It’s not often that a game becomes impossible to review. Even in the most die-hard cases, there is usually one fine line to go on, however shoddy it may be. I can still remember cases like Elements of War or Legends of Pegasus, where the release build was so broken that progress became impossible. Still, there was some progress, at the very least, in particular with the latter example, where the game broke down irreparably every ten minutes. Yet, the same does not apply to Guncraft.
It has me quite stumped. In the few weeks it’s been out, most my time has been spent in the lobby. In reality, I’ve only played 2 or perhaps 3 half full maps, where one or two players have latency so high, it may as well be empty. Something, something, online only multiplayer games; a point could be made about remedying a crippled start with outsourced support or ideally a singleplayer option. Still, that’s a developer’s choice and I respect that.
However, it is poignant that a game compounded by these issues gets released in the first place. I doubt anyone is buying a game on the promise that it’s playable at some point, except in an Alpha state. Guncraft is not in Alpha. Even if you only plan on touching it later on, you’d want the certainty that it works, not a chance. It’s issues like these that form the backlash around games like the modern SimCity or Diablo III. In Guncraft’s case, it’s a little different though: There are no options to play the functional game.
Luckily, I’m rather patient when it comes to these things. The first few unplayable days of a major release don’t faze me, since you’re assured of a highly produced item after that clears up. Even during the great Sony Network outage, there was still an option to play other things and your online downloads still work without a connection. Guncraft doesn’t have those leniencies, despite being a capable first person shooter with building elements. As a smaller game, its lifespan in the online spectrum is already counted on a peak, occurring anywhere from a few months after release to a year or two, after which it dwindles away. More so, by using ideas others titles have used already, it needs to immediately squash any skepticism.
Yet, after trying for over a week to enter a game, I had not been able to do so. That’s a tough steeple. On August 4, I finally gave up for the first time and tweeted my frustration, as all modern passive-aggressiveness works. I was reassured by the development team that my woes would be lifted upon the Steam release on August 9. Now, this already rings an alarm bell for me, as it negates the point of releasing it on other platforms in the first place. If your game doesn’t work without the support of Steam’s traffic, then why release it anywhere else? Vigilance still present, I managed to enter 1 semi-playable game the next day and as I prepared to stream it, it went away, never to be seen again. Easy come, easy go.
Still, patience and all that, I was later prompted a few more times that the day of reckoning had arrived and Guncraft was finally available on Steam, after issues on Valve’s part. Alright; time to hit this blocky clone right in the face and release this weight I’ve been carrying on my shoulders for weeks. Then again, maybe not; as I was promptly greeted to this screen, mere seconds after immediately being disconnected from the only server with 2 players at high ping rates.
Attempting to make a server of my own resulted in the game disconnecting by itself a few minutes in as well, so that wasn’t an option either. At this point, earlier vigilance is hitting critically low levels. Finding further excuses for the game’s failings, I argued that perhaps the time wasn’t right and I’d need to return at a more representative time, when everyone is online or Steam’s traffic had risen. I was greeted with these, at two representative points.
Apparently, other versions hadn’t adapted to Steam’s greatness yet, further irking my point that any other release is superfluous, if not insulting to consumers. In developer Exato Games’ defense, they did mention delivering Steam keys to people who purchased the game prior to its Greenlight success. However, these also have befallen a sizable delay and aren’t available as of yet. Therefore, since I’m waiting anyway, I decided to vicariously live the grand Valve experience and headed to Steam. A first note of worry is that for a Greenlight project freshly released, Guncraft failed to even graze the Top 10 selling list, which just about any other similar title briefly does on release day, the largest selling date. Another issue was the forums, where nothing but complaints (and meta-complaints of locked complaints) surfaced in discussions. These aren’t airtight arguments though, as you can look at any game’s release and see streams of disgruntled internet people, to some extent. It is, however, not deniable either. It fills the board for a reason. It seemed, at the very least, I wasn’t the only one not playing a game I should be playing.
We are now well into August 11. The above was my screen after 5 to 10 minutes of waiting. If the internet is an instantaneous device, then such a thing apparently excludes Guncraft. It looks like a game with some promise, offering extensive building mechanisms, ample game modes, a myriad of customization and more. There is nothing of it that I’d like to see from it again though. Several weeks have passed; that should’ve been enough to play it, if not review it.
Here’s my review: Guncraft is a game, I’ve heard said. Maybe it is. It sure looks like one.