Monday, 20 March 2017 00:00

SKIPCHASER Early Access Review

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Beginning with a modest entry to a Ludum Dare challenge, SKIPCHASER is an up-and-coming narrative-driven, sci-fi, roguelike shooter from the developers at Ponywolf.  SKIPCHASER presents the tried-and-true premise of a wasteland ruled by bandits and mutants.  You are a trigger-happy bounty hunter that will mow down any given gang of baddies, provided that the price is right.  You'll find that your guns are your most faithful companions as you look to scrounge a measly living amongst many violent exchanges of bullets and explosions.

The main attraction to this title is the weapon crafting.

Whether they're long or short, fast or slow, weak or strong; you acquaint yourself with all types of guns.  SKIPCHASER's way of gunsmithing is most comparable to patch-working a Frankenstein monster: you take the disembodied remains of different wholes and combine them to create a destructive amalgamation.  Different parts will essentially modify basic stats, such as fire rate, damage, and accuracy.  And of course, there’s the possibility of mix-and-matching different elemental types which are specifically effective against various types of enemies.  What’s great about this system is that it has the potential for in-depth customization with a wide range of combinations.  Each gun blueprint leaves room for the arrangement of about five different components that you can interchange to fit your personal preferences or to meet the needs of a particular dungeon or enemy type.  But, while there does seem to be the workings of a brilliant mechanic stirring up here, too much is left to be desired in the remaining facets of the title.

Combat is mildly satisfying and devoid of intense, adrenaline-pumping engagement: it’s pretty much your run-of-the-mill alternation between shooting and juking; pump some enemies with a flurry of bullets and back up or take cover, just to repeat the cycle.  This is mostly because of unexcitable AI.  Some enemies will trudge at you from a distance, and you must shoot them down so that they may unenthusiastically fall, meters before you.  Others enemies can actually return fire, but it’s a simple matter of avoiding the linear path of a projectile. The bosses are no different.  I found that spamming both your guns and grenades at long range was an easy trick to take down what was supposed to be the toughest foe of an area.  Other props you’ll find are explosive barrels  - rarely useful - and landmines - easily avoided.  The only thing that might prove a threat is the actually intuitive overheat mechanic that renders your weapons useless when you hold the fire button down for too long.  Otherwise, combat is lackluster and not the vibe expected of a renegade space bounty-hunter.

That said, a lot of the game isn't finished.

While story directs progression, the plot is currently under development.  As of now, there are only five missions from the first act, so the world has not been fully built, and dialogue may seem both scarce and vague.  There is also a current lack of in-depth optimization regarding graphics and sound, in fact, SKIPCHASER currently lacks a proper pause menu.  While enemies are procedurally generated to create the possibility of thousands of visual combinations, there are still only four classes of different foes to fight, leaving room to add more types and expand combat variety in dungeons.

However, although not optimized, the visuals and music are still pretty good.  You have a simple and clean aesthetic based on a luminescent collusion of basic polygon shapes.  The palette and lighting effects give off a trippy, spacey feel and adapt well to the theme of sci-fi.  As for the soundtrack, you have a nice handful of calm and relaxing electronic tunes.  It’s the kind of music that you could chill to as you drift through an endless starry oblivion - if you weren’t constantly engaged in firefights within the abandonments of a foreign galaxy.


The Verdict

Currently, while the gun crafting system is promising, there are many aspects of this title that are obviously unfinished or unrefined.  But, after all, SKIPCHASER is an Early Access title.  In fact, at the menu screen, a disclaimer makes this announcement.  There is plenty of time for the developers to flesh out the groundwork they have laid, which at present, may seem bare and unelaborate, but by no means lacks potential.  Overall, in its current state of infancy, SKIPCHASER might not provide instant gratification, but rather a hopeful investment for when it’s finished.

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James Huynh

James Huynh is a college student pursuing a degree, and is also an avid gamer.  He enjoys all types of games, but he is particularly interested in the indie genre.  James has a profound appreciation for geek culture and loves to waste time playing League of Legends and Overwatch with his friends.