The blood will flow in blocks in this voxel-based multiplayer FPS.
MineCraft is responsible for the huge surge in block-based games that seems to be invading the videogame industry at the moment. Whatever the genre of videogame, you can be sure that there will be a block-based equivalent somewhere to entice the legions of voxel fans around the world. The games, which nearly always include some form of creative input, may not use the cutting edge technologies that can be found in triple A titles, but they seem to appeal to the small child in all of us. Creation is fun.
Developer GhostShark and publisher IndieGala obviously agree, but also want to introduce some destruction in their voxel-based FPS Blockstorm, which is currently available on Steam in Early Access. Being Early Access, the game is not yet finished, but is perfectly playable at this time and will undoubtedly be updated regularly to fix any problems and add new features.
At its core, Blockstorm is a multiplayer first-person shooter in which the player will run around various maps, shooting enemy players while trying themselves not to get shot. The FPS mechanics are sound and anyone who has indulged in some FPS action in recent history will slip into the game with ease. Movement is dealt with through the WASD keys, while aiming and firing comes down to the mouse.
Different load outs are available for the player to choose, with their choice in weapons affecting their overall weight and, as a result, their movement speed. Each player takes a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, a melee weapon and some explosives. The different guns all feel nice and responsive, ensuring that the combat mechanics are dependent on the players skills rather than any form of quirkiness in the game.
In Early Access, there are three game modes available. Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch will be familiar to all, while Assault uses a classic attack and defend template for the match. The modes are a bit thin on the ground, but more are expected as development continues.
The maps are well imagined and offer different types of gameplay across different environments. Some are large, some are small. Some encourage close quarters fighting, while others prefer the distance battle.
What makes Blockstorm more than just a simple, cookie-cutter FPS though, aside from the voxel-based visuals, is the fact that each player also carries with them a spade and some blocks, allowing them to alter and destroy the battlefield. Stray bullets will slowly chip away at the environment, raining down little debris blocks on anyone who happens to be in the way. But for real control, take out the spade and start digging.
This brings a whole new element to each battle. Players can build and defend their own base, tunnel under the enemy or simply remove any cover providing obstacles in their sight-line. It really does make for some truly interesting matches.
Further options for the creative player become available outside the actual battles. There is a map editor and a character editor available to tinker with, ensuring that the player has the freedom to create exactly the type of battle they want. Obviously this means that over time a huge amount of content will become available for Blockstorm if the community gets behind it. Right now, both of the editors are a little finicky to use and would certainly benefit from some kind of tutorial to guide the newcomer.
It really is looking very good for Blockstorm, but there is a dark cloud casting its shadow across this multiplayer only title – a lack of players. The game is in Early Access and so it is no surprise that at many times there are no servers available to offer a quick match. It is easy enough to set up a server and start a match, but running around the map by yourself is no real fun. The £8.99 price tag for the game in Early Access could have something to do with the lack of playing population, but it is still early days and I am sure the community will evolve and grow.
Blockstorm is brilliant fun, even at this early stage in the games development, and looks set to be a hit. The lack of players will surely change over time, but if you are interested in picking up the game and playing, make sure you bring some buddies. Blockstorm can be picked up on Steam Early Access for £8.99 or £29.99 for a four-pack.