in game and playing there is a lot of fun to be had.
Hats off to Pump Action, in my entire time testing this game out I found only one minor visual bug. Sometimes my pilot, while flying through space and desperately trying to find land, would begin to bug out, and his leg would... extend across the screen. Not physically in terms of mechanics, because I still wouldn't touch land and get a tank back unless my ACTUAL body hit an asteroid. But visually, my leg wrapped around basically the whole screen. Pretty funny, and far from game breaking.
In my opinion, a game with no story element needs to have some kind of lasting draw to make a purchase justifiable. Is it insanely fun? Is there a competitive aspect to it? Something to keep me coming back to this game in particular. And in the case of Moonshot, it is there but not all that it could be. The AI leaves a lot to be desired after playing for any length of time. The game customization is abysmal, with only two game modes and two levels, nothing else to choose but whether or not you want your AI to cheat. However, all that would likely be irrelevant if you have friends to come and play with you. Friends add an infinite amount of replay value on their own, and Pump Action Games clearly plans on capitalizing on that with this release. I have also been told by the developers that there ARE plans for further updates outside launch day, including potentially game mode customization and, if I am not reading into their words too much, additional game modes altogether. Either way, very exciting for the future of Moonshot and Pump Action Games!
Who Should Buy This Game?
-People who enjoy funny, competitive games with explosions and destruction
-People who enjoy physics-based games
-People who have friends who would enjoy playing this game with them
Who Should Not Buy This Game?
Seriously I can't stress this enough, if you won't have anyone to play with locally this game will lose its luster very quickly. It's a fun, quirky and solid game overall but there is just not enough depth to game mode customization and AI to play on your own for long periods of time, and there is no online matchmaking component. This is not a title I can recommend to anyone who will expect to play this game solo.
Answering the tough questions like "Is it fun?" or "are there any bugs?" is no small task, even on a smaller games such as this. But after my time spent playing Moonshot I think I can safely say this is one of the more fun Indie games released in recent years, and by staying true to their vision they've done themselves and the gaming community at large a great service. This is the perfect part game, have a bunch of people over and load this up, hook it up to the TV and let people come and go, starting up a Deathmatch whenever and going to town. This game is good, and has places where it excels. But it isn't perfect and for some players it will leave a lot to be desired in terms of functionality. But the people it is made for will definitely appreciate having this addition to their party game arsenal. After some new information has come to light, I have no trouble giving this game a boost in it's rating, and I am even more positive about Moonshot. It will make a great addition to anyone's collection, and one of the definitive games for a party to have going on for casual play.