There are two types of people in this world: Those who would absolutely love to pilot a giant mecha if given the opportunity, and liars. However, have you ever thought of the toll in human life having such war machines would take? If you mixed Gundam with a story similar to, though not quite as good as Spec Ops: The Line, you would have Project Nimbus by GameCrafter Team. Honestly, all you need for a successful mecha game is fun combat in giant robots and boom, you're good. All else is secondary. What I was not expecting from Project Nimbus was one of the most intriguing and political stories I've ever played. It's a short game, but its definitely worth a look if you're a fan of science fiction action.
After the third world war, the surface of the earth was rendered uninhabitable. The wealthiest cities payed to have their cities suspended in the air. Several factions have arisen in the wake of this destruction, including coalitions of several of the surviving nations, including the Americans and Russians, a paramilitary group called Mithril, and a terrorist group called the Children of Fallen Nations. You play as several pilots piloting several different mecha frames and going into increasingly dubious moral territory as the game slowly makes you aware that those little green blips you're shooting down are actually thinking feeling people under orders just like you. What I like most about this story, and there is a lot to like about the story, is that there isn't really a true bad guy. Even the terrorists, which are usually the enemies you don't need to rationalize or empathize with when the Nazis aren't historically viable, have an identifiable backstory. They're understandably mad at those rich guys for going into floating cities while they left the poor and working classes on the flooded and polluted surface. You can't tell me that you wouldn't even consider an armed rebellion in light of that. I'm treading carefully here because I don't want to spoil anything. I wouldn't say the story plumbs the emotional depths as something like Spec Ops: The Line, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't get at least a little choked up at points.
I will say that occasionally the story is a touch heavy handed. Not all the time, but there are a lot of anime speeches and sometimes it even feels a little meta with how it bashes in how much of a monster you are. There is even one level where you enter the grief-addled subconscious of one of your protagonists, which was a good thought but I feel that level went on a tad too long. To its credit though, that is the only part of the game with visual storytelling, the rest is dialogue between or during missions. I can't fault it on that though because I know that the Eastern stories are very, for lack of a better word, talky. It's just a cultural difference, and the story is intriguing enough to keep me as an ignorant Westerner riveted despite the storytelling method being a bit different.
Fast Paced? Oh yeah…
The controls for the mechs are smooth and easy to grasp, yet difficult to master. I will say that this game is best played with a mouse with extra buttons to map your numbers to, because everything moves so quickly I cannot recommend moving your hands from their positions to switch through your weapons. This is one of those games where if you stay too still, you will die. The game does give you plenty of time to get used to the controls too, there are several world building levels in the beginning that double as tutorials that help you get used to how everything controls, which is good because it does take a bit of getting used to. You move so quickly, you kind of need to get used to how to maneuver around without juts diving into your enemies. The controls are great for the usual dogfighting, but when you get to a few parts where you need a bit more precise movement or when you're in an enclosed area, it starts to become a bit harder. Usually such tight quarters are best suited for cover-based combat, but you just wind up in the open in a room full of guns aimed right at you, where the cramped space really gets in the way of your maneuverability. Thankfully that doesn't happen a lot, but when it will make you want to yank out your teeth to alleviate the frustration.
I wouldn't put this at any of the Souls games in difficulty, but it is a bit jarring how quickly this game goes from hand holding to throwing you against squads of coordinated ace pilots quite suddenly. I just played the game on the "Gamer Recommended" setting, which had the perfect level of difficulty. It gave me a good challenge without being too frustrating. Well…for the most part. There were a few that got on my nerves. One level towards the end of the game was completely doable after a few tries, but after every death I had to go through a slow bootup of my pilot's battleframe. The only other one that I hated was a dogfight against a certain character in which her frame moves faster than yours, her weapons seem to have no cooldown, my weapons kept breaking my lock on her, and she kept flying into the sunlight so I couldn't see where I was. So basically I would play about two minutes before I got completely disoriented and I got shot down by her drones which should not come off of her cooldown that quickly. Luckily, if you have a hard time you can always go to the menu and change the difficulty or just skip that level. You have all the levels unlocked from the beginning, so you may miss out on story but you never have to finish any levels that really frustrate you.
But what is there to do after? Well, there's the survival mode. Pick a frame, then it'll plop you somewhere over the ocean with no apparent strategic value and it will throw enemies at you until you die. This is competently done, it puts you in the position with the most potential for your controls and just tells you to go to town. Though I could have gone for maybe a bit more scenery, maybe some mountains or a city or something. Nothing super extravagant, just enough to alleviate the monotony of just ocean. In spite of that, I did enjoy a few rounds in survival. I wouldn't call it the most fun I've ever had but I think it was okay. It's something to do for an hour or two after beating the story before moving on. I don't see myself returning to the survival mode all that much, but it will keep your attention for a little bit.
Graphics and audio
This game looks gorgeous. All of the mech designs were distinct and looked freaking awesome. No two looked exactly alike, and when I went through the list of mechs in survival mode I could just find which ones I remembered and loved playing rather than needing to go by the make and model number. My personal favorite one as far as design was the huge red one with the ion cannon built into its back. I do take some issues with the graphics though, mainly in that I swear this game was directed by Stephen Spielberg with all the lens flare. There were times there was so much going on and suddenly I accidentally panned my camera to a bright light source and I completely lost my groove. So humanity can figure out how to make flying death robots but not anti-glare windshields? The game does helpfully include an option to enter slow motion and tells you what projectiles are incoming, but when there's so much going on: missiles flying at you, everyone around you firing at the enemies, drones around you, and your interface beeping at you that your armor is low, it's easy to forget that the slow down option is there.
The audio was serviceable. None of the sound effects got annoying and the music was perfectly fine. Nothing to write home about. The best part of the audio is the voice actors. They just throw their all into the performances and man does it show. There were one or two I did get mixed up with one another, I would have appreciated a name with the subtitles to help me connect to the characters a bit better, especially when pretty much all you have of the character is their disembodied voice.
If you like anime and high-speed dogfights, this is definitely a game to check out, but you may need a tissue box on hand for a part or two. The writers and voice actors definitely threw their all into the story, and the developers and designers made sure the combat is gorgeous to behold, if a bit confusing at times. Would I call it an amazing game? Probably not, the lack of endgame content and the occasional frustrating level design keep me from declaring it an essential buy. But is it good? Oh yeah. For it's price it's a gorgeous flight around a creative world with lovable characters. It certainly has its less-than ideal qualities and I'm not about to be diverting conversations to it reliably until my friends disown me, but I would say that if you see it on sale or maybe even if you don't, it may be good to look at if you're a fan of action, adventure, and anime.
|+ Great story||– Controls only work well in open spaces|
|+ Fun, fast-paced combat||– Story can be a bit heavy handed|
|+ Gorgeous graphics||– No compelling postgame|