Steampunk games are criminally rare these days, and it’s a shame because the genre allows for some great gaming worlds, rich with lore and atmosphere. Volcanoids is one of those few games, and we got a chance to play the game in it’s recently released co-op update. Does Volcanoids manage to drill it’s way to the top of the saturated survival genre? Or does it sink under the weight of its rusty mechanics?
Volcanoids is set in a strange and exotic land of Adranos, which used to be a prosperous town teeming with trade and life before a volcanic eruption drove it’s citizens away. Now you, a brave volunteer along with a crew of other NPCs or players set out on an expedition to investigate the mysterious occurrences. On your adventures you will get to pilot and control your very own drillship, and uncover that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to these volcanic eruptions.
Like any other survival game, the story here is very barebones, although the developers have promised to expand on it later on. There are a couple of missions that get you started on your journey, teaching you the ropes and introducing you to the various gameplay mechanics but that’s pretty much it.
The gameplay loop of Volcanoids is very basic. You start off the game collecting materials and crafting items on the submarine, slowly upgrading your way to end game. The newly added co-op feature allows you to invite 3 of your buddies to come along on your adventure. Quests are completely synchronized within the crew, so everyone can take part in managing the drillship systems, fighting COGs, or gathering resources. Weirdly there’s no option for sharing resources, which should have been a priority for a game that’s focused on resource gathering and managing but hopefully the developers will be adding it in soon. Your crew can also pilot only one drillship but that’s being expanded on in a future release.
Speaking of drillships, you can steal one from the mechanical enemy COGs. Piloting these drillships is sadly not a very interactive affair. You select your destination from a 2D map and then watch your drillship work its way there. You can install modules into this drillship to make it into a mobile home, and add in that custom touch. The modules you can add are storage, crafting, refinery, powerplant, turret, and research. Each of the modules serves a particular purpose and you will have to decide which modules takes priority.
Another interesting concept is the active volcano. Displayed on the top corner of your screen is a timer that counts down till an eruption. If the volcano erupts and you are above ground, you will die. On the other hand if you manage to survive, all resource nodes will be replenished. This mechanic gives the game a much needed sense of tension and forces you to manage your time and resource runs. Thankfully, with friends these resource runs can get more manageable since you can divide the work amongst yourselves.
Visually the game is okay. I’ve seen prettier games and even on maxed-out settings the game looks a bit washed out and bland. On top of that, on weaker systems the game is not that well optimized and there are a couple of stutters here and there. The game requires a lot of work on the technical front, and it’s evident even in the settings. You cannot enable Full textures in the options if you have a video card with less than 4GB VRAM. It’s fine that they want to prevent further stutters by preventing your GPU from streaming in more textures than it can handle but this should be a player choice. The game looks like it’s out of the late 2000s on half textures and it ruins a lot of the immersion seeing poor low-quality textures everywhere.
The UI is not at all cluttered and fits the theme very well and there’s a very handy in game guidebook to keep you informed about the various aspects of the game.
Something that the game absolutely nails however is the aesthetics. The game looks and plays out very faithfully to how we envision a steampunk game about drillships would feel but it’s sad that the art direction is hampered by the technical limitations this game faces.
Volcanoids is as of this moment a skeleton. It has the makings of a very promising and good game but there’s a lot of work to be done here. There is an intriguing story with interesting lore here but it’s very barebones. The gameplay loop is basic and solid but at the same time lacks enough content to retain players for a long time. The visuals of this game nail the aesthetics but the game requires some work on the technical front.
So should you buy this game? The short answer is yes if you have a bunch of friends who are into drillships and steampunk games. The gameplay loop might be very repetitive but it’s great for co-op. If you are going in for the solo experience, you might wanna hold back your hopes. Things can get very grindy and monotonous.