By Michael Sagoe (mikedot)
When it comes to vehicle combat games, they’ve always been few and far between. With earlier games such as Carmagedoon and more recent title like Mad Max, it seems like this genre has been effectively inactive and out of the spotlight for a while. But the folks at Ascanio Entertainment are looking to make their own vehicle combat game with a unique twist known as “Crash Force.”
To quickly describe what kind of game Crash Force is, it’s like a cross between Wipeout and Twisted Metal, as players can pilot hovercrafts of death and destruction with an assortment of abilities and power ups, all while zipping past friends and foes at high speeds. And with a large assortment of different hovercrafts, weapons and skills, there’s tons of different ways players will be able to lay virtual waste to their opponents.
The folks at Ascanio Entertainment reached out to the folks here at OnRPG/MMOhuts to give the game a try while it was still in early access, and I was more the eager to give the game a test run.
To get players started, a very quick tutorial is included for players to learn about the basics of gameplay, including movement, gunplay and abilities. The first thing that pulled me into the tutorial was the nice sense of speed that players have when zipping around on their hovercraft. While it did take some time to get used to the lack of friction these crafts have, turning, hovering and boosting became second nature to me after a few minutes of just driving around freely. Of course, this was all done with the basic hovercraft, the Aquila Minuta, and from what I can tell prior to playing Crash Force for the first time, other vehicles may handle movement much differently.
Getting into the combat of Crash Force: players have access to a primary and secondary ranged weapon and melee attack. The two ranged weapons my craft has including a rifle and a flame cannon, both of which are projectile based. With opponents zipping and slipping around the map, players will have to lead their shots in advance in order to land multiple hits in a row, which is where a lot of the skill in battles will come into play. While your ranged weapons have a finite amount of ammo, melee attacks operate on a cooldown system, and a very long cooldown at that, so if you plan to get up close and personal with your enemies, you’ll have to make it count.
After getting through the tutorial, I met up with the dev team behind Crash Force and was given a crash course on all the features that the game has to offer. Their main goal for the game is to make an appeal to the eSports crowd with its fast paced gameplay, which may just be crazy enough to work since there isn’t many eSports based around vehicle combat. Whether or not this idea pans out remains to be seen, but as it stands, I think it’s a great idea to pursue. As we discuss their plans for the game, the devs quickly mention their main influences for the game being titles like Twisted Metal and Wipeout, which I can completely agree with given how fast the game can be at times. They also mention the amount of customization that the game has to offer, both in terms of gameplay and cosmetics, with a handful of upgrades and sidegrades that you can unlock, along with a handful of different preset hovercraft decals and sprays.
They also go on to mention the skill tree system that allows you to fine tune your hovercraft under three categories (Attack, Defense and Utility). Personally while I thought the idea of having skill trees could be interesting, allowing two of the same hovercrafts to play differently, I had my doubts about how well this can be balanced out for a competitive scene, with fears that one craft’s build could overpower other’s builds. The way I see it, elements like raw stats and RNG can work in a competitive games, but they should try to minimize statistical advantages and disadvantages as much as possible so skill remains a deciding factor. With any hopes that this game does take off, they’ll balance and re-balancing accordingly.
Now that all that stuff is finally out of the way, it was time to get into some action against some devs and players, free for all style. Sticking to what I already knew, my craft was Aquilia Minuta which was a balanced craft for offense, defensive and evasive maneuvers. As I jump into the fray, my main tactic was to try and pick off any enemies that were low on health and go with hit and run tactics. For a while this worked before my opponents got wise to me. They cut me down during a key moment of battle to knock me back from the head of the pack. Still, my ability to get in and out of combat with a mix of smart boosts and teleports with the Aquilla Minuta proved to be effective.
The main setback I had during matches was my overuse of skills and energy. Since abilities have very hefty cooldowns and rely on an energy meter cost, I was constantly without any escapes or ways of bolstering my offensive power. Even worse, once all your energy is depleted, my movement becomes severely limited, leaving me wide open for attack. Needless to say, due to my errors, I lost the match by a pretty wide margin.
Next match was set up to be a very special team deathmatch affair, which the devs mentioned was likely to be their main attraction when it comes to competition. Like with certain popular team-based games out today, certain hovercrafts are tailored towards the “Holy Trinity” of Tank, DPS and Support. While each craft can hold their own, players can combine their abilities together. As cool as that sounds, I kind of wondered how well that would work out in practice due to the game’s pacing. Coordinating with your holy trinity in normal competitive games is one thing, but doing so while slipping and sliding around a course as sickening speeds is an entirely new beast.
Regardless, I and my team was ready to go in with guns blazing. As I expected, coordination wasn’t really in our game plan. My team and I mostly focused on piling up on one of our two opponents at a time in an attempt to take them down as soon as possible. With this match, I decided to try out a different craft called the Clava Myotis, a rather interesting ship with a vampire bat theme. Using abilities such as screeching that paralyzes enemy ships, a close range attack that steals health and a sonar to detect enemies behind walls, it was based way more on hitting and running than my previous craft was. I was able to make good use of it by stunning enemies, hitting them with both a melee and vampire attack before fleeing the battle zone.
Overall my time spent playing Crash Force was very positive, as the gameplay was very fast and exciting. My only real concerns that I could see the game having is a lack of game mode variety and hovercraft balance down the line with skill trees. Other than that I think that Ascanio Entertainment could shape this game into something special.