This week, Bit Cultures had the opportunity to look at the upcoming game Abatron, which is coming to Kickstarter today.
Abatron combines classic real-time strategy gameplay with the ability to get your feet on the ground and participate in the action directly.
In the final game, each player will be able to control an army and a base from one of three factions. Players build structures, walls, and a number of combat units in order to defend their power core and wage war on enemy forces. Units move and behave differently, with distinct attacks that make each one suited to different situations. In a unique twist, players can enter Hero mode, which allow them to jump into individual units and control them up close. Here, the game plays similar to a first-person action game. Players can run around freely as their chosen unit, aiming their weapon and firing away, while also having access to special abilities. In this mode, creatures can gain experience, level up, and become more powerful.
Gameplay and Controls
Building and controlling structures is done with the mouse and follows the standard protocol for an RTS game. Different buildings produce different units, while spider-like drones are needed to build walls and make repairs. Walls are particularly useful, as each one can be outfitted with up to four attack turrets, which give you a significant defensive advantage when the enemy armies come knocking. Interestingly, walls and other structures can be built at a distance, allowing players to set up elaborate defense networks with lots of turrets.
Because Abatron is such an early build, it’s hard to predict which features will change and how many new ones will be added. There are only a few combat units in the current build, but they’re well-designed with unique capabilities. The RTS elements are solidly constructed, but they’re also based upon a formula that has already been used in dozens of titles dating back to the ’90s. That’s perfectly okay, but for Abatron to stand out and have a purpose for being, the developers must take full advantage of Hero mode. This is Abatron’s most important and riskiest feature. It needs to be fun to play, well-balanced, and integral to the experience. Otherwise, Abatron runs the risk of becoming a poor man’s StarCraft.
Abatron in the Future
Fortunately, the developers have been active every day, interacting with the community, fixing bugs, and doing a great job of keeping folks apprised of Abatron’s progress. I get the sense that they’re passionate about the project. It’s been well presented so far, with some awesome creature designs and a lot of upcoming features that gamers can be excited about.
I, too, was given an opportunity to experience Abatron. From the videos I had seen before testing the early preview out, I was hesitantly excited. Like most games attempting to break the genre mold, Abatron runs any number of risks and can potentially reap many rewards. As most gamers know, developers brave enough to attempt something unique and new generally fall into astounding successes or utter failures. Rare is the game that is average in this category. Remember, everything that I’ll discuss henceforth will be a work in progress; and, as Josh already mentioned, Abatron‘s developers W3 Studios have been active daily in making fixes and improving gameplay
Now, from what I’ve seen, Abatron has a great start filled with many immediate and potential roadblocks. I’ll speak about the negatives first because I don’t find them gamebreaking. My biggest issues with Abatron lie in its current state, which lacks much of a successful tutorial. The first time I fired up Abatron, I was greeted with an overwhelming situation with which I had to guess and use my RTS intuition to succeed. What Abatron essentially becomes is a micro-managing, base defense strategy game (at least in this early stage). And this is fine; unit construction and control makes logical sense once you figure it all out, and defending your base is an enjoyable task.
Abatron‘s successes lie in its third person action mode. The coolest and most unique feature of Abatron involves the ability to take over any one of your units and control it in a third person manner. This allows you to truly command your units and have them perform the way you intend. Games like StarCraft or Warhammer could be served better by following suit (they don’t necessarily need to have a per-unit 3PS schema like Abatron, but allowing users to control individual units with a more in-depth process would be beneficial for all, I believe). Unfortunately, in controlling your individual units, you’re yanked out of your ‘command’ mode. Sure, it’s easy to switch from individual unit to unit commander, but it’s also equally as easy to get lost in the entire experience. I often found my base under siege while I lollygagged around with a creature until it died (both my base and the creature).
With Abatron’s Kickstarter going live today, I really look forward to the continual updates and successes of Abatron. I think its third person action feature can sell the game, and it’s a feature that works surprisingly well for a game in its earliest stages. With time will come a better tutorial and, hopefully, a campaign mode (I have often found that too many indie RTS games lack enough players to breed a healthy online atmosphere). As the developers have already been active to date on updating the game, I am eager to see how they approach the campaign and future updates.
If you’re a fan of the RTS genre and have been itching for a new experience, Abatron might scratch that itch. Keep your eyes peeled, and, should this all sound like something you’re interested in, follow or fund the Kickstarter. If there’s one thing to be said about active developers, it’s that they make good on their Kickstarter promises.