Volcanoids, I can dig it – First Sip Review
Volcanoids is a first-person survival crafting game. Originally it was only a single-player title but after a major update the game can now support up to 4 players. The game is both developed and published by Volcanoid. While the game is completely playable it is in Early Access. The developers have confirmed their intention to add a lot more content to the game before full release. However, as it stands the game is complete enough for a full review.
Story-wise the game is very split. You have a short intro when you begin the game, and an epilogue when you complete it. Outside of those two scenes, the rest of the story is left up to your imagination or based on context cues. Essentially your home island has been taken over by mechanical beings that are shooting lasers into the core to cause volcanic eruptions. Their reason for this is vague but seems to amount to resource collection. From this initial setup you are tasked with retaking the island. Ultimately your goal is to destroy all 4 lasers the robots are firing into the core. So you can stop the volcano from erupting.
This lack of story might be an issue for some. But honestly, a lot of story and dialogue would probably be a detriment to the game. I’ll explain more during the gameplay section. But, for what it is, the little story works quite well.
Everything in the game looks good. Not amazing, not terrible. But consistently pretty good. There are some exceptions though, the drillship you use generally looks pretty impressive. The volcano in the distance adds to the atmosphere a lot and the eruptions are fairly impressive too. Your drillship comes equipped with a periscope so you can watch the eruptions without experiencing a firey demise. And the way the landscape changes post-eruption is well-handled. As is the gradual way the greenery returns before the next eruption.
Beyond these things, there is a fair bit of room for improvement. But again nothing looks bad, it could just be improved. Firstly there are the character models. While they aren’t important in a single-player game as it is first-person. When you load up a game with 2 players you’ll notice that the character model is a little bland. And 3 or more will show you that all character models are the same. Overall it’s just a cosmetic issue but it would be nice to be able to modify your player.
One thing you can modify though is your logo. The host of the game can set a logo file which is then added to the game in certain locations. Including the back of the drillship, the character’s backpack, banners in the ship, and more.
And lastly, the robotic enemies. While again a single robot looks quite cool, you’ll find that at this stage all robots are the same basic design, just color swapped.
The music is solid, mostly atmospheric orchestral stuff. None of it really sticks out, but it’s pleasant enough to have in the background. However, a lot of the time there is no music at all. But, the reason why the sound has a fairly high rating isn’t based on the music. Rather it is based on sound design.
When you hit items with your pickaxe they will make noise. A metallic clang, the sound of rock underfoot, or whatever else is appropriate. Gunshots are quite loud and catch your attention. The drillship has an alarm to warn you when it is taking damage. And another for when you need to submerge to avoid an eruption. These are also quite loud but can be turned down or off. Then you have the ambient noises from the volcano or your drill underground. Or the heavy noise of the wind outside the ship that more than once fooled me into thinking it was stormy outside my house.
The game is best experienced with headphones, much like a lot of horror games. Despite the lack of horror in the game, it seems the same level of care was placed in the ambient sounds.
The basic elements of the game are exploration, resource collection, resource management, and combat. Similar in some areas to other games such as Minecraft, Seven Days to Die, and the upcoming Drake Hollow. However, Volcanoids does feel unique for a few reasons. The first of which is the drillship. While in a lot of these games you will build a home base, they are generally fixed to a location or you’ll need to make a new one in a different area. And a lot of the games have vehicles you can use to navigate the lands. Volcanoids bridges these gaps by making the large vehicle your home base. So you can upgrade it, customize the layout, and bring it with you.
However, that isn’t the only unique aspect of the game. The game begins by assigning you quests that will allow you to eventually complete the game. But really once you’ve started they become guidelines. Even from the very start of the game, you can choose to play in a variety of styles. For instance, instead of claiming the damaged ship, the game provides for you, you can choose to build the core and commandeer a ship from the robots. But generally, it would be best to follow the provided route on your first run.
This leads to the replayability of the game. While the basics of the game don’t change, the way you handle situations can. In addition, you can increase the difficulty and even set custom settings.
It’s all about resources
To progress in the game you need to build stuff. But beyond that, you’ll need to invest in research to learn how to build better stuff. And all of this takes resources. So throughout the game, you’ll need to be aware of what you have, and what you need. It is a system that has been used for a whole genre of games, and there is a good reason for it. It works! Throughout the game, you’ll be making progress until you eventually finish it.
And that is another aspect of the game that distances it from similar games. There is an ending, once you have destroyed the 4 lasers, the game is over. However, you can still choose to explore and craft. But the lack of the volcano or COG (the robots) makes it more of a, relaxing getting to know the world sort of experience, rather than trying to achieve anything.
Multiplayer is optimal
The game was built as a single-player game. And it functions perfectly well as one. Especially when you learn things like how to submerge your drillship to protect it while you’re out exploring. But really the game shines most when you play it with a few friends.
As mentioned earlier, the game is about crafting, exploration, resource gathering, and combat. So adding more players means that you can break up the work. However, the game doesn’t have assigned roles which means you can do a little bit of everything. For instance, you can have a player in the ship working on engineering and research while two players raid nearby COG drillships and the final player explores and mines resources. Then the engineer can join the attack team when the research has all been queued up.
But it would be best to team up with people you can easily talk to. As there are a number of things that can go wrong at any moment.
The game appears at first glance to be deceptively complex. Learning the differences between the items, online and offline storage, workbenches and workstations, etc. But once you start to get the hang of it things run quite smoothly. And just about every design choice I questioned I eventually worked out the answer to. It’s not the most exciting game but when you’re scrounging for resources before the next eruption occurs it can be quite a rush.
The developers have confirmed more content is on the way, including new enemy types. And even PVP multiplayer (although I’m not sure how that would work, possibly a mix of RTS and FPS where you need to build things to assault the other player’s drillship?). All I can say after playing it (for almost 19 hours now mind you). Is that I’m looking forward to what else is to come.
And if the developers read this, please add character customization and an upgradeable pickaxe.
In Coffee Terms
At first, it looks like a typical flat white. Nothing amazing, but when you sit down and have a drink you notice subtle tones of hazelnut. Before you know it you’ve finished the cup and ordered another. Best enjoyed with a group of friends but still satisfying on its own. A really solid blend overall.
Volcanoids Review Summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.