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Build drones to eat planets in Nimbatus, entering early access today

Nimbatus: The Space Drone Constructor is about devouring worlds with your own hand-crafted robotic tool of industrialist excess. Developed by Stray Fawn Studio and making its early access debut today, Nimbatus may ask you to do small jobs at first like ‘shoot some space bees’, but it’s not long before ambition takes hold. My first few creations were humble things using only a handful of blocks and a few precision weapons, but my end goal looks like that beast above – a Unicron-esque force of cosmic destruction. Below, a launch trailer and an overview of its systems.

Nimbatus is a 2D physics-driven sandbox shooter (most of the time) with a more generalist slant than most. Similar engineering games ask you to build a specialised machine to solve problems, but Nimbatus’s procedurally generated missions encourage broad, adaptable designs. I’ve only played through a couple star systems and built robo-ships for surface bombardment, dogfighting and a mining rig with enough shielding to shrug off most attacks. You can share designs on the Steam workshop, but new weapons are researched through mining resources during missions.

Interestingly, there’s more to the game than odd jobs on randomly generated worlds. While most drones are manually controlled, binding weapons, thrusters and systems to keyboard and mouse, there are asynchronous multiplayer events that need you to create rudimentary AI. By placing sensors that react to enemy units, the ground or incoming fire, you can have your robot attack, evade or defend as needed. Sometimes you can even work this into a manually-flown design to handle stuff like defensive fire or shields – always handy.

The current version of Nimbatus isn’t very structured. There’s a large, branching, procedurally generated star-map but not much outside multiplayer events to stop you from just building (or downloading via workshop) a giant mega-drone. As a player of Zachlikes, I’ve found fun in building the most efficient drone possible for any given job but I’m not sure if Stray Fawn have plans to restrict players more in future. Right now there’s a lot of missions to do, but no real campaign structure or story to hold it together – something the devs plan to add by launch.

Stray Fawn also hope to add more drone parts, more enemy types, more environments and mission types. They also want to add more drone-on-drone tournaments to the game, including races and battles. More of everything, really. They estimate that this’ll be in early access for “about a year or longer”, so they’re in this for the long-haul, although there are plans to raise the price when the game is finished. I can see potential here – I’ve still barely scratched the surface of the early access version and I’m interested to see it evolve over this next year or more.

Nimbatus is in early access, and available on Steam and Humble for £13.94/€15.11/$17.99. The game was Kickstarted last November, and while backers have been playing for a while, this is the first publicly available version.

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Dominic Tarason

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