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Space Punks

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Shoot-'Em-Up
Publisher: Jagex Partners
Developer: Flying Wild Hog
Release Date: 2022


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PC Preview - 'Space Punks'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 12, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Space Punks is a top-down looter shooter that features insane, over-the-top action in a unique, irreverent sci-fi setting.

The easiest way to describe Space Punks is, "What if Borderlands and Diablo heavily armed their baby?" The core gameplay has a lot in common with Blizzard's iconic loot-grinding franchise. It's an isometric, over-the-head view game that's focused on smashing hordes of enemies. You kill enemies, earn prizes, and use those to kill bigger enemies. Flying Wild Hog (makers of Shadow Warrior and Evil West, among others) has always pushed the idea of making you feel powerful at all times, and Space Punks seems to live up to the concept. The idea is "limitless growth," and at the very least, there's a limitless growth of explosions.

Each of the playable Punks has the option to use melee and ranged weapons and swap between the two at will. Depending on how you like to play, you can use melee to smash through enemy hordes and leave guns for clearing stragglers, or you can be a long-range fighter who only gets into the thick of things when left without a choice. Another option is to focus on both and seamlessly swap between the two during combat. Characters have both a health and shield bar, with shield replenishing over time and health being tougher to recover.

The four initial playable characters are Duke, a Han Solo-ish rogue; Eris, a hacker who hacked her own nanotech virus; Finn, a walking, talking humanoid pig looking to get rich enough to retire; and Bob, who is a giant insectoid machine expert. These four represent the starting cast but not the entire cast. As a F2P live service game, there are already plans to bring more characters to Space Punks down the line.

Each of the four characters is defined by their skills, talent tree, and basic stats. For example, Finn is the slowest of the team but also the bulkiest in terms of sheer health. In comparison, Duke doesn't have as much HP but has a larger regenerating shield bar, which means he'll have more sustainability than Finn in long fights. These only define how the character starts off, but they also give some idea of how the characters are intended to play.

Each character has a set of skills that they can learn by leveling up, ranging from attacks to crowd control to powerful buffs that are charged up by fighting. These skills function on a cooldown timer and can be used as long as they're not off cooldown, aside from the Team Aura buff. Each one plays heavily into a character's play style. For example, Bob has a portable minigun and can plant mines, so he excels at keeping enemies from getting too close. Finn can drag enemies into close range with him and fire a powerful rocket burst.

An important part of all of this isn't just the single character skill. Each character's skills also have what are called "Synergy," which changes the attributes of an attack based on nearby players. For example, Eris can throw out spikes to hold enemies in place. When near Duke, any impaled enemy will also potentially turn on their own allies. When paired with Bob, they will become explosive mines that can destroy multiple foes. Bob's portable turret gains a shield when used near Finn but gains the ability to stun enemies near Eris.

Basically, it amounts to each character granting bonuses in tune with their own attributes to their allies. Thus, Duke usually adds extra explosives or the ability to distract or decoy enemies because his own skills are an explosive and a decoy. Eris grants CC because she's all about CC. Finn makes things tankier or more explosive because he's … well, tankier and boomier. Bob adds mines or drone support. It's a neat concept because it means that team composition matters, and older characters will gain additional synergies when new characters are added so they don't get outdated. There's also a talent tree that can be used to boost a character's status or add special abilities, but as of this writing, it's still in an early beta form. It looks like the final intention will be a series of generic skills, like faster movement and greater damage, in addition to character-specific skills.

Precious, precious loot is just as important. As you're playing missions, you'll gain drops, including armor, crafting material, and weapons. Crafting looks neat. Rather than having a set item to build, you can craft a weapon from basic models, components, software and hardware. The model determines the type of weapon it is, the components govern the stats, the software dictates passive bonuses, and the hardware establishes unique attributes, like bullets that can ricochet off walls. The ability to decide what you want to make instead of being at the mercy of RNG seems like a boon for this sort of game.

Space Punks is a F2P game, and some of the signs are already clear in the Early Access build. There is a premium shop where you can buy skins and various visual flairs for your characters, ranging from different loot to special emotes and animations. Choosing other characters also require an in-game currency. It looks like it will be possible to do everything gameplay-wise without resorting to real cash, but we'll have to see how the final version holds up.

You earn in-game currency by doing in-game missions, with your Fame meter determining which missions you can take. There are multiple planets that have set missions and semi-randomized missions that pop up for limited amounts of time. Complete missions, and you'll get rewards, including fame, experience points, weapons, and more. You can also pick a difficulty when going into missions, ranging from easy to hardcore. As expected, harder difficulties yield greater rewards, but the hardcore difficulty isn't for the weak of heart.

I mentioned Borderlands above, and that is because Space Punks has a similar feel to it. The irreverent comical characters, loot-based world setting, and even the cartoony art style all bring Borderlands to mind. However, it also brings to mind a lot of other space adventures, so it doesn't feel like a knock-off. Duke radiates a Star-Lord energy, while Finn and Bob are distinctly non-human in a way that you don't see in Borderlands. As the game progresses, I'm sure there will be more chances to show off its own personality, even if it looks a bit familiar at first blush.

The good news is that you won't have to wait long to try Space Punks, which will be coming exclusively to the Epic Games store starting July 14, 2021, as an Early Access title. It'll also be available through online giveaways or by purchasing a pack via Epic. There will also be an open beta this winter if you'd rather wait to see how things shape up in a few months. If you're in the mood for space antics and loot-hunting, Space Punks has a lot of potential.

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