Thursday, 09 May 2019 05:27

Volcanoids Early Access Review

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Edited by: Chiara Burns

This Early Access title, from namesake developer Volcanoid, immediately impresses with its interesting and well-featured steampunk elements. Since it’s still in development, it doesn’t always live up to the visually appealing first impression, but it’s not all bad either — there is a lot of potential here.

The first thing a new player notices about Volcanoids is that the survival title relies heavily on steampunk aesthetics. In a world filled with zombie survival titles, stranded-in-the-jungle survival titles, and post-apocalypse survival titles, this is a breath of fresh air, especially since the attention to detail here is quite intriguing from the get-go.

The premise is relatively simple but it has potential. After an erupting volcano drove the citizens of an island away, a team of explorers is back to reclaim their home. The player is part of this crew and is immediately given a drillship that allows underground travel.

Dig deeper…

Generally speaking, travel happens either by foot or by drillship. The latter digs deep underground and then resurfaces at one of several predefined points on the map. Above ground, the player can walk around and collect different resources, craft things, and more. Underground, the drillship is very limited in functionality, so coming back up is absolutely necessary.

There is just one problem with that: the volcano. Every few minutes, depending on the difficulty setting, the volcano erupts. To survive, the player must dig underground and wait it out. Being above ground means certain death — this limits the player in how far they can stray from their base, and it also means that certain actions and crafting tasks have to be thoughtfully timed to avoid accidental death by lava.

Learning the ropes, sailor!

We are introduced to the island and drillship by the gruff Captain who also occasionally radios us in order to give tasks and quests. He leads us through part of the tutorial as well. During this, we learn how to craft a few things to repair and enhance our ship, but not much else. The jarring and sudden end of the tutorial leaves the player confused: While we learn how to fix the ship, we don’t know anything about what exactly we are supposed to do, or how we are supposed to go about it.

Figuring things out as you go is the only option here, but this doesn’t necessarily come easy. There’s a lot to learn. Our steampunk drillship is customizable, with dozens of components that can be crafted, placed, repaired, damaged, and turned on and off. Although we learn the basics of that, we aren’t even taught how to use our gun — our only defense against the native robots that aren’t so keen on the new arrivals.

A good start, but…

The first twenty or so minutes of Volcanoids are a great experience. We go and mine resources, we create a few walls for our ships, and even extend it a little, but at that point, content drops off significantly. Though we can explore part of the map at our leisure, and there are things to interact with, shooting the same few enemy character models and exploring monotonous forest-y environments gets boring quite quickly.

This is, of course, not unusual for an Early Access game, but it is still a disappointment after the strong start that is Volcanoids’ first few minutes. Visually speaking, there is a lot of potential here, too. While textures could be more detailed, the steampunk atmosphere and the cleverly crafted elements do make for an immersive experience. There is little variety in the above-ground environments, though it is interesting to see the devastation caused by the continuous volcano eruptions. Still, trekking around in search of more ore deposits isn’t very compelling.


The Verdict: Good

With more things to do around the map, clear guidance through the storyline and quests, and perhaps a more comprehensive tutorial, Volcanoids could turn out to be a star on the stage of survival titles. Until then, it’ll mostly appeal to hardcore steampunk fans and players who have already played every other survival title out there.

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Mel Hawthorne

Mel is a London-based copywriter that has been writing about video games for a few years now. After growing up in Vienna, Austria she followed her dreams and moved to London. Said dreams took her through a few different jobs (which included working as a web developer, shopkeeper and translator) before she settled on what she really wanted to do – periodically anger video game fans by expressing her opinions on games through various online publications. When she’s not writing about video games, she’s probably playing them... or walking her dog in a park. Since that depends largely on the English weather, Mel has plenty of time to indulge in her favourite games. These include but are not limited to Ark: Survival Evolved, Skyrim, GTA V, and oddly enough, Amnesia: Memories. She loves Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. She thinks Star Trek is way better than Star Wars and isn’t afraid to admit it – Live long and prosper!