By Tyler Lubben / July 28th, 2014
Early Access games are always a curious beast to tackle. On one hand, you get to try out a title before its full release, meaning you don’t have to wait as long while it develops its way to completion. On the other hand, people are being charged actual money for what could end up being, at best, a glorified demo or, at worst, a glitchy mess. On a third, alien hand jutting out of my chest, DieselStörmers is a game that also enjoyed a successful Kickstarter campaign, so many of the people playing it right now were quite literally sold on it long before they even had a copy in their hands – all on its concept alone. Of course, a concept is one thing, but, now that we have a working product, how does DieselStörmers perform in its actual execution?
I had almost no idea what DieselStörmers was before sitting down with it. I heard rumblings about it among the other folks at oprainfall, but never really looked into it myself. So, yes, I went into this completely fresh. DieselStörmers is a 2D run ‘n’ gun title that drops players in a world where a mysterious substance known as “Goop,” once thought to be an edible miracle fuel, has begun transforming the people who ingest it into horrific Orks. As a new recruit of the DieselStörmers, it is your job to… well… go out and blow away anything that moves to liberate the city of Ravensdale in a series of randomized missions. As, at this point at least, that’s the extent of the story, most of what I can say about the game is going to come chiefly from the gameplay, so let’s have at it.
At its most basic, DieselStörmers feels just right. Movement controls are tight, with your character running and jumping with no annoying acceleration or sliding to damper the process. Pushing any of the four cardinal directions while right-clicking will also allow your character to perform a quick dash up, down, forward or backward. This also doubles as a charge attack to defeat or knock away oncoming enemies. After jumping, players can hold the Space Bar to activate their jet pack to hover for a short time. All weapons appear to be automatic, so all you have to do is hold the Left Mouse button to endlessly fire your gun. It’s good that these controls are so responsive, because, with everything that gets thrown at you, you’re going to need to be at the top of your game to come out on top.
Unfortunately, DieselStörmers is not simply a platformer, and it was when the shooting started that I began noticing problems in the gameplay. It could just be that the guns I have to choose from aren’t that impressive, but everything I used seemed like little more than a peashooter. There was no punch to my attacks – neither from my weapon nor from the enemies that were hit by them. Aside from enemies experiencing small flashes of red when hit, it didn’t feel like I was doing much damage. After taking enough hits, they would just fall over. Additionally, while the game doesn’t have a huge variety of enemies to throw at you right now – just three main types of standard enemies with color variations – they make up for it with sheer quantity. As such, the game can get a little… busy as you take down the advancing hordes. In a game with such hectic firefights, being able to aim properly is a necessity. Imagine my frustration when, on multiple occasions, I lost track of mouse cursor while trying to gun down the monsters out for my blood. When killer Orks are coming from all directions, it’s incredibly important to be able to know where you’re shooting. A tiny white arrow simply isn’t going to cut it in a game as chaotic and visually impressive as this. Black Forest Games would do well to include a proper reticule that pops out of the screen and is easier to follow than a standard cursor.
Of course, as I just mentioned, the only reason the lack of a proper aiming reticule is such a problem is because the game looks absolutely fantastic. It’s an interesting dynamic that Black Forest Games went with for the setting. Your character is an awesome-looking ironclad soldier who almost seems like he belongs in Warhammer 40K rather than a medieval steampunk universe. Meanwhile, you’re fighting overly cartoony Orks and Goblins with outlandish features like long noses and giant tusks that just make them look sillier. Not only that, but the effects are quite impressive, too. Explosions, flame effects and the way enemies melt into Goop after being defeated are all incredibly well animated. I think the environments steal the show, though. Almost immediately after starting my first mission, I was struck with how detailed the game world was. Despite the fact that characters only move on a 2D plain, the world itself is fully 3D. I don’t really know what I was expecting, but the streets of Ravensdale look amazing as you battle through waves of enemies. It would have been easy enough to take the lazy route and cover the background with buildings, but the dev team went all out and made 3D streets, alleys and houses that really bring the world to life. My only lamentation is that you only see one level type in the Early Access version, so I’m eager to see where else the game may take me as I travel deeper into the city.
Maybe my problem with the game’s guns is that I simply haven’t found the weapon that works for me yet – this being the other main draw of the game. DieselStörmers touts a robust crafting system, wherein players can build, customize and upgrade their own firearms with materials they find in treasure chests and earn as quest rewards. Guns are made of three different parts: frames, engines and barrels. These can be used to increase your damage and firing rate, as well as changing what kind of projectiles you fire. Customizing character armor will be possible later, but this feature has not yet been implemented. On top of this, players also have a meter during missions that, when filled, can be used to activate an Overdrive Mode. This not only grants temporary invincibility, but also increases your firepower with a handy Death Beam. There will apparently be different types of Overdrive Modes from which to choose, but the Death Beam is the only one available right now. That’s fine by me, as it more than got the job done when I needed to take down bosses and other groups of enemies.
At this stage, there are only three different mission types for players to tackle – reach the end of a stage, defeat a specific group of enemies or destroy an elite enemy Mech. It may seem boring, but missions are available randomly at the selection screen. Additionally, every time players begin a mission, the game space is procedurally generated, meaning that the areas you explore, what types of enemies you fight and where will be different every time you head out. Honestly, though, I’m hoping for a bit more variety in the final product. While each mission can have different outcomes, it all really comes down to what you fight at the end; be it nothing, a group of enemies or one big enemy.
However, I did find it interesting how the elite Mech can have different body parts whenever you run into it. Much like your own ability to craft different weapons, certain enemies can also change their arsenal between one mission and the next. The elite mech can have any selection of weapons – from explosive bombs to linear death rays – and different body parts like standard feet or tank treads. Orks can also change their loadouts, from slinging globs of Goop to lobbing grenades to firing a spread shot. Some will forego weapons completely and just rush you with fists flailing. It just goes to show that you never know what you’re going to come up on next during a mission.
DieselStörmers also features different elements that players can take advantage of during missions, though, at this early stage, only Fire and Goop are available. Fire is pretty self-explanatory; doing damage over time to players and enemies who come in contact with it. Goop, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to do any actual damage, but characters who walk through puddles or get covered in it will suffer a significant speed penalty for a short time. These elements can also be used in tandem. Fire can be used to ignite puddles of Goop, while Goop can also be used to put out fires. This is already on top of your standard action game staples like exploding barrels and force field generators, so there are plenty of implements to help you complete missions aside from simply shooting your way through.
While the single player mode is just fine, DieselStörmers also features both local and online co-op modes. However, co-op here is more than simply re-tooling the regular game to allow for more shooting carnage. I mean, that’s still present, but co-op allows for the use of something that simply isn’t possible when going it alone – the Arc Connector. This ball of electricity is tethered to the player, and targets various enemies and points of interest as they explore. In single player, it can be used to slingshot oneself to normally unreachable areas with a push of the Shift key, but in co-op, it has another use. DieselStörmers favors ingenuity when playing multiplayer, so it rewards those who use all the tools available to them, rather than just blindly shooting at everything. In co-op, the Arc Connector – as you may have guessed from the name – can be used by multiple players. Combining their individual Connectors allows players to unlock more powerful attacks, such as electrocuting strong enemies or creating giant life forms made of Goop to help them fight. It isn’t something I was able to experience myself, but the pictures that the devs included certainly look impressive.
As it stands now, DieselStörmers looks promising. Clearly, Black Forest Games has the design and core gameplay elements down to a science. All they really need is to make a couple tweaks here and there to help streamline the processes of aiming and combat, as well as continue to deliver the additional promised content in the future. I’d also like to see what kind of story is included with the single player mode as things develop, as it’s certainly an interesting premise. Keep an eye out for the full review once the team works all the kinks out. Check it out for yourself on Steam if my little preview has piqued your curiosity.
black forest gamesDIESELSTORMERSImpressions