Roll Playing: Cobalt Alpha Impressions

By Adam Smith on December 19th, 2011 at 10:42 am.

Bird meet bot

Mojang said the Cobalt alpha would be released before Christmas and sure enough, tiny robots invaded the internet this weekend. I really wasn’t sure what to expect so I installed the blighter and had a quick go, all the better to share some brief impressions. There’s no campaign at the moment and no online multiplayer, which isn’t due anytime soon if at all, so since I couldn’t tempt anyone to play I’ve had to make do with the tutorial, the survival map and a few team deathmatch games with bots. Not ideal but at least I know what it is now. There’s a new trailer and thoughts below.

It’s a 2d arena shooter that sometimes feels a bit like Nintended biff ‘em up Super Smash Bros. More than anything I was reminded of the Madness series of Flash games, with more polish and less character customisation. Weapons drop throughout a stage and there’s often a mad scramble to pick up the best guns, with agreeably animated robots wall-jumping about the place and bopping anyone who gets in the way. The robots aren’t particularly swift, so despite the deadly arsenal scattered about, proceedings are fairly laid-back. Rolling does inject a bit of pace into movement but it mainly serves as a way of dodging projectiles.

Some aspects, such as thrown weapons, are either a little wonky or I’m hopelessly bad at using them. The tutorial instructs that charging up a throw, running forward, rolling and releasing mid-roll will send a grenade hurtling through the air. Mine look like a weak-armed and trembling child forced to bowl in a game of cricket has lobbed them underhand, failing to reach never mind hit the wickets. They are feeble and by the time I’ve switched across to them and charged up the throw, more often than not I could have killed everyone with a gun instead.

There are other bits and pieces to learn. Ground-punching during a roll can propel your little robot through the air. Again, I couldn’t get that to work every time, so either the timing demands extreme precision or I’m not even capable of vague precision. Then there’s the rolling again – shoot mid-roll and the projectile will fly directly upwards. Handy for killing people overhead but in reality, I suspect, far too precise for the chaos of combat, particularly since aiming up or down causes guns to auto-aim in a cone anyhow.

At the moment, there’s not really enough content to delve into. An included level editor should ensure a steady flow of arenas, for a while at least, but what this game really needs is a steady flow of opponents. If I could play online, I’d probably be blasting my way through a server right now. The bots aren’t broken, although they do have a tendency to stand around punching each other when there are grenade launchers a couple of hops away, but the game better suits human opponents. Some of the moves and weapons seem designed to elicit smiles in observers and victims rather than solely to provide a competitive edge. Your computer will not smile and that is a sad truth.

The survival mode is more fun than the arenas for a single player, with a variety of enemies and the sweet lure of loot gathering. There’s not a great deal to it yet but there is promise at least. I’ll follow the continued development, particularly in the hope of a decent co-op campaign, but in the meantime I’ve just been reminded to play more King Arthur’s Gold and Cortex Command.

You can buy into the alpha now for €9.95 and receive all released builds up to and including the final game. I’d be very tempted to wait a while longer yet. For a game that is excitedly described by a list of verbs, there’s not a huge amount to do yet, beyond shooting, jumping and dodging.

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26 Comments »

  1. Flukie says:

    Played it last night having to essentially pirate the game I paid for.

    Its fun, but man it needs some serious work.

    It isn’t worth the price they put it at now, and I would be shocked if anyone paid £18 quid for this in the future.

    Controls need work, and I’m not failing but holding up to auto aim is silly in my opinion. But if they work hard at it then it might be worth the price it is now, but there’s no way they should increase it.

  2. Avenger says:

    I strongly believe that one day I will submit a Rock Paper Shotgun URL to http://www.somuchpun.com

  3. maweki says:

    I played this game over the weekend with some friends and with some xBox360 controllers (for which the game seems to be made) we got two hours fun out of it and I will organize a small tournament in january.
    It is a lot of fun for 10 bucks but I would not pay more for it,
    Yeah, all in all a good alternative to Smash Brothers.

  4. shaydeeadi says:

    I can’t understand how they would make a 2D arena shooter, and then have no plans for online multiplayer when they even have bots for team deathmatch. Some of the trickshots sound dead satisfying to use though if you can learn it.

    The game looks interesting but the feature list seems a bit skew wiff at the moment, and the price seems a little too steep for what it is, disappointed that the alpha is PC only, might grab it with some spare christmas pennies and see how it turns out.

  5. carn1x says:

    I think it’s fantastic, and the level editor, whilst “not in the alpha” has been found and so I suppose community maps should be expected soon. Also as far as I remember the game is built to be very accessible to modders so community content for all aspects may be incoming.

    As highlighted above and mentioned countless times, there’s plenty more content planned from the devs, and I don’t think it’s a well-grounded idea to complain about content and bugs from an alpha funding game’s first release.

    At this point 18 quid does seem steep, but if moddability and campaign promises hold true and the potential for networking code bears fruit then I think it may well be worth it.

  6. Eclipse says:

    “There’s no campaign at the moment and no online multiplayer planned at all”

    ant that looks like an epic fail. This is the kind of game that NEEDS online multiplayer to work, should be the first thing to be implemented. My suggestion is: avoid it like plague until they implement online multiplayer, this alpha is very disappointing

    • Teddy Leach says:

      They’ve designed it as primarily a multiplayer game, so no online, ESPECIALLY on the PC, is a massive what-move.

    • bglamb says:

      I bought this just for the campaign. Would have been nice to know there was no campaign.

  7. Suits says:

    Sounds to me like the alpha price should’ve been the full product’s price and even that is still steep. I mean Super Meat Boy (one of the most critically acclaimed 2D platformers in the last deccenium) launched at PC with a price tag of $15. Now these guys are thinking to ask almost double that, without actually offering more value imo.

    • Flukie says:

      I agree, as I said before I bought this and enjoy this but the idea of their final asking price is ridiculous.

    • Daryl says:

      Yeah I agree. The price is very expensive for an indie game. I have been very excited for Cobalt since I first saw it, but I think I will wait until the price comes down.

  8. Kollega says:

    I think the visuals of this game remind me of Machinarium. Am i alone in this?

  9. torchedEARTH says:

    The Euro is quite weak against the GBP at the moment, so come on British people!

    • Delusibeta says:

      Ten Euros roughly equate to £8.50. I expect that will look very expensive at 6pm tonight when I expect the Steam Holiday Sale to start.

  10. Beelzebud says:

    So wait. Mojang doesn’t have the cash to fund their own games now? Why are they doing the paid alpha test thing when they’re sitting on a Scrooge McDuck style vault at this point? I’ll wait until this thing is done before I pay for it.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      It’s not so much about funding as it is about getting a big community built up while it’s still in development. But yeah, if you are not into paying for alpha software, then by all means wait until it gets released – nothing wrong with that. Some people just like getting involved early.

    • thewreck says:

      Mojang are not developing this game. Oxeye Game Studio are, and no, we don’t have billions of cash =)

    • Ruffian says:

      I don’t think they’re being Scroogey exactly. lol. I’m sure that they’re probably using the money that they have made from minecraft to invest in and expand Mojang. Which is most definitely not a bad thing IMO. Mojang seem to be dedicated and innovative folk. I’m personally very excited to see what they’ll be doing in years to come. Not tryna argue just my two cents. I don’t think I’ll be picking cobalt up just yet either, need to see more.

  11. Moonracer says:

    Looks very much like Cortex Command. Only this doesn’t have to deal with the incredible chore of getting AI to function with odd ragdoll character design and game breaking destructible environments.

  12. MythArcana says:

    If this ends up like Voxatron, then I think people will have a really long wait before they get much gaming done for their $13 faithful purchase at the moment. It could be 3 years down the line before this thing is truly ready. I won’t go into another project that went the same path and still isn’t finished at 1.0 yet…

  13. Wulf says:

    I have to say, from the standpoint of being Mr. Accessibility, I do not like the look of that shopping menu. It isn’t promising at all. It’s in a very poorly chosen font, and the font size is particularly tiny. They probably won’t have the option to upsize the font, either. And really, any game that I have to experience eyestrain for, I just pass over.

    I think that they need to change the font for the shop menu in general, and at least have an option (even if only in a config file) to boost the text size of the shop font. I had a hard time making out even a single word on that shop menu, I had to pause it and stare at it for a while. That’s not going to be good for on-the-go gameplay.