Auto Assault PC Review
Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a bit like Marmite…you either love them or hate them, and there’s very little middle ground. No, I haven’t gone mad, think about it for a moment. Marmite does not come in a choice of flavours, you either like the malty taste or you don’t. This is the same with MMORPGs, which are all very similar to play despite appearing different on the surface. Of course, some are better than others, but the premise doesn’t vary much. Take a character, accept missions, level up, accept harder missions, it’s a tried and tested formula that works but is also feeling a little staid.
Occasionally, a developer will come along and will dare to try something a little different. It’s a gamble, for sure, but it could pay off handsomely if the gaming public warm to the idea. NetDevil tell us that they have tried something different, they have added a little garlic to the marmite, so to speak, and that should make their product stand out as original. Well, is it a taste combination that works, or is it the gaming equivalent of deep frying Mars Bars in batter? I’ve spent the last couple of weeks finding out, so read on.
The story behind Auto Assault is actually quite complex but ultimately not essential to play the game. I am not going to delve into that here, save to direct you to the official site where a wealth of information awaits you in their History of Auto Assault (see here). For the purposes of this review, it is suffice to say that we are in a Mad Max stlye post-apocolyptic world where it’s every man/woman/mutant/biomek for themselves.
On starting the game, you will be presented with the character creation process. This is the first major difference you will notice to your standard MMORPG. Yes, you have to create your alternate persona but the options here are quite limited. Then the fun begins, as you are asked to create and kit out your online means of transportation. The options here are anything but limited and it is possible to spend hours tweaking your vehicle to get it just how you want it. You will have a choice of 3 different factions for your alternate life, these being the humans, the mutants and the biomeks. Each faction has four different classes to choose from, and although they are called different things for each faction, they play roughly the same role. You have a warrior, an engineer, a mastermind and a stealth character. Different vehicles are available for each class, and further widen the feeling of variety present in the game.
After creating your character, you will be given a short tutorial on how to play the game. In truth, this is nowhere near enough to get you feeling comfortable with getting around the game world, as the controls are really very complex. It took me a good 3 to 4 hours before I would say I was anything like au fait with the wealth of options open to me. The game does support gamepads, but this is not recommended. Sure, it will all feel a little easier at first, but unless you have a gamepad with a gazillion buttons, you will not be able to master the game like that. You will constantly be performing some kind of gaming gymnastics, trying to use the gamepad whilst also hitting buttons on the keyboard, and you will die….quickly. Far better to persevere with the keyboard controls which, when learned, give you much easier access to all the essential controls.
The structure of the game is, despite the surface differences, much like any other MMORPG. You will travel around the game world looking for non playing characters (NPCs) who have quests to give you. These are easily identifiable by a beam of light emanating from them. If they aren’t lit, they have no quest, simple as that. As you undertake quests, you will realise that almost everything in the gameworld can be destroyed. Far from wanton destruction, though, this is actually worthwhile as each item will give up goodies for you. These can then be either repaired or made into other items by combining them with something else. This crafting system in the game is again incredibly in depth and will take a few hours tinkering with to feel happy with.
The map system is all very helpful whilst playing, clearly showing you the direction to go to complete a quest, and then when completed, showing you the way back to the NPC who gave you the quest in the first place. You will never feel lost, and that is quite an accomplishment in a game world of this size. One aspect of the game that has received mixed reactions is the death system. Put simply, there is no real punishment for dying. You will simply be returned to the last repair station you visited and fully repaired for free. For a cost, you can choose for the repair vehicle to come to you, making it all the easier to continue. Some may say that this makes the game more accessible, others that it then lacks any incentive not to die. I’m undecided as yet, but have been glad of the implemented system on more than one occasion!
As you are completing quests and generally killing anything that moves, it will dawn on you just how good the game looks. It really is a beautiful game, especially for the majority of the game when you will be in your vehicle. When on foot in towns, it doesn’t look quite as good, but it’s still a great looking game. This is down to it’s utilisation of the Havok 2 physics engine. This comes at a hardware cost, though. To appreciate the game looking at its best will need a hefty PC. The minimum specs are quite low, but the game will, frankly, look very average. To get full eye candy at a playable frame rate, you’ll need something like a 2.5ghz CPU, a gigabyte of fast memory and a good video card with 256 meg of video memory. I wouldn’t try and turn up the options on anything less than a Geforce 6800GT 256 meg or equivalent.
The audio in the game is also impressive, with epic sounding soundtracks which change for each area. Weapon effects are suitably meaty, as are the sounds of the many explosions you will hear. The music can be a little repetitive if you linger in one area too long, but that’s a minor gripe and my guess is that you will be happy to leave the sound on when playing.
Auto Assault is a lengthy game, even if just playing through the single player quest. It will take upwards of 20 hours to complete all quests and missions, and that’s before we look at the games multiplayer component. The multiplayer is excellent, the only downside to this being the relatively low population of the game servers. Find a good number of people to play with, though, and it’s a blast. Whether it will be good enough to keep you paying the monthly fee is another thing, as there is absolutely no content that can be played offline.
Overall, this is a brave attempt to shake up the MMORPG world, although underneath a lot of the surface differences, it still adheres quite closely to the general structure of the other games. It is, though, a very enjoyable game despite a pretty steep learning curve. It is very addictive in nature, and a welcome change from the more common lands of fairies, elves and dragons. It’s not an essential purchase yet, and is unlikely to convert you to online gaming if you are not already that way inclined. However, a couple of good expansion packs, and a few more online players, and this could be up there with the best of the genre like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. Whether it ever reaches those heady heights is now down to NetDevil!