Whilst growing up I’ve always had a fascination with robots, watching the TV with amazement at how advanced they would be in the future, they would be able to talk and simulate human life. Now, not all of those things have come true as of yet, but what we can say is that computers and robotics have advanced humanity to the next level. They are capable of performing a ridiculous number of jobs. When it comes to risking human life in dangerous situations, or unreachable places, then the decision is usually made to send in our robotic counterparts. This theory is what forms the gameplay for Bit Golem’s latest endeavour Robot Squad Simulator X. Published by Ultimate Games, this title has you controlling 4 different types of machine to complete levels and protect human lives.
As you load into the game, you will note that you are thrust immediately into the action. The tutorial has 6 main missions, and a number of submissions to complete. During this time you will learn about the 4 different vehicles that you can command; a bomb disposal unit, a spy bot, a drone, and a submarine. Each share a number of key features, as well as having their own unique skills that are essential to finish any of the tasks that they are sent to complete. You will also learn how to upgrade and buy new equipment, but most importantly, you will become familiar with how to move and control the infuriatingly fiddly robots. Once the tutorial is completed, you will be free to take on the main missions, though you must complete each in order, so that you can proceed.
The action varies from support roles, to all out espionage, and hunting for bombs. At first I felt that the tasks were exciting and quite unique. I found that this soon wore off, and actually it was replaced with a sense of frustration, and wanting. The robots themselves were really quite clumsy and tough to use, the mixture of camera views and limited movement made a number of jobs feel impossible. The ability to pick up items was restricted as you couldn’t rotate the grabbing claw, if you happened to knock the target item over, you were left with two options; to struggle to pick it up, or restart at the last checkpoint, where you would wait for the inevitable failure again. Whenever you were asked to disarm a bomb you’d think, this should be a nerve wracking experience, it really wasn’t. Apparently bomb disposal is as simple as cutting one wire, or at its hardest, trying to cut a wire that is entwined with others. This was extremely disheartening. No adventure, danger, or reward. I desperately wanted more. All the missions felt the same, which was cold and clinical. You could have easily sent in humans, as the risk to the robots was slim to none.
As you complete each goal you earn 2 different currencies; money and medals. The cash is used to upgrade the equipment, whereas the medals allows you to buy new gear. The new equipment is essential, it is linked to mission requirements, so without it your game progress will stall. What I was a bit confused with was the upgrading system. It made absolutely no difference, it didn’t make tasks easier, nor were you advised how it was supposed to help. It was a strange gameplay mechanic that was lost on me unfortunately.
The graphical presentation, and the view in which the action takes place are both pretty good for the most part. You have the option to observe from both the 1st and 3rd person perspectives, this was intended to help the player complete the more intricate tasks, unfortunately this wasn’t the case. The 1st person view made it very difficult to judge distance, I crashed into objects no end of times, for me the 3rd person view was definitely the way to go. The detailing on the robots was great, this was also true of the animation of the arms and the tools. It was smooth and looked realistic. I didn’t note any graphical glitches which was quite impressive as most of the stages were quite vast, with lots of things going on.
The music choice in this title is very dramatic, it somehow reminded me of the score of the TV series Lost. The deep minor tones tried to add a sense of despair and panic, if the gameplay felt more rushed and time critical, then the audio would have worked perfectly. The sound effects fade into the background, but are effective and match the action well. The audio would have been very good for this game if other elements were stronger, but as it is, the emotion that is created is at odds with what is playing out on the screen in front of you.
As you can probably imagine from my comments, I’m certainly not a massive fan of the controls. The navigational element works well, and is reasonably accurate, however, the use of the robotic functions are loose and fiddly. The simplistic nature of the grabbing arm was done to ensure that the controls were easy and quick to pick up, but this seriously limits the usefulness of the character, and makes completing tasks very challenging. I feel that the developers had a great opportunity to make something in depth and interesting, but they decided to play it safe, just to avoid over complicating the matter. I think that this choice backfired, and will potentially put a number of gamers off.
Robot Squad Simulator X consists of approximately 22 levels to complete, this does include the tutorial. Each stage takes approximately 10 to 15 minutes, and allowing for a number of restarts due to errors, then I’d say you are looking at approximately 10 to 15 hours of game time. This will be extended if you try to find the 2 secret collectables in each level. Achievements are earned through natural progression, so no grinding out results is required. With each mission consisting of set goals, and the action not really changing, I would see this being a complete once and put to bed sort of title. It’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just has a limited replay factor. This could easily be enhanced with either DLC, or a multiplayer mode.
Though I found the tasks to be quite repetitive, and the controls to be frustrating and not advanced enough for my liking, I did enjoy playing this. The developers really could have created a game that was fraught with danger and suspense. They could have easily integrated elements of the puzzle genre when tackling bomb disposal, and tracking intel in the espionage missions. An option for simplistic and advance controls could have been implemented to add a more mature and intricate approach to operating the robots, but this opportunity was missed. If you wipe these thoughts from your mind, and take the game on face value, then you will enjoy an unusual twist on a unique genre. For me however, its with a heavy heart I say its a game of what ifs, and maybes. Do you fancy saving the world and solving problems from the safety of your own room? If yes is the answer, then get your robots and controller, and stay safe while they solve all the problems for you.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Robot Squad Simulator X Review
Gameplay - 6/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 4/10
A fun but shallow Robot simulation game. Control one of 4 different robots and solve all the dangerous problems from the safety of your own room.
- The music works well to create an ominous atmosphere.
- An in depth tutorial ensures you know all the gameplay mechanics.
- The controls are too simple, and won’t challenge hardcore gamers.
- The missions become repetitive quickly.
- The Robots are clumsy, and can be infuriating to use.