In my experience as a former comic and game store owner, there are- broadly speaking- two kinds of gamers in the market.
The first are the “monogamists.” These are gamers whose majority gaming experience is with a single game. Magic: the Gathering players very often fall into this category, often identifying more as a “person who plays Magic” than a “person who plays tabletop games.” Many (but far from all) RPG aficionados might also fall into this category.
The other are what I’d call “natural gamers.” These players enjoy the art and craft of gaming beyond just a single game. That could range from someone who simply has several games in their home, all the way up to the aspiring game designer and beyond. Diversity is the watchword here, not just in the actual games themselves, but often in the game types (tabletop skirmish, Euro worker placement, living card game, deckbuilder, and on and on…).
In the virtual realm, I’ve found myself to be something of a cross between the two. I generally have had a “main game” I spend the bulk of my game time playing (War Robots, to the surprise of none), but then I’ll have a handful of others I’ll keep on my phone when I want something out of the ordinary, or to see what other games are doing. One such game I’ve been enjoying is a mech-and-bot player-versus-player (PVP) shooter called Robokrieg.
Today we’ll be taking a look at Robokrieg, from the perspective of a War Robots player. With that experience, there’s a great deal about Robokrieg that’s familiar, but as we’ll see there are enough differences where it does feel like a much different experience, rather than a clone of knockoff.
On the face of it, the games are very similar in terms of play and objective. In each, you pilot a bot as part of a team, and look to win either through battlefield dominance or positional control. Unlike War Robots, however, there are no beacons in Robokrieg. Rather, occupation of the enemy’s base area serves a similar function.
Since the base is the spawn area, this might seem like a difficult objective given the prospect of new bots appearing out of nowhere, but in fact in Robokrieg you only ever get one bot to play with. Once you’re dead, you’re dead, there is no respawning.
This highlights another feature of Robokrieg: slower tempo. As we’ll cover below, weapons are fixed to each bot, and while rate of fire is an attribute that can be upgraded, we don’t see burst damage the way we do in War Robots with weapons like Orkans or Tulumbas. You may only have one bot, but it’s not going to suddenly die in a moment of bad luck. Attrition here is a much more gradual affair.
If there’s one thing I didn’t care for with Robokrieg when I’d played it initially, it was the controls. War Robots’ control scheme is simple. Move around. Shoot stuff. Simples.
For whatever reason, it seemed easy to ‘get lost’ in the controls of Robokrieg, so I’d be spending more time trying to maneuver the way I wanted to go instead of being a threat to my enemies. In a recent update, however, Robokrieg introduced an ‘alternate’ mode of control which I’ve found to be much more intuitive.
The battlefields of Robokrieg are on the surface of other planets, though some tend to resemble one another quite a bit. While War Robots players may be disappointed with the lack of variety, there are some details that make Robokrieg stand apart.
For one thing, some of the game’s terrain is destroyable. Unlike in War Robots where a coward could cower behind a rock avoiding just retribution, in Robokrieg you can simply blast the rock away. Next, some of the terrain can actually injure you. Walk through lava, and you’re going to feel it in your hitpoints. Finally, there are ‘teleporters’ on the battlefield that can speed movement across the terrain.
This is particularly useful due to the nature of engagement. In War Robots, you know where your enemy is at all times. In Robokrieg (as in Battle of Titans), your radar is blank until contact is made. Each bot has a detection radius which allows them to pick up the presence of hostiles, and some are better at it than others. Since this information is shared across the team, it can be a real help to have a “spotter” bot out scouting ahead of the skirmishers. This also makes it easier for a sneaky player to slip behind enemy lines and try for a base capture.
Robokrieg’s bots are divided amongst six “factions” and up to ten “tiers.” Tiers are a relative measure of power, and bots appear to be paired in battle within clusters of tiers (think of the old War Robots structure of Bronze Tier, Silver Tier, etc). The game’s progression is strictly linear: in order to acquire a Tier II bot, for instance, you must already have acquired a Tier I bot of that same faction.
The bots themselves vary widely, even within a faction. The Tier I bot for each faction is a small, hovering flier often used for scouting. From there you’ll find bots that roll around, bots that scuttle, and larger bots that are like mechs or walking tanks.
Each bot is measured on six parameters:
- HP (health)
- Reverse Speed
- Torso Turn Time
- Rate of Fire
- Damage per Shot
There are also five different upgrade paths for each bot, which can be boosted using Coins (the ingame currency). Damage per Shot, HP, Rate of Fire, and Speed can all be permanently increased through upgrading, as well as Sensors (which increases the enemy detection range).
In addition to the permanent boosts, you can also purchase temporary buffs to Damage Per Shot, HP, Speed, and Sensors. I haven’t found my gameplay necessitates these yet, but I imagine at the highest level of play they’re almost certainly compulsory given the buffs can be quite substantial (up to +25% Damage per Shot or Speed, for instance).
Given the different roles bots play, there also seems to be some resistance to redundancy. For instance, in the Ezmos faction, my Tier I Seeker does only about 15% of the damage the Tier II Rollo does, but it does so with a massive Rate of Fire advantage. Not only that, but the Seeker has a much more generous area of attack, while the Rollo’s fixed blasters need to be facing the target. It makes for a lot of strategic play, and while learning the ins and outs battles can feel like jousts, with players making attack runs at one another.
eCommerce and value for money
In terms of a money sink, Robokrieg- like War Robots- offers fair very value for dollar. It follows the free-to-play model fairly liberally, and there aren’t a lot of things to sink your cash into. You can buy Coins to acquire bots and upgrades, as well as “Platinum Games” which simply let you double your Coin earnings for the next X-number of games. In that sense, it’s a bit like Premium in War Robots– nice to have, but not necessary.
The other thing worth noting is that the Alpha faction is a purchase-only faction. The Venom is the smallest Alpha bot, a Tier IV that costs USD $9. This goes all the way up to the Tier IX turret-on-legs Tank MKII, which runs for $37. To sweeten the pot a bit, each of the Alpha bots come fully upgraded, have +10% bonus armor and damage, and give you +25% in Coins. The concern here might be that these bots are the most competitive (giving rise to “pay to win” complaints), so let’s take a quick look at that.
The Tier IV Alpha bot is called the αVenom, and its default statistics are:
- 660 HP
- 27 Speed
- 22 Reverse Speed
- 12 Torso Turn Time
- 30 Rate of Fire
- 20 Damage per Shot
Now, how does that compare to the “normal” bots? The Union’s Hydra is weaker (615 HP) but slightly faster (28 Speed, 23 Reverse Speed). Its damage per shot is 20% less, but two-thirds quicker. Torso Turn Time is the same for both, so this seems reasonably balanced.
What about the Neutra faction? Here’s where we get the best 1:1 comparison of what money buys you, because the αVenom of the Alpha faction is simply an upgraded version of the Neutra’s Tier IV bot (the Venom, sans Greek-letter prefix). It’s weaker still (600 HP), has the same Speeds and Torso Turn Time, and while the damage is 10% less than the Alpha version it shoots at the same Rate of Fire. In short, the αVenom is strictly better than the Venom, and anyone opting for the latter over the former will be at a disadvantage.
What about the Strider, the Ezmos faction’s equivalent? It, too, is weaker (610 HP) but slightly faster (same as the Hydra). It does slightly more damage than the Hydra (17 per shot) with the same Rate of Fire (30). The Torso Turn Time, however, is just a fuzz slower (11 vs 12).
Finally, there’s the Walker, which represents the Raider faction (the last faction, the Mercs, are new and haven’t had a Tier IV bot released yet). Less health (605), but much better speed (33 Speed, 28 Reverse Speed). The Torso Turn Time is the same as the Strider, but both Damage per Shot and Rate of Fire are superior (32 and 35 versus 20 and 30).
What all this means is that the αVenom makes the Venom entirely redundant, but it doesn’t fully eclipse the Strider or Hydra. Not only that, but the Walker even outperforms it in key offensive metrics. This is smart design- if the Alpha bots were strictly better than non-cash bots in all ways, then the game would much much more two-dimensional.
From a War Robots perspective, Robokrieg is a simpler game. There’s no modular mix-and-match of bots and weapons; instead, damage is baked-in to the recipe for each bot. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, however. Robokrieg’s gameplay is engaging and fun, at least once you get the controls sorted out.
Some of the things that will have me most interested in the game remain to be seen. For instance, is there a core mechanical differentiation between factions, or is it all strictly aesthetic with slight statistical variations? If the game’s going to keep my interest in the long-term, I’m hoping for the former.
All the same, there’s more than enough to keep me playing, and I like the fact that the game seems to offer frequent updates in terms of new bots and factions. In addition, the equipment-based progression structure will be a welcome sight for those War Robots players who are unhappy with the results-based League system. Equipment, not results, determines your opposition, which is how War Robots used to be before the matchmaker rollout earlier this year. I’ve had particular fun finding players in the same bot I’m in, and dogfighting to determine who the better pilot is.
If there’s a downside to Robokrieg, it’s in the lack of community or information surrounding the game. Let’s be fair here- Robokrieg only came out last December, so it’s still a relative infant. But perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the Wiki Forum, the War Robots site, and all the other ways War Robots players connect with one another outside of the game. Robokrieg’s website mentions a “Robokrieg forum,” but even Google can’t seem to locate it for me. I know a few folks through War Robots that also play Robokrieg, so that’s as good as it gets for connecting with the like-minded. Hopefully the developers fill the void sometime soon.
There’s enough of a difference in gameplay that I would recommend Robokrieg to my fellow War Robots pilots if they’re looking for some lighter fare. I’m interested to see where this game goes, and if it lives up to the potential it promises.