Robocraft is a mix of voxel block builders like Space Engineers and vehicle shooters like War Thunder. Build airships and tanks using various cubes, items, and weapons to be deployed on a battlefield with other players. Learn from your mistakes, improve your designs, buy new building blocks, and upgrade your weapons. A sprawling tech tree features a number of upgrades to choose from to customize your vehicle. It’s two games in one. One where you design and build your vehicles; and one where you send them off to war. But the building system is the glue of Robocraft while battles are an application of your work—and serves as a means to unlocking new materials for crafting.
Permission to play with Legos
When designing my first robot I left any tactical brainpower behind and opted to create a cool-looking machine. Building is easy. Slap a bunch of cubes together, stick some guns on (with wheels or wings), and as long as you don’t tip over when applying acceleration your vehicle is battle-ready. Designs are not unlimited. In the top left-hand corner of your screen you’ll notice a CPU bar. Every gun, block, and wheel eats up some CPU—determining how many voxels can be mashed together. Starting off you don’t have many cubes to choose from. But as you blast apart opponents you gain Robot Points and Tech Points that can be traded in for new building materials.
And building is where the game shines. You can spend hours tinkering and refining, playing with designs to suit practicality and aesthetics. The simple, easy-to-use interface makes it a joy to see what pieces can fit together. More than half of my play-time was spent moving blocks around trying to figure out the perfect vehicle recipe. With my first vehicle I strived for style over practicality. But soon realized a heavy tank would endure lasers far better than my first design after it was shattered like a kid throwing their Legos against a wall.
Smashing your Creations
My first tank was a hunkering tyrant that quickly flipped over after one turn too sharp. I wasn’t alone either. At the start of nearly every match—at least for beginners— a few of your teammates will roll over or drive into a rockwall and somersault onto their backs. You can press “F” to realign but while your vehicle takes 10 seconds to correct itself enemies can continue blasting your vehicle apart. In one engagement I was on my back like a helpless tortoise, firing lasers frantically but hitting only the sky as enemies blasted me apart piece by piece. It’s helpful to test your design in Practice mode before voxels start exploding.
You don’t defeat someone until their crude pilot is sent skyward off his seat. So often vehicles appear in various states of disarray. Some look like they’re begging for death. One enemy was just as a single strip of cubes and two wheels with a pilot catching flies between his teeth. I promptly sealed his fate with one-click of my turret. It adds a level of humor and tactics to the game. You can choose to blow off the cubes supporting the wheels on an enemy, effectively locking their position. Or, elect to take out their guns first and render them useless. Learning your weak points and reenforcing them is essential to surviving firefights. Many of my vehicles exploded because I didn't protect my pilot properly. Back to the drawing board.
"Voxels... Voxels Everywhere..."
Combat is straightforward. Whether you’re taking to the skies or rolling over the surface of distant worlds, a crosshair dictates where your guns will be firing. You roll off in a, probably, dilapidated vehicle and shoot any enemies that appear on screen. It’s rather repetitive. Battles play like test-runs for your latest and greatest design. Unlike Battlebots, the fights feel like a secondary consequence with little depth beyond the pattering of guns and the amusement of seeing enemies blown apart. They offer the same experience each time, and can’t be avoided if you want to unlock new building blocks. But they are quick. It takes no more than a few seconds for a match to begin and they're over in a few minutes.
Every battle awards Robot Points (RP) and Tech Points (TP), as well as experience towards your rank. TP is spent on the massive tech tree, determining what items are available to you to build your robot while RP is your currency for purchasing those blocks. As you progress through tiers of technology you can go from building simple, cubed toys to formidable tanks and scorpion machines. While the tech tree seems overwhelming it isn’t diverse. Essentially you’re upgrading the same components to be more durable, move faster, or employ more firepower. That doesn’t mean building becomes stagnant. More resources allow more diverse, bigger, and exotic looking machines.
Like Picasso... But Robots
Players are infinitely creative. Part of the joy of entering a battle is seeing how other players design their vehicles. Limited cubes can be combined into a wide range of shapes. One guy on my team was inspired by the Borg and charged into battle as an enormous cube—quickly destroyed. Some designs will make you feel better about your own abilities, while others will inspire you to head back to the garage and tinker.
Blocks Ain't Cheap
The game is free-to-play but seems to motivate users to spend cash on in-game currency to build more elaborate vehicles and faster. Grinding for more points can become arduous if you're not motivated by combat—as in my own case. You can trade in cash for Galaxy Cash (GC) which can then be used to purchase all items, as well as cosmetics. Robocraft avoids the pay-to-win branding by limiting what players can buy to their tech tier. So you’ll never see tech nine weapons devastating the field in a tech one game. It's certainly the right way to handle a cash shop and I appreciate the developers fortifying against pay-to-win. At the beginning of an early tier match it’s easy to spot who has opened their wallets. They're typically made entirely of the highest tech items available to your tier. Just hope that they're on your team.
Final Verdict - Great
Robocraft is an entertaining creative-builder with lackluster combat. I could spend my entire play-through fiddling with cubes in the garage to build ever grander and more powerful vehicles. Sometimes I only enter the battlefield to rack up points and unlock more materials. Its a secondary aspect that grew tiring. It was still highly amusing, particularly learning from other players vehicles and watching enemies explode thanks to my—sometimes— superior design. The developers are active and engage the community, releasing updates frequently and responding to community input. While combat didn't amaze me it didn't bore me either. I'll be making frequent pit-stops to my Robocraft garage to build new vehicles and play with designs.
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