Mention giant robots dogfighting in space to a group of gamers and more than likely you will encounter references to popular Japanese animes such as Gundam, Macross, Robotech and even Transformers. And that is exactly the kind of action the devs of WarTechFighters hope to evoke, which is accomplished relatively well in this fast paced space battle simulator. Let’s be honest, there are few things as satisfying as dodging flocks of missiles while simultaneously tearing apart enemy squadrons.
Now, WTF is by no means perfect, and you may encounter some bugs that will leave you thinking, “WTF” (What The Flip, of course). There are a few bugs during “search” missions that will make it impossible to trigger the next objective and could leave you wandering in the area for hours; restarting the mission usually fixes the problem. But beyond that the action sequences, graphics and the way the combat plays out is very reminiscent of the shows it is modeled after; and you may find yourself enveloped in a strong sense of nostalgia as you maneuver like a space ballerina through intense battles complete with minefields, asteroid fields and waves of hostile fighters and wartechs.
To start, you are given a choice between three techs: the HAWK (your quick, high damage, highly maneuverable fighter), the RHINO (your basic bipedal space tank, able to absorb large amounts of damage, for those not too concerned with dodging) and the LYNX (your jack of all trades). Each tech comes fully loaded with beginning equipment and is ready to dive into the action, though to begin with your tech may appear somewhat skeletal and unfinished. The starting equipment includes wrist mounted projectile weapons, shoulder mounted missile launchers and, of course, giant expandable swords and shields for tech-to-tech battle, and more importantly for slicing up foolish space fighters that fly too close.
All components are upgradeable, both through purchasing replacements that allow the player to further manipulate their stats, and through funding research advancements in technology and efficiency. Your choice of equipment does alter your appearance and it won’t be long before you begin to flesh out your initial “bare-bones” tech into a mean-looking warmachine. Of course at this point the player can decide to either set out with the generic design and coloring or spend a few minutes tweaking their appearance to create a more unique look for their tech. The player is given three slots to apply their choice of available colors to their tech which, as of early access, consists of 18 colors/shades, a single pattern that can be applied to each color slot, and five different “liveries” that change the overall pattern of color placement.
Now you have your wartech the way you want it, it’s time to launch into the action. Unfortunately this is where you might suffer disillusionment. If you’re a story buff like I am, you may be sorely disappointed. As of early release, story is woefully undeveloped. To the point that it is barely present. The premise is lacking anything more than identifying two sides of a war. The narration literally starts with “…And then the war began.” effectively dropping the player into the situation. Don’t expect revelations as you go, either. The player is informed they are a part of an alliance of rebel colonies Hebos and Ares, fighting against the Zatros Empire, and that’s the whole of it. While I hold onto hopes that the full-release version will have a much more developed plot, as it stands this game is all about the action. Not necessarily a bad thing, it merely seems a waste to have a ghost of a framework for story and not use it.
You start out as Captain Nathan Romani and spend the majority of your beginning levels playing as him, though you occasionally switch out with Andreas Laine. As you progress there will be other characters whom you will also play as. Nathan has supporting characters such as Isadora, who acts as his handler, Admiral Venger, Sule and, of course, Andreas, with more popping up as you progress. These characters, however, have no histories, motivations, or (aside from strong accents) any real personalities. Here’s hoping that the future full-release brings more to the table in this area.
Graphics are what you might expect from a game in this price-point. Not overly complex, and certainly poses little-to-no challenge for a mid-range gaming system. This certainly does not mean the graphics are bad, just not jaw-dropping. Honestly, in the heat of these battles, the graphics are easily enough for the job.
Gameplay I found to be simple, but fun. Controls are not complicated or excessive, you probably won’t find yourself in the middle of a battle wondering what key you’re supposed to hit in any situation. At first glance, the control scheme seemed overly simplified, with things like auto firing missiles, but as I played I found it to be fairly intuitive, aside from missiles not reaching the smaller targets until after the target was destroyed. Luckily, there are no limits on ammo or missiles except for energy usage, so you can blast away as long as you have the energy to do so. While melee battle is reserved to pairing off with other wartechs (get in close and press right and left mouse buttons), staying close to a damaged fighter allows for execution, which gives a variety of quick animations of your tech demolishing the target up close and personal (also accomplished with simultaneous right and left mouse buttons).
The main menu also offers a Simulation option that provides some ways to earn cash and experience through challenges and replays, though after the first run of each challenge the reward is lowered to a tenth of its original payout.
All-in-all, the game is fun and acquits itself well as a fun diversion, allowing players to quickly get in the action and brings home that anime feel of giant robots in space dogfights, and is a great buy for the price.