An interesting game has fallen before us this day. It comes from the long-working, lovingly crafted hands of Payload Studios, headed by Russell Clarke, a man who has a lot of experience making awesome things explode. With the Payload Studios team’s various badges of honor, we were certain that a whole bag of goodness was about to be opened.
Even in the early stages, we weren’t wrong. TerraTech has all the basics of a satisfying strategy and building game already in motion. The early beta of the game has a few basic modes available: a standard new game to enter into a tutorial / battle combination, challenges and R&D Test Chamber.
The first mode is a fairly straightforward situation in which it walks you through movement, assembly and the handling of combat with your tech. It doesn’t overstay its welcome and drives straight to the point, which is quite nice to see in a tutorial. Plus, you can’t go wrong with “pew pew pew” noises while throwing down.
Challenges mode features three choices: racing challenge, flying challenge and sumo showdown. These options are, again, very to the point. The controls show themselves off a good bit more than in the current standard game mode, and the player is given a bit more freedom. The strategic implementations also begin to come into play in these various modes, especially in the flying challenge. The sumo showdown is just a lot of fun in and of itself – being very reminiscent of the old Robot Wars show; it’s extremely satisfying.
Even in beta, TerraTech also offers players the options of loading a vehicle from the community, connecting to your Twitter account and accessing vehicles that are built in certain modes or just from the game itself. We feel this will open TerraTech up to a true community of building enthusiasts, eager to build some monstrous robots to smash together. The short of it is that these challenges offer a lot of diversity early on, with several modes available for racing, the option of versus and a community in the making.
The important thing here is the ease of control. The downfall of many vehicle-based games is that the developers gave said vehicles all sorts of things that players hate: ice momentum, wonky controls and the inclination to suddenly hurtle off cliffs at the tap of a button. Payload Studios shows its credentials in how the tech handles here. It is smooth, responsive and makes it easy to focus on the strategic vantage point of your vehicle, rather than watching it haplessly crash. Turns are easy to execute, steering is never a chore nor arthritis-inducing, and the overall manner in which both the keyboard and the controller support is mapped and plays handles well.
TerraTech is also unique in how it presents its environments. They are exceptionally friendly and open to players, with sleek, stylised and simple colors and designs. Visually, they are easy on the eyes, but don’t succumb to the sometimes listless, bland environments of strategy games. The simple colors and overall look of TerraTech gives the game a feel that’s not far off from gleefully playing with Legos. We got a few war flashbacks from smashing our Lego cars and tanks into each other and the final screeches of the T-Rex invaders.
Ahem, that aside, TerraTech does have a nice, casual feel to it but uses its weight towards solid mechanics and gameplay that does require strategic thought to keep you from becoming totally uninvolved. The R&D Test Chamber was a favorite mode here. Its pillars of floating parts were sent the way of Frankenstein’s monster while we concocted the most ridiculous vehicles imaginable before tearing them down and restarting. The mere thought of how expansive these options may become as the game gets closer to fruition really has us excited. The attention to detail in the building element to TerraTech is both fun and greatly appreciated by all the mad scientists here at Power Up Gaming.
As mentioned earlier, we do enjoy a good session of chanting “pew, pew, pew!” in tune with lasers being fired, though it’s very hard for a game to implement that sound scheme in a way that makes it sound fun rather than annoying. Mercifully, here, it is fun. The sound effects for all of the combat and even just for the movement of the vehicles themselves are very cartoonish and lively. Coupled with the somber, Western-sounding background music that whisks across the title, we were left smiling within a few minutes of playing. Sometimes, an odd sound scheme with outlandish sound effects can ruin the atmosphere of a game, but in TerraTech, it adds this almost delightfully epic quality to how the title feels.
TerraTech is still learning to walk at this stage of development, but it certainly has the basics down already, and shows promise for what it might deliver once its big-boy wheels are finally on. It could easily build a dedicated community on the premise of the R&D Test Chamber options alone – but we feel the gameplay will keep casual gamers, strategy fans and mad scientists looking forward to its eventual release.