Make Evil Underwater Robots Kill Each Other In Action-Puzzler Subaeria
In a dystopic future where humankind has to live in underwater cities, President Dorf’s capitalist totalitarian democracy isn’t to everyone’s liking. Poor people have to toil in the factories, overseen by robots with a licence to kill. Young Styx and her friendly drone companion won’t have anymore of that and set out to give Dorf a piece of her mind with the power of… non-violent action puzzling!
Subaeria spent almost three years in early access, and – it pains me to say this – it feels more like the idea of a good game than a good game overall. For a lot of games that feel rough around the edges, “more time in the oven” is a valid solution, budget and time permitting. However, in the case of Subaeria I don’t feel like polishing what’s already there would be the answer.
The game procedurally creates its world, a series of interconected rooms that are populated by evil robots, in each run. In order to traverse these rooms, you have to take out their robot menace first, otherwise the doors won’t open.
The easiest way to do that is to have them kill each other, but you can also manipulate their behavior via drone upgrades that allow you to control them for a while or that push them around into lethal laser barriers. Considering that you only have limited charges of these programs, this often makes the game feel like a puzzle.
Getting rid of aggressive enemies without the means of properly defending yourself is a pretty cool concept on paper, but the execution fell flat for me. It’s just not as engaging as it could be and all too often ends up with you kiting one enemy towards the next one, hoping not to sustain any damage in the process.
It might be that your drone and the abilities it can pick up along the way play a major role in adding some much-needed variety, but how exactly they should be used is entirely for you to find out. Sure, there’s some information you get with every skill, but that little box of text doesn’t really tell you how exactly to use it effectively.
You could say that the challenge lies in figuring out how all of this works. However, considering the constant threat of having to start all over again if you mess up, experimentation is not rewarded, but rather discouraged.
So you’re better off playing it safe, and sadly, safe is not very exciting. The challenges seem to get a bit more varied and trickier after the first boss fight, but in most cases, the same old strategies still work: lure robots to collide or shoot each other, lure robots in laser death traps.
I don’t doubt for a second that it must be incredibly difficult to build your game on a roguelike foundation, balancing things like challenge, progression, and accessibility. And yet, Subaeria doesn’t manage to really convince me with any of those elements, which is a shame, because the game looks rather lovely and I really do like its overall concept.
The thing is: I want to like Subaeria, and I hope it finds an audience. I can imagine that a very specific kind of player, someone who played a lot of Binding of Isaac for instance, will get a kick out of this. But that player just isn’t me.