Viewing the trailer for Garrison: Archangel for the first time, I was pumped. This sort of rock ’em-sock ’em beat ’em up game involving robots flying around in the air, shooting each other with rockets and missiles, really brings out the inner child in me. Being familiar with the concept of battle robots, fighting games, and customization, it spoke to me on a level few games ever really can… initially. I was determined to get this game for myself.
With a few hours under my belt, there’s a certain underwhelming quality to this game that rears its ugly head only by the sake of my own gaming preferences, though that isn’t to say I had no issues with the technical merits of the game, as well. While the game covers all the basics, it has a lot to make up for in order to become a fully realized gaming experience.
Garrison: Archangel is available for Early Access via Steam for your regional pricing.
Herein lies my biggest gripe with the game in its current form: it has no story. It has no context, no reason to care; not even an attempt to produce some backstory to anything. True, should there be any sort of story to this, a game most prevalent in its straightforward mission of making robots and shipping them off to the fighting grounds? Probably not. While this can be justified, what cannot is how empty the game is at present, with the only available game modes being an Arcade Mode where the player faces off against computers, an Online Mode to face other players, and a Garage where the player can customize their robots for battle. Even within those few hours playing this, the unsettling feeling of boredom already began to creep in.
Perhaps some sort of story context would help in this case, as while many games like this don’t offer in-depth narratives that sweep the player through the escapades of fiction, they at least give them a goal to accomplish or something to work towards. Garrison: Archangel is legitimately just building robots and fighting with them; it has the inherent replayability akin to playing with toy robots in real life.
When no story is present to serve as a crutch, the gameplay becomes paramount to a game’s success. Garrison: Archangel has its issues, but otherwise receives passable marks in most gameplay categories. The aspect of fighting robots is, indeed, fast-paced and fun. A lot of strategizing comes into play when fighting robots with different assortments of weapons and statistical strengths and weaknesses. I personally prefer fighting with a sword and shield, but that’s just my love of medieval fantasy speaking. Battles can be a little frustrating, unfortunately. Most times, especially when hovering above the opponent, I struggle to get my robot in a position to better myself for future attacks, as the camera becomes confused as to whether I should be facing my opponent or hovering over it, leaving time for it to recover and counterattack. Otherwise, I’ve found through personal experience that hammering a single button works to defeat a computer more often than varietizing attacks. It remains the best part of the game, despite my own grievances.
In terms of customization, which is another thing I was very much looking forward to, the coloring and naming capabilities are incredibly on-point. What falls short of expectations is the number of robo-parts and weapons available. Creating three different robots, I found myself overlapping on more than a few occasions. The urge to diversify came purely through experimentation. Aside from some implementation of narrative context or goal-setting, the next biggest addition Garrison: Archangel needs to work on is either providing more parts or rewarding new parts for clearing particular modes or conditions. One of their selling points is the number of customizable parts in place to design one’s robot. I didn’t realize that included every substantial body part, weapons, sub-weapons, and boosters all together.
Customizing is nevertheless very fun for what’s available. The basic pleasures of coloring your robot in bright colors that match into a satisfying mix of artistic sublime or epic tone. Naming your robot something that means something to you, whether seriously or humorously. Making one robot focus on a basic offense-defense combination, while another has low defensive capabilities but incredible firepower. Limited space doesn’t take away from the possibilities of variety with the robots’ statistical merits. Just don’t make more than five.
Within Garrison: Archangel, there are a grand number of statistics windows that showcase a robot’s ability in various outlets. There’s the standard health gauge and attack power, another that measures how easily the player’s robot goes down, a weight condition that (I believe) slows down the robot and reduces firepower, and finally a movement adjustment gauge. All of these are adjusted to the parts one chooses for their robot, with the common sense that bigger parts will provide more health but lower speed, and vice versa, etc. Much like with Soul Calibur IV‘s Create-a-Character Mode, every part has a specific stat layout, so if you like the stat boost yet think the part itself is super ugly, you’re out of luck. The pain of being aesthetically-minded.
Graphics & Audio
What also works well for the customization aspect of Garrison: Archangel is the fact that the robot parts look really cool. Not all of course, but most have just enough robotic appeal to make the irritating aesthetically-challenged moments quell to a minimum. Otherwise, the battles are typically pretty easy to distinguish and the general look of the game seems pretty professional despite such a small studio. Nice details such as the glow of the robots’ exhaust pipes, the color of their weapon-fire, and after-images are all attuned to the color palette assigned to them, which is really cool. Part of the appeal to the fast-paced action of battles is the explosiveness of lasers and missiles and explosions, all of which do enough to make the battles enticing when the computer isn’t destroying you.
Sound and its quality are also pretty decent. If I have any complaints, it’s that the general music attributed to each menu or battle or whatever else hinges a little too slightly on the repetitive note. Most tracks loop the same ten-second beats over and over with little differentiation. Not all get to the point where I want to cut them off completely, but the memorability of these tracks end up strengthening not from appeal, but through looping. I particularly like the theme that plays during the main menu screen—I only wish there was some better variety of music which instills a more calming presence of mind (which would go great with a somber backstory, guys!). There was one time when I went into a certain menu and the music stopped altogether, but it never occurred after that one time.
It’s not always as easy as ready, aim, fire. At this time, there are many things about Garrison: Archangel that leave players wanting more. With the time and dedication to swelling the content to a worthwhile collection of balanced battling, this could end up being a truly worthwhile game. That is if, and only if, the developers at Indigo Entertainment are up to the challenge of turning this game from a straightforward one-on-one fighter to either the very same except with a full arsenal of weaponry and game modes, or an immersive experience provided by narrative empowerment. Whatever the future may hold, I believe they can do it. They made it this far, why not shoot
at for the moon, too?