Publisher: MastHead Studios
Developer: MastHead Studios
Category: MMO third-person shooter
Guns and Robots (or GAR, as the game’s community likes to call it), is a web-based free-to-play MMO by MastHead Studios featuring robot building and scrapyard combat and is currently undergoing an open beta testing phase. The game basically boils down to two different components: building robots from spare parts and engines and waging all out war against other users’ junkyard creations. Building your robot has a very Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts feel to it, where you’ll get to experiment with different frames and an arsenal of wacky weapons to find that perfect combination to suit your robot mood. But what’s weird about the robot customization mechanics is that they feel very segmented at times, often requiring multiple steps that could have easily been combined into a single, more cohesive building interface.
For instance, you’ll first need to build 3 separate modules for chassis, body and weapons designs. After this, you’ll be brought to a separate screen in the garage, where you’ll then have to assemble all the modules you just created, on top of choosing a head for your robot. Granted, the system’s a bit convoluted when it didn’t necessarily have to be, but it’s still pretty easy to navigate through the garage and build some gnarly looking fighters, all while a chicken pecks at the dirt around you. There’s also a cool robot testing feature, where you’ll be able to try out your new creations in an underground training area before taking them out on the battlefield. All of this is painstakingly explained to you in a longwinded tutorial with no option to skip or even speed up the voiceover’s talking. The first thing I wrote down in my notes was “Nice, easy to follow conversational tutorial.” But those words were quickly covered in spaceship doodles as I sat and waited for the instructional handholding to END.
So now we move to the second half of Guns and Robots: the online arena combat. The game’s controls take an extremely barebones approach, with the directional buttons to move, the left and right mouse buttons to fire your two weapons and a few number keys that put your weapons away to avoid depleting your ammo and affecting the durability of your guns. They’re simple but effective, even though I frantically kept tapping the space bar to get my robot to jump to no avail. What’s strange though, given the game’s excessive robot building tutorial, is that there is virtually no explanation of the game’s battling components; and honestly, they sure could have used one, because the actual gunplay and player-on-player confrontations are extremely subpar.
But before I tell you why the game just falls apart once you actually start to play it, let me first explain the best part about Guns and Robots: the level maps. Each map is completely brought to life by beautiful 3D cartoon-style graphics and the environments are colorful, quirky and bright. My favorite is easily the western-themed High Noon map, which takes place in the center of a dusty cowboy town and the surrounding areas. Each level has a great sense of depth and verticality to it, which encourages players to explore the area with their robots and find little secrets or hidden positions. For instance, in High Noon you’ll get to enter the saloon and roll up to the rooftops; which is just a few yards away from where you’re able to descend into the underground prospector’s mines.
There’s also a humorous bending of genres at play in Guns and Robots, as if you look hard enough in High Noon, you’ll find a crashed U.F.O. that you can roll into and an alien friendly on one of the rooftops. The destructible environments also have a great physical aspect to them, as you can blast stationary objects like pumpkins just for fun and blow up huge crates of dynamite for a very explosive statement. The Suburbia setting is just as engaging, as you maneuver your robot around sunny streets and neighborhood swimming pools. It’s just a great design choice and provides the perfect balance between your rusty looking robots and theses rich (and unlikely!) Americana battle locations. The music and sound effects are also top notch and add to this atmosphere immensely.
And that’s why it’s such a shame that the online portions of this MMO are lacking. Online game lobbies are virtually nonexistent and you’ll simply be thrown into whatever match is currently available, with no foreseeable parameters like match type or map selection. In fact, I was forced to play the same High Noon map a good ten times in a row; plowed through the same single-kill team death match scenario over and over again; and surprisingly saw very little else. I don’t care how awesome the environments are: give me more variety! I just wish I could have chosen what map I wanted to play or a different match type (if there even is another game mode?). I also saw a few people complaining in-game about the leveling-up system in Guns and Robots, as there are really no perks or advantages to gaining experience right now and as a result, virtually no incentive for players to do so.
But the most ridiculous thing I encountered in Guns and Robots occurred when my character’s wheels broke down at the end of a battle and rendered me immobile. When this happens, you’re basically a sitting duck for the other robots to blast you into bits of scrap metal. But here’s the real kicker: another player’s wheels stopped working at the same time as mine and JUST around the corner from my robot’s position. We were the last two contenders left in the arena and since neither of us could move or reach the other one with our bullets, we literally had to sit there for 4 MINUTES while the game clock ran down and the match ended in a draw. Why the match simply didn’t end in a draw once the two of us were out of commission is simply beyond me and even for a beta release, this is a laughable programming choice.
Since Guns and Robots is a free-to-play browser game, you’re probably waiting to hear how the developers will get you with those in-app purchases, right? Well most of your in-game currency will be spent on restocking your ammo and repairing your robot after each fight. It would probably be cheaper to keep building new robots from spare parts than to keep repairing the same one after every, single arena. The game actually advises you to conserve your ammo as well, so you only have to buy more when you absolutely need it. Uh, isn’t this supposed to be an all-out shooter here? I want to be able to fire on all cylinders whether I’m hitting something or not and not have to worry about being penalized for actually doing so. You’ll also get to quickly part with your hard-earned credits by visiting the Guns and Robots store, where you can buy new parts and weapons for your robots: some of which seem insanely expensive at first glance. When you run out of credits (which you will), you can buy more with real money in $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 increments.
While Guns and Robots is still a nice idea at heart, the engaging environments and interesting customization features couldn’t save this one from a poor execution, which leaves the experience just feeling really unpolished and far from finished. This game is going to need a serious facelift in the weeks ahead to survive (and I’m not just talking about the different faces you can put on your robots).
Story – 6/10
Graphics – 8/10
Gameplay – 5/10