Carbon Games is a brand new indie start up from Seattle that decided to take on the RTS genre and trick it out with a lot of action. I would almost call their first game, AirMech the spiritual successor to Herzog Zwei. I know using obscure references doesn’t really help, but those that know will understand. For those that don’t know, I will explain.
AirMech is a multiplayer Action RTS that is going to be free to play. Currently the game is in alpha testing, and I was given access to play it by James Green, creative director of Carbon Games. Since then the alpha testing has been opened up to the public. Information on how to get into this closed alpha test a little later.
The goal of a match is very simple, destroy the opponents fortress. While this may sound easy, it’s anything but. In between your fortress, and your enemy’s fortress are many little outposts that you can take control of. The outposts act like a remote fortress where units can be picked up after being built and to heal up any damage. Each fortress spawns a squad of four soldiers to act as creepers, to help capture these outposts, and to also shoot up your opponents fortress. The AirMech also transforms from an aircraft to a mech, so the battle can be taken to the ground.
Aircraft mode is where the majority of time is spent because of its main function, which is to carry and order your ground units. This is how all of the units built are deployed, and unlike most RTS games, issuing commands to a large number of units is impossible. Each unit needs to be picked up and then given its direct command when it is set down. The commands are run of the mill RTS commands: attack, defend, patrol, or wait.
Each AirMech comes with a special ability. The abilites range from being able to fire heat seeking missiles, to healing up your ground units. Since its early in the development cycle I won’t go into detail about each and every mech. These abilities can be used to attack the opposing player up in the air, while carrying units or when you transform to take the action to the ground. Here, it’s all about shooting the enemies ground forces, and the enemy mech if they are on the ground as well.
I know it sounds simple enough, but the fast pace of the game makes it a tricky task. Play with someone that knows their way around and the match won’t last more than fifteen minutes, as was the case in a few of my games. There are a variety of different ways to play as well. The usual computer stomp, where you can team up with up to three people. Survival mode, in which myself and three other people ended up not making it past wave five. Plus, the tried and true, player versus player mode which seems to see the most action as of right now.
There are a variation of controls to choose from. The hardcore PC gamers will love the mouse and keyboard, or its entirely possible to play with an xbox360 controller. The game works beautifully with an xbox 360 controller, but there is more customization using a mouse and keyboard. In all cases, the buttons are all mapped and easy to work with, and the controls of the character on the screen are tight. The only thing I needed to get used to was which command was mapped to what button. Once I got the feel for that, everything was natural and fluid.
The meta game experience is interesting as well. As you play each battle, experience is gained for leveling up outside of the game. Leveling up leads to getting access to new units to build, new pilots, and new air mechs. Kudos are also earned in each match and they are the currency used to unlock the new stuff. There are also diamonds which follows current Real Money Trade (RMT) policies. These diamonds can be used to unlock things earlier than you would using Kudos as well as being able to get boosts. Boosts will increase the amount of experience and kudos awarded at the end of each match.
I understand the game is still in alpha, but it almost feels like I should be reviewing the game rather than writing a preview. So far, everything I have experienced has felt polished. So, they are still tweaking the strength of units and mechs you have to chose from, but unlike most other alphas I have played there aren’t loads of stability issues, or a massive amount of bugs. Everything just feels great and is very comfortable.
This is a game that should be on your radar if it’s not already! Hell, you should be giving this game a try now! Carbon Games makes it easy for anyone to join into the closed alpha. All you have to do is head over to carbongames.com and if you use google chrome and have a google account you’re in. If you don’t have either of those things, then sign up to their forums, and let James know I sent you.