Auto Assault has potential, but that potential is buried under layers and layers of problems.
- Interesting setting for an MMO
- Combat is more interesting than typical MMO combat
- Features low-riding thugz that use bass as a weapon.
- Lack of players makes forming groups tough
- Lack of a death penalty means never having to care if you're going to live or die
- Cookie-cutter quest design gets old fast
- Technical glitches really get in the way.
On the surface, Auto Assault seems like an entirely different type of massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Instead of running around with swords or laser pistols, you're a postapocalyptic car, armed to the teeth and armored for protection from all sorts of mutants, scavengers, rogue militiamen, and so on. As you get deeper into it, though, Auto Assault reveals itself as a pretty standard MMORPG. Like most games in the genre, it's addictive. And the tweaks and the setting itself help make it feel different. But it also has a series of problems that really hold it back.
The biggest change that Auto Assault makes to the genre's typical formula is its combat. Rather than just press an attack button and watch the fun while firing off the occasional spell or special skill, Auto Assault makes you think more about your car's position while you're fighting. That's because your main methods of attack are a front-mounted weapon and a turret that rotates atop your vehicle. And you don't just hit an attack button and watch the shots fly back and forth. Instead, you actually hold down a fire button to start firing your weapons. The game draws a few arcs on the screen that represent the range of your weapons, and when you get an enemy in those arcs and hold down the fire button, the game starts rolling a ton of theoretical dice against your stats to determine if your shots miss or hit, and how much damage is done. There's a bit of skill involved in keeping your enemies in front of you when you're engaging in direct combat, though not all of the classes in the game specialize in such direct methods.
There are three different races here. The humans have only recently resurfaced onto the contamination-covered planet after locking themselves in massive arks and bombarding the planet in an attempt to cleanse it. The mutant race is very spiritual about things, and it uses the contamination to heal itself. The biomeks were once the human race's front line of combat against the mutants, but after all the pure humans locked themselves away and left these cyborgs to die, the two factions don't really get along very well. That leads to player-versus-player conflict in the middle of the world map, but you don't really get to see that until you've reached the upper end of the level cap.
Each of the three races has four classes. They all have different names, but the four classes fill similar roles for each group. There's a warrior-style class designed for direct frontal combat. You tend to have a ton of hit points and plenty of skills focused on dealing damage, as well as skills focused on taunting enemies to attack you instead of any weaker allies in your convoy. The engineer (or constructor or shaman, depending on your race) class serves as a healer and is also able to resurrect broken vehicles. The mastermind (or archon or lieutenant) class is your pet-handling class that engages in combat indirectly by sending various robots or creatures out to do battle. The fourth class is a stealth class. As you might expect, all of the various classes have their ups and downs, and some of them seem better suited to survive than others, though survival isn't actually too important in the grand scheme of things.
There's no real death penalty in Auto Assault. When you run out of hit points, your car blasts apart and you can either wait to be healed by another player or get an airlift back to the last repair station you visited in that zone, which more often than not, isn't really very far. This encourages exploration, but at the same time, you never really feel any tension from the battles. Win or lose, it almost doesn't matter. If you have enough hit points, you can complete many quests by driving into a cluster of enemies, ignoring all of them except for the ones you need to eliminate for the quest, and killing them until you die yourself. Then just get an airlift out, repair for free at any of the healing pads placed around the repair stations, and drive back out there to kill a few more, if you have to. We spent most of our time as a human commando and rarely had any trouble taking care of quests without help from other players. Only a few of the game's boss-type characters required some extra help.