By Michael Sagoe (mikedot)
Indie game studio CyberStep, a company who is best known for their colorful and customizable games has just launched their newest title, Cosmic League into open beta. This anime-inspired mecha action shooter is a sequel to CyberStep’s original title, Cosmic Break, but with a new storyline, improved visuals and gameplay. Now it’s been awhile since I touched a CyberStep game, and despite some issues I’ve had with their services in the past, I’ve always been fond of their philosophy of making games with near infinite customization to be somewhat intriguing, so I was willing to give it a try.
First off, tri-faction war scheme of the original Cosmic Break game is no longer present in the sequel, and instead has been replaced with a new story about mechanized warriors gathering together for a galaxy-wide battle to compete for the Cosmic Piece, a special material that is known to grant one wish. Despite me being okay with the fairly generic story, the removal of faction battles was one of my favorite aspects of the original Cosmic Break both in terms of storyline and gameplay, so it was rather disappointing to see it removed.
Improving on the available mecha options from the original game, Cosmic League makes the jump from four class types to six, including Assault, Panzer, Aerial, Buster, Fortress and Jammer, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and specialties. When starting out, players can choose between an Assault, Panzer and Buster cosmoloid and unlock more as they progress. Itching to get up close and personal with my opponents, I decided to go with the Panzer class which specializes in melee and close quarters combat.
After a short video introduction, I was dropped into a tutorial which detailed all the basics for combat. For anyone that has played Cosmic Break before, the controls will be instantly familiar to them, as the control scheme is virtually the same as before.
As the panzer type cosmoloid Lunastasia, I’m equipped with a short range machine gun and a huge greatsword for slashing enemies. Switching between gun play and melee combat was very quick and easy, as both weapons were mapped to the LMB and RMB buttons, along with a special boost ability mapped to the Shift key which can be used to fly over short gaps or for closing the distance on enemies.
The tutorial only took a few minutes to complete and soon after, I was dumped into the game’s town hub, which felt very reminiscent of the old player lobbies from Phantasy Star Online. It also helped that the game’s visual style and music are very similar to PSO, as well.
Speaking of visual style: The graphics for Cosmic League are a noticeable step up from its predecessor, as the game is sporting a brand new in-house engine from CyberStep. Character models have been massively increased on their polygon counts, allowing for more details along with other modern graphical enhancements such as anti-aliasing, reflections, bloom and more.
After wandering around the town hub for a while, I decided to queue up for a few matches using the match finder, which separates players into three main leagues: Rookie, Prime and Master. Starting off in the Rookie League, I found myself paired with a few other newbie players along with a few bots to even things out. A single match in Cosmic League is set up in a similar fashion to its predecessor: Each team has a set number of battle points at the start of a match, and the first team to deplete their opponent’s battle points will be declared the winner. The game also adds in objectives such as towers that must be defended, along with depleting battle points in order to encourage strategic play.
Also to note: Players can choose up to three or more Cosmoloids (depending on the match ranking) to bring into battle, and just like with Cosmic Break, they each have a set amount of battle points depending on their equipment. Characters that are very powerful and decked up with high quality gear will cost more battle points upon death, so it’s recommended that unless you’re a really skilled player or playing with a very coordinated team, bringing an ultra-powerful mech to a pub battle may not be the best of ideas.
Regardless, most of my battles were up against bots, so taking down my enemies wasn’t much of a hassle. It’s already been said before, but the combat in Cosmic League felt a lot like the combat in Cosmic Break. Perhaps a bit too much, because after a few matches played, I personally would say that the overall gameplay does not feel like a step up from its predecessor, which may hurt the game’s lasting appeal.
Of course, one could say that a sequel doesn’t need to improve on its gameplay formula as long as it adds more of the same, but the thing is that Cosmic League seems to have less going for it in terms of overall features. As mentioned before, the whole faction battle system of the previous title is gone, but so is Comic Break’s arcade style mission mode, as well as the quest mode which allowed players to explore the world with other players in an open map similar to a modern MMORPG. In its place, there are a few single player challenges that players can complete to earn special rewards, but they felt more like training exercises to prepare players for live competition more than anything else
Still, one thing that has been left intact from Cosmic Break is the stellar robot customization system, and it works almost the same as before. Players can collect fully built cosmoloids, as well as cosmoloid parts that can be used to tweak and customize your mechas. With so many pieces available to mix and match, it’s quite easy to make your own unique robot for battle. You can even repaint them with more distinct color schemes to make them stand out from the crowd. The moe mecha girls, however, mainly benefit from weapon customization and only a few changeable parts unlike the traditional robots. Obviously because putting a dainty robot girl’s head on top of a bulky monster mech would be nothing but a horrific sight, and that’s so NOT moe.
With all that said, my time spent trying out Cosmic League left a lot to be desired. The missing co-op modes from original Cosmic Break seemed to be nowhere in sight, along with the combat, despite being enjoyable, felt too similar to the original without making any great strides to push the series (or mecha shooter genre) forward. I haven’t even gotten into one other aspect of the game which is the game’s monetization, but I figured I’d save that for a full review.
If you’re interested in trying out Cosmic League for yourself, feel free to download now from the official Cosmic League homepage. Cosmic Break’s official launch is currently set for December 10th, 2015.