Utopia 9- A Volatile Vacation is a 3Disometric shooter with rogue-like elements. It takes place in the future with a retro sci-fi feel. You play as a quirky little character, who is the most recent arrival to Utopia 9, which is a holiday resort. Things aren’t what you expected as you come face to face with hordes of space aliens. The game also introduces some interesting gameplay mechanics and unique features. The nemesis system adds unique enemies and allows the player to take revenge on the alien beings. This idea was used in the well received Shadow of Mordor game from WB and works well within this type of game.
When you crash down onto the planet, it instantly becomes clear that things have gone pear-shaped. Your character must make his way through a series of areas filled with mutants with guns, bombs and even briefcases. What makes the game truly challenging is the fact that when you die you have to start all over again from the beginning- much like a classic rogue-like game. The levels are procedurally generated, which is great as it adds to replayability and it keeps you on your toes. Utopia 9 is a full game experience that is always being improved upon. There will be no DLC packs, season passes or microtransactions. When you purchase the game you will get everything the game has to offer without any hidden costs. Its certainly refreshing to see a game that gives players everything from the start.
You have the ability to hold two weapons at the same time and another set for backup, which can be switched at any time. There is also a lot of loot collecting, especially items that are dropped when you kill enemies. The resources you collect throughout the game allow you to purchase mutation upgrades that give your character new abilities and interesting gameplay features. The controls are simple but effective, with movement using the W, A, S, D keys, the left mouse button is your primary weapon and right click is your secondary weapon. You can also switch weapons and loadouts using the Q and E keys. Spacebar is used to jump but you will find that you rarely need to use this during the game, apart from jumping up the occasional ledge. It would have been nice to have seen a bit more verticality and platforming throughout the levels.
The game is pretty challenging and I found that I died fairly frequently. Its very much based on rogue-like games and when you die you lose everything, including your weapons and mutations. You respawn back at the start where you crashed your ship. One unique idea about the game though is the fact that when you die one of the aliens that killed you will loot your corpse which will gain them experience and they will equip the items that you drop. If you decide to follow the same path as you did previously, you can attempt to take out the upgraded enemy and relinquish your previous experience and equipment. This reminded me of how Dark Souls and Bloodborne works, although being very different types of experience.
Utopia 9 doesn’t really have much of a story, but that’s ok as its more about the arcade like gameplay and simply having fun. The game is in early access and what I have played has certainly laid a strong foundation for a solid game. The game plays from an isometric view that controls well and the shooting feels satisfying. I found it vital to constantly move about, avoiding incoming fire and dodging attacks. There’s an element of timing and staying in cover to make sure you survive the waves of enemies. I would also say to keep your eyes out for explosive red barrels that can help to wipe out groups of aliens. You will find that you run out of ammo pretty quickly and need to be resourceful when making your way through each area. If you do run out of ammo though you do have melee weapons, such as wrenches and even briefcases. These can come in handy but they don't deal as much damage as some of the guns. I really enjoyed the variety of guns, especially the shotgun style ones. These are particularly helpful as they fire a wide spread range, meaning you can hit more than one enemy at once.
After I started to die a few times I was worried that the mutant aliens would start to become far more powerful than me because they were collecting my loot. This is true but can also work in your favour, as you can quickly upgrade your character and loadout by taking out just a couple of bad guys.
When starting out I thought that the game looked like it was going to be a walk in the park, maybe due to the colourful and playful presentation. That certainly wasn't the case though, as the game is actually one of the more challenging shooters I have played recently. You will find you will die a lot and this can become a little frustrating. What is good about the game though, is that if you die it feels fair and was almost always my carelessness that caused my demise. I found that a run would normally only last around 15 minutes, which might be more or less for other players depending on skill level. The game is great in the sense that you can jump in and play in short 20 minute bursts or play for much longer periods of time.
BUGS AND IMPROVEMENTS
Each time I restarted the game I lasted a little bit longer, which felt satisfying. The key is to scope out the area in front of you, use your equipment efficiently and make sure to constantly strafe. The game ran well for me, with the odd silly glitch like enemies getting stuck on walls. The game feels a little bit empty, but I’m sure that more can be added within the story. As I say, the game is in early access and can only be improved upon and polished. The develop team has stated that as they continue to improve the game, they are working on expanding the narrative to give more depth to the world and characters. They are adding new environments and new playable characters, that will have unique abilities and starting items. This would be great a help to give the game more replayability.
They have also been working on improving the enemy AI and have been implementing lots of new weapons and items to mess around with. The game currently has around 40 different items and they want to continue to add plenty more. It seems like they are certainly listening to player feedback and trying to improve the game as much as they can. They have now added the ability to create custom key bindings, controller support and leaderboards. These things all help to add variety and more reasons to jump back into the game.
The presentation of Utopia 9 is great, with tonnes of character, vibrant and colourful environments and quirky character design. The game has a similar cartoonish look similar to Plants Vs Zombies but from a top-down isometric viewpoint. The HUD and interfaces are well designed and easy to use and upgrading is simple and easy to jump into. The sound design is also really well suited to the overall look of the games. The arcade style music and electronical sound effects and guns sound great and help create a more immersive experience.
Overall I enjoyed my time with Utopia 9. I wish the game had more depth and a better and a fully fleshed out story but it has laid out a solid foundation for a strong game. The shooting feels great, it looks fantastic and offers a real challenge. You might find it frustrating at first, but if you stick with it you will get a grips with the mechanics and slowly start to progress further. I would have liked to have seen a bit more gameplay and enemy variation and possibly some character customisation but these are things that could possibly be added to the game. What's most important is that the game feels fun, looks great and offers a challenge. I'm excited to see how the game progresses and what improvements are being made. This is a solid shooter that's worth checking out.
PROS AND CONSPROS-
- Challenging gameplay
- A good variety of weapons and items to keep gameplay fresh
- The presentation looks fantastic
- Procedurally generated levels
- Most importantly the gameplay is fun and feels satisfying
- The occasional glitch
- The story is a little sparse but they are adding more to it
- Some players might find it repetitive and frustrating at times
After the review was done, there was a new big patch which could fix many of the issues. Check out the patch notes.
- OS: Windows XP+
- Processor: 2 GHz
- Memory: 1 GB RAM
- Graphics: 512 MB Memory, ATI HD5650 or better.
- Storage: 1 GB available space
- Additional Notes: Game may run on lower specs, but cannot be guaranteed.