A sci-fi version of GTA...
Persistent world games are nothing new. Grand Theft Auto III was the first real game that seamlessly brought a player into a constant universe where his actions had immediate consequences. Rockstar later perfected this with both Vice City and San Andreas. Other developers have taken a stab at this type of gameplay and both the PC release of Mafia and, most recently, Mercenaries are excellent examples. Now we come to Scrapland, a persistent-state game set in a sci-fi universe on a planet far away. Despite Mercury Steam’s best efforts though, a lackluster single-player with mediocre gameplay can’t save this game from being anything but average.
Scrapland puts you in the roll of D-Tritus, a friendly robot who has just arrived on the robot planet of Scrapland. To live on Scrapland however, you must find a job and as luck would have it, you’re given the, “job that no one else wants,”— also known as a journalist. All seems to be going well until an unexplained murder thrusts you into the middle of the action. It’s time to boot up your ship, take to the skies, and delve into the inner workings of this city-like planet to solve this mystery.
Your ship is paramount to your adventure and there are plenty of options for you to pimp your ride. At the scrap yard you’ll have access to ten different hangars in which you can create and store ships. Depending on what plans you have access to you’ll be able to equip different hulls, engines, weapons, and armor onto your ships. Each have their advantages and disadvantages and you have to choose wisely depending on what type of mission you’re facing. Sure armored giants brimming with weapons are good in a fire-fight but if you’re in a racing situation you’ll be left in the dust. Over the course of the game new ship components can be unlocked by either by completing missions or by finding plans that are randomly hidden in certain locations.
Your ship will be your primary means of transportation around Scrapland so finding the right combination to suit your needs is essential. Scrapland is a persistent world that looks like a page out of Star Wars: Episode II. The game does a fairly good job of projecting what a futuristic city would look like. You’ll see highways of ships bustling about and you’re free to destroy them at your leisure. The major limitation here is that that’s about all you can do if you’re not on a specific mission. What’s the sense of having an independent world if all you can do is blow up ships and the police that inevitably chase you down? It does get repetitive after a while and you’ll want to stick to the main missions for any sense of accomplishment.
Aside from the planet itself, you’ll be able to visit several buildings throughout the game. These are places like the press building, police station, and mayor’s office; places you would expect to find in any major city. It’s here where an interesting gameplay mechanic comes into play—assuming the identity of other robots. In Scrapland you’ll have access to the “Great Database” which keeps a copy of every robot registered in the city so that, in the event that a robot is killed, it can instantly be brought back to life. Of course, this technology isn’t fool proof and you’ll find “Great Database” access points where you’ll be able to hack in and assume the identity of any number of robots.
Depending on the situation, you’ll assume the identity of different robots. Need to get into a restricted area? No problem once you become a police officer. Trying to get somewhere out of reach? Become a messenger bot and you’ll be able to fly around anywhere you wish. Each different robot has a distinct ability as well; some will be able to attack other robots, there’s even one that can emit a light that temporarily blinds all surrounding bots. Short on cash? Steal money by switching to a banker bot. Like your ship, you’ll need to be a different robot depending on the situation. Obviously, there are consequences to this and if you’re caught impersonating a robot by the police, they’ll hunt you down until you lose them or until they kill you.
One of the major shortfalls of Scrapland are the missions. To move along the story you’ll have to complete a long series of minor missions that seem like recycled versions of each other. Whether it’s killing ten stapler-bots or following the same character over and over again to a specific location, it does get old real fast. Scrapland tries to push action by including a lot of combat missions but that too gets old rather quickly. Sure you can add more weapons and small upgrades that will improve their lethality but ship-to-ship fighting is mundane and you’ll often find yourself using the same weapon over and over again. There are side-missions which you can accept from the eccentric, Crazy Gambler but his objectives are just variations of the main missions and the rewards for completing them don’t really seem worth the time.
Not that any of the missions will feel difficult anyway, the AI felt underdeveloped; not once did I feel as if they were a threat. Enemy ships routine was to attack until they took enough damage, fly away to pick up armor, and attack again. It took about five minutes of play to figure the ship AI out. Avoiding the police inside the buildings is easy enough if you find a corner to hide in for five seconds. Both the gameplay and AI add up to make you want to finish Scrapland for the simple sake of not having to play it anymore.
Visually though, Scrapland is a stark contrast to the rest of the game. The cityscapes look phenomenal the sheer variety from places like the industrial sector and downtown help give the city some substance. You’ll fly around at a smooth frame rate and even in heavy firefights the game won’t skip a beat. Characters are modeled and textured with precision and weapons effects are a treat to watch.
Since most of the storyline is driven by character dialogues, audio plays a big part in Scrapland and luckily it’s done adequately. Most of the voice acting is done competently but there are a few moments where things just sound awkward. Consistent encounters with certain robots will reveal that they repeat phrases a little too often. Then again, I probably noticed this because I got involved with the cops a few more times than I should have. Music throughout the game is enjoyable and you’ll have quirky futuristic songs playing throughout the game, varying on the situation you’re in.
Aside from single-player, Scrapland does feature a full-on multiplayer mode with six different types of play like deathmatch, team deathmatch, and one flag mode. Multiplayer does provide some exciting moments in ship-to-ship fighting and gives the game a significant amount of replay.
Scrapland was a good idea; give a persistent state game a futuristic theme. Too many repetitive missions and clunky AI limit the overall experience for the player though. Scrapland’s concept is unique enough and there are enough quirks in the game to keep most players occupied. This isn’t a bad game by any means. In fact, anyone who loves the gameplay of the Grand Theft Auto series should definitely look into a purchase.