GoD Factory: Wingmen Review
Reviewed on PC
Aside from Strike Suit Zero, things have been quiet on the space dogfighting front. A successor to X-Wing Vs. TIE Fighter has never really emerged, which is a shame as the potential for thrilling vacuum-based heroics is immense. Nine Dots’ GoD Factory: Wingmen certainly makes some inroads here, but what it offers up is far more complex than first impressions would suggest. More MOBA than full-on aerial action simulator, it takes a 4v4 template and assigns you the task of destroying the other team’s capital ship by using your customised craft. The ships are huge hulking beasts which are conveniently divided into eight distinct areas for you to target, including hull, radar, repair station and core. These replenish energy over time - aside from the hull - so a concerted and coordinated effort is required to take out each individual ship part and in turn deduct a point from the ship’s seven integrity points. When the integrity of your capital ship is reduced to zero, the other team wins. Acting as a round timer, a cannon on each team’s ship also fires every three minutes, reducing the integrity of their opponent by one point, meaning that rounds will never last more than twenty-one minutes; if the game is level at that point, the team who has destroyed the most enemy craft wins.
The complexity comes from the development of your ships. You can take two into any given round, selected from one of four different ship types: Human, Arblos, Guantris and Chorion, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Humans are hit-and-run merchants, at odds with the bulky, powerful Arblos craft. Guantris ships are all-rounders, whilst Chorions act more like snipers, picking off craft and ship parts from afar. Swapping ships in-game is done by returning to the dock of your capital ship, something that will happen regularly as you need to replenish your shields and ammunition. Should your ship be destroyed, a clone ship of the same species but with lesser abilities will be made available for the rest of the round, and your original ship will be back in the dock waiting for you once you finish the game. You can also share ships amongst your team, which lets you pilot their craft whilst they utilise yours - a good way to familiarise yourself with the different handling and weapons on offer to the other species, without having to fork out credits to build your own.
Credits are the currency of GoD Factory’s world, awarded at the end of each match in various amounts dependent on the damage you did to the capital ship and the other players, and how many times your own craft was destroyed. These can be spent on a staggering array of customisable parts, each with its own stats. Wings, power cores, weapon control units and more are all available to purchase and upgrade, and you’ll spend a great deal of time tinkering with your configuration to ensure an optimum load-out. Do you sacrifice an increase in heat for more shield capacity, potentially risking using energy unnecessarily? Or do you offset speed against handling, valuing the ability to get to the enemy’s capital ship quicker whilst potentially leaving yourself vulnerable to attack from more agile craft?
Thrown into the mix to further complicate matters are different damage types which you can both inflict and suffer from, such as decay, overload and ignition damage. These in turn can be combined to create combos which result in specific effects being placed on the recipient’s craft. For instance, utilising both decay and overload damage will result in the Shield Leak effect, which causes the victim to lose ten points of shield power per second for twenty seconds. These effects can themselves form part of further combos - hitting a ship already affected by Shield Leak with additional ignition and distortion damage results in an Energy Leak as well as a radius blast which causes both damage and negative status effects to the entire team. Combos can only be triggered by two or more allied craft attacking the same ship so not only is teamwork essential, but a balance of ship powers across the team could spell the difference between success and failure for your side. Effects can be guarded against by buying different parts to increase your resistance, but the sheer number of status effects and combos available means that there will always be a weak spot for cunning players to isolate.
Your ships handle well, but it is strongly recommended to choose a controller over the traditional keyboard and mouse layout. The manoeuvring requires pitch, yaw and roll alongside specific special manoeuvres like ninety-degree turns and one-eighty loops, and a host of other essential buttons like purging your ship of negative effects, target painting and weapon switching. On a keyboard, you’ll simply run out of fingers to handle it all. Furthermore, mouse navigation is poor at best, even with the sensitivity ramped up to maximum. It’s rare to find PC games which so predominantly favours one control mechanism over another, but GoD Factory is certainly one for controller fans, unless you’re feeling particularly masochistic.
Given that it was the result of two failed Kickstarters it’s impressive that GoD Factory even made it onto Steam, but even more impressive that the polish hides the game’s indie roots incredibly well. You’re treated to a kaleidoscope of colour and energy, with crackling lasers, vibrant energy beams and wonderful explosions providing a spectacular light show. The synth-heavy soundtrack gets repetitive after a while - mostly on the configuration screens - but doesn’t intrude in-game and suits the frenzied nature of the space combat on offer.
Where GoD Factory falls down is in its scope. There is only one multiplayer map, with no single-player campaign to speak of. The map itself is limited to the aforementioned capital ship mission and there are no other goals or modes available. The result is a game which feels like an over-sized demo. It may be a gorgeous, enthralling demo which evokes a “just one more go” mentality, but it nevertheless comes across as a mere representation of its potential. This is reflected in the near-empty lobby: when you’re firing up a game on an evening and there are only nine people online worldwide, you have to wonder where all of the Kickstarter backers are. You can substitute bots of various levels of ability to fill in the gaps of PvP, or play on your own against and with bots, but their AI is average at best and pales in comparison to a typical all-human 4v4.
More content is promised over the coming months as DLC which may work to plug in some of the gaping holes left by this initial release. GoD Factory certainly deserves it - it’s a technically competent and enjoyable blast created by a studio that have an obvious eye for detail. Ultimately though, it’s a game that could have used a few more months in development to increase the launch content to a level which would have brought players back for more. It’s a small step in the right direction for the genre but the lack of players means that in this particular space sim, there’s no-one to hear you scream.