Volcanoids (Early Access Review)

DEVELOPER: Volcanoids
PUBLISHER: Volcanoids
EXPECT TO PAY: $29
AVAILABLE FROM: Steam

Carefully considering the countdown timer and the distance from my Drillship, I conclude I can make it. Just. Finishing mining the node of precious coal – needed to fuel my ship’s powerplants – I turn and run back to my ship as fast as I can. Hurtling through the door, I lunge at the lever marked ‘up’ and ‘down’. The Drillship’s engines roar to life, the eponymous drill, along with cutting blades and treads spin into life, and storage, production, refinery, research, defensive and power modules neatly fold into the sides of my ship in a mesmerizing display. Travelling a few metres, the drill digs into the ground and my ship burrows under the surface. Just in time. As soon as it reached a safe depth the entire ship rocked with the sound of a massive explosion. Grabbing the periscope, I examine the ground above and see the plume of fire and smoke thrown into the air by the towering volcano that dominates the island. A moment later, a massive pyroclastic flow of hot gasses and mineral rich volcanic matter flow over the periscope, obscuring the view. Eventually, the dust settles, and it’s safe to return to the surface to continue the hunt for resources.

Currently in Early Access, Volcanoids is a steampunk/fortress/survival game, which places players on a volcanic island which is populated by nefarious, volcanic-eruption inducing robots called ‘Cogs’. After successfully capturing one of the Cogs’ Drillships – a tube-like, underground travelling Jules Verne-esque vessel with a large drill on the end (hence the name) – players are free to explore the island, collect resources, upgrade their ship, and attempt to defeat the Cogs. How you go about this, what order you do things in, is more or less entirely up to you. Do you want to steadily mine resources? Search for damaged and abandoned tech? Or would you rather raid enemy Drillships, looting their resources and stripping them for parts?

Not limited to the island’s surface, there are also several levels of caves and tunnels that players can freely explore. These tend to be filled with lakes of lava and rich deposits of minerals, but are also prone to getting flooded by lava whenever the volcano goes off. Also, Drillships can navigate freely whilst burrowed – provided you’re not trying to drill through a too large patch of lava or solid rock (hull and drill upgrades can help here) – though you can only surface the Drillship and predetermined places, and then only if another Drillship isn’t currently occupying

The amount of detail and customisation the developers have put into the Drillships is mindboggling. And the brass and copper steampunk aesthetic means that upgrading and modifying your ship – by adding new floors, equipment, control panels, displays, maps, lights, whole new sections and so on – is a delight. A highly upgraded ship, with all it’s modules unfurled and whirling away is an impressive sight.

The pace of Volcanoids is largely determined by the player. The only pressure comes from the regular volcanic eruptions which scour the island’s surface and caverns clean whilst replenishing resource deposits, and the occasional raid on your Drillship by Cogs (which, if you’ve installed a few defensive turrets, manufactured ammo for them and have enough coal to keep the power running, shouldn’t be too much of a worry).

Though there is the occasional glitch (but nothing game breaking), Volcanoids is regularly updated, and the devs are quite open about their update schedule, what they’re implementing, and listen to community feedback (look up their dev diaries for an example). With updates for co-op and online play (where fellow players can choose to attack your ship) coming online, and with it’s relaxed gameplay and unique aesthetic, Volcanoids is easy to recommend. ■ 

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