Gotta Love Gravity
A few years ago I decided to stop liking Angry Birds. It wasn’t a hard decision to make, I just thought that hurling persnickety poultry at trouble making hogs had become “old hat.” Despite that, I do have to admit that I really enjoyed Angry Birds in Space. That variation of the original game intrigued me as I shot birds at targets that could be manipulated by gravity. The game is simply too straight forward, though. We want a game that is designed to showcase gravitational warfare. Enter the universe of Worbital.
Team Jolly Roger has created a chaotic universe where it is no longer birds that are vying for supremacy with, but rather entire planets. This RTS-type puzzle/shooter presents players with the opportunity to obliterate hostile planets with massive military might and titanic technology. In other words, you get to use giant lasers. Pew, pew!
The developers were gracious enough to give me a copy of the game, and this is what I expereinced.
In a World Running Out of Resources
Worbital is primarily a PVP-centric title, but there is also a solo campaign with a rather generic, yet interesting narrative. The main story centers around three separate factions that are divided by their philosophies. They live on the same planet, and that world is slowly running low on resources. To combat this issue, the three factions agree to use ancient technology to inhabit other planets and exploit their resources. Of course, each faction has a different philosophy of what it means to survive.
The first faction, the Terrene, is a group that wishes to retain all of their traditions and practices even as they spread through the galaxy. The Lucid, which broke away from the Terrene, wish to use their military might to force their own philosophies upon hapless civilizations. Finally, the Celestia is a group of peace-loving colonists who seek to help the galaxy by ending all war, and they will not think twice about defending themselves if necessary. Each of these groups provides the framework for a surprisingly involved campaign mode that will prod you forward to see what will happen next.
The gameplay for Worbital is not unlike anything I have seen before; it is simply packaged differently. As you start a game, you are given a planet. On that planet, you must build weapons from the resources that you harvest from other planets and moons. The weapons come in a very wide variety of functions ranging from simple canons which can be influenced by gravity, to heavy lasers that fire in a straight beam at the target. Each unit has a build time and set number of hit points until destroyed. It’s typical RTS stuff.
The “curve” that this game throws in the gameplay is found in the orbit of the heavenly bodies themselves. Each weapon is placed on a specific side of the planet. As the planet rotates, the weapons rotate as well. That is where you will need to get creative with your shots. If the target is on the polar end of the planet, then a calculated shot using the gravitational fields of other planets in the solar system may need to be used in order to make a hit. This little detail can either drive players nuts or give them the adequate challenge that they are looking for.
The goal is to destroy the enemy planets. That is done through whittling away at the surface of each planet with your weapons until the planet’s core is exposed and struck. In this way, Worbital reminds me of a very nuanced version of the classic PC masterpiece, Worms. Each shot creates a circular crater where it struck. Naturally, some weapons leave larger craters than others.
Keeping it Simple, Making It Fun
Indie titles usually sport one of two extremes; they are either way too simple, or incredibly nuanced and complicated. Worbital does a good job of hitting that sweet middle spot that many games miss. The gameplay aligns with the standard RTS “build, wait, attack” formula that we all know and love, but adds the “trajectory shooter” mechanic that gives it a good twist. These simple mechanics, however, are masked by some annoying learning curves that come into the play when playing the CPU or other players.
The slow rotation of the planets force the players to wait for much longer than just the time it takes to create their weapons. Though the weapon catalog is massive in this game, most of them are only effective if they are on the correct side of the planet during a given rotation. This can be infuriating when going up against another player that just happens to be in the right place at the right time. Along with this, the keybindings can often be complicated. Timing the shots with the slow rotation and the odd placement of the keys creates more discomfort than a challenge.
Despite this, the strongest area of this game is the multiplayer. Worbital offers local and online play, as well as a “quick game” option. As you continue to play, you will receive more game points that can go towards weapon upgrades, as well as cosmetic items that allow you to give your commander and planet a unique look.
The Final Verdict
Worbital is one of those hidden gems on Steam that most people will not find unless they are looking for it. Really, that’s a shame. Its unique blend of RTS and trajectory gameplay provides an experience that most gamers will find challenging…and fun. There are some interface issues with key bindings and the annoyingly slow rotation of the planets. However, this is offset by the non-stop explosive action of multiple planets firing at each other in a single solar system. This game is a blast, and you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
With all of that said, I give Worbital 8.0 exploding planets out of 10. If you would like to try it for yourself, it is now available on Steam. Happy planet ‘sploding!
DVS Score: 8.0/10