Do you enjoy meticulously tweaking the most microscopically tiny details of giant robots? If I cut you, will you bleed gears and heat sinks and perfectly balanced 47-ton rocket pods? Then perhaps M.A.V. – a customization-centric game of mechanized madness from one-man show Bombdog Studios – will strike your fancy. Its creator notes that he’s worked on both Borderlands games and cites Armored Core and the tragically under-appreciated Chromehounds as longtime favorites. Unsurprisingly, the current (read: pre-alpha) result wears its influences on its semi-cel-shaded sleeve. You can check out a demo of Bombdog’s progress so far right here, but obviously, there’s still a long way to go.
The current build is very, very rough. The fundamentals – a dizzying number of guns, a wide-open level, explosions – are certainly in place, but it remains to be seen if Bombdog’s mysterious unnamed operator can realize his colossal ambitions. The current mech customization screen, for instance, is abysmally imprecise, with no room to move the camera or items in multiple axes. And – while struggling to insert all manner of square pegs into square-ish holes – I constantly ended up grabbing the wrong pieces. It just felt clunky.
The resulting versatility, however, is pretty excellent. I, for instance, managed to create a robot with a mohawk made of cannons, machine guns, and missile pods. Sure, it was worthless in combat (each volley resulted in so much recoil that it was like piloting the head-banging lead guitarist of a crappy metal band), but that level of possibility is undeniably exciting. As is, however, the interface for parts needs serious work. Its filter, for instance, only allows you to search by name, weight, and defense – none of which are particularly useful when most items have names like “X-MINI-.Y6″.
Combat and movement, meanwhile, still feel very stiff and awkward. I mean, I understand that I’m behind the 346-button control panel of a hulking mass of metal, but – even by that standard – M.A.V. hasn’t quite found its sweet spot yet. Also, there’s basically no damage feedback at this point, so I didn’t even die with a whimper – let alone a bang. That said, I do plan on watching this one. As it stands, M.A.V. seems like it could make for a nice mid-point between the hyper-complexity (and, as a result, absurd potential for customization) of Chromehounds and the more easily accessible action of other mech standouts. Meanwhile, a base-defending, mech-upgrading Siege mode and fully featured building system are on the way.
“The Alpha release will have a full game mode called Siege. This game mode will pit 2 teams against each other in a race to destroy the other team’s communications center. The game is played in rounds lasting 10mins (or until a base is destroyed). You will start the round with limited funds to purchase parts for your M.A.V. but you can gain more funds by damaging or destroying an enemy. You also get replenished with a minimal amount of funds every time you respawn. As you play, you can use your funds to buy better parts or you can invest those funds into purchasing and placing defensive structures (like turrets, repair depots, or walls).”
Basically, customization won’t just be restricted to pre-match menus anymore, which is a pretty cool idea for a game like this – where under-the-hood mechanized makeovers are so crucial to the way strategies unfold. So yeah, M.A.V. is nowhere near ready for primetime, but there’s potential here. And now, since you’ve been so patient and behaved yourself through this entire post, here’s a dev diary. Your mother and I are very proud of you, you know.