By Gabriele Giorgi, Onrpg writer
There was a time when cartoons showed giant robots defending Earth from invaders: they called their powers out loud, had infinite ammo and were one of a kind. Then came Gundam: serial product, limited energy, numbered ammo. A new generation of robots was born: mechanical warriors, or, in a word, mechs. With Exteel, NCSoft gives us the chance to pilot one of these steel giants and battle other robots in classic scenarios like deathmatch or capture the flag. Will you be up to the challenge?
So you want to be a pilot
The first time you load the game, an exhaustive tutorial will teach you everything you need to know in order to move around and fight with your mech. The controls are really simple and effective, and you will master them in no time. Aside from usual WASD movement (with the addition of double pressing or using shift for a boost - for a limited time) and spacebar to jump, you will use the mouse to view around, while both buttons are needed to shoot, since each one of them controls the weapon of one of the arms. This is particularly important in the game, since after a short while, your weapons will overheat, forcing you to stop firing or to switch them to the other set you carry (with the R key). Lastly, numbers from 1 to 5 are used to activate skills you might want to buy.
After explaining how to move, the tutorial will cover the different kinds of weapons. Submachine guns and rifles are for ranged combat, but you might also go melee and use a blade with a shield to block incoming bullets and blows; you might also opt for a cannon, slow but able to deliver a great amount of damage in a small area. And the good thing is that you can combine these weapons any way you want.
Now that you have learned the basics, with just one hand on the keyboard and the other on your mouse, you are ready to lead your mech into battle as a real pilot.
Let the battle begin
In Exteel, you are connected to a network of players and you can fight against them or at their side.
There are five available scenarios, competitive or cooperative, or a mixture of both.
Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch are pretty self-explanatory: one versus all or team versus team.
Territory Control and Capture the Flag are team versus team scenarios where you have to occupy enemy markers or take the flag from your opponents territory and bring it to your own.
Last Stand is the only PvE scenario in Exteel, a pretty repetitive setting where you and your team-mates have to prevent an army of enemy mechs from occupying sensitive areas in your base as they assault it wave after wave.
As usual in this type of network, you can choose the game you want to join, but you have also a useful Quick Join button that will launch you directly into an open match in progress. Of course you can also create a game of your choice (selecting map, duration, etc.) and start it as soon as other players join. Theres even a funny option allowing you to play with Super Deformed robots!
Maps are visually appealing and full of details, including billboards advertising other NCSoft games. On the other hand, they are quite simple: there are no real places to hide, and the players will keep on clashing in a fast-paced fray. While this is undoubtedly good for an action game like that, it has some drawbacks, like the lack of a real strategy (you will always end up attacking with ranged weapons and switching to blade when closing in) or of the sniper role.
So your best bet is to charge headfirst and try to take down as many opponents as you can before they might do the same to you. The more times you die, they longer it will take to respawn and its all wasted time, of course. You will also need to be moving all the time (even in unpredictable patterns and jumping) to avoid getting locked and hit by opponents.
At the end of the appointed time, a result screen will appear, and you will be awarded experience points and credits, based on your performance.
As usual in these action games, you will need a good ping rate (the lower the better), otherwise you might see opponents vanishing into thin air and popping up a short distance away. Anyway, these issues are quite rare, and usually do not hamper the gaming experience.
Make your own mech
One of the most interesting features of Exteel as you advance in level is the possibility to have different robots: you can purchase a pre-assembled mech or you might try a bit of DIY, buying components and assembling them to match your fighting style (quickness, manoeuvrability, sturdiness) and, why not, to appeal to your eye.
Mech parts can be acquired with credits or NCcoins (currency you can buy from NCSoft: a common practice for Free-to-Play games); some of them will cost less, but will only last for a limited time. The permanent parts have no expiration date, but they will be damaged during battles and will need to be repaired (or replaced).
You can use any combination of parts as you see fit, and you can also buy paint to really differentiate your mech from the others. When you get a certain colour, it will be added to your palette for unlimited use.
Other useful perks are skills. Again, they come with a time limit, but they can be really helpful during battles, and even fun to watch, since they trigger an animation when you activate them. Some are also linked to a particular weapon combination, like for example dual-wield blades, blade and gun, blade and shield and so on: all the possibilities are covered.
And lets not forget about yourself well, the pilot: advancing in rank, you receive points to spend on abilities that will enhance speed, sensor reading, marksmanship, etc.
So, what else? Well, just give a cool name to your mech and go out there to fight. And dont forget the social side: there is a friend list you can build up, and you can also join a clan or even start a new one.
Exteel wont certainly be the game of your life, but it can be a most welcome break from any other MMORPG you are playing. If you havent got much time to spend online, just load Exteel and enter a match: you will be up for a nice session of fast-paced action and after all its free, so you can get back to it whenever you feel like it.
- game controls effective and easy to master
- fast-paced action in quick scenarios
- build and paint your mech according to your liking
- maps are quite small and simple
- no real strategy is used during battles
- PvP only (there is just one PvE scenario and its not very appealing)