EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Joel France
previewed on PC
High Effort, Low Energy
Itís a tale as old as time - the multiverse is under threat (again!) and this week, itís the job of the four heroes in Metaverse Keeper to do their part in the face of certain death. Another roguelike, another dungeon, another list of items to try out and interactions to learn. I donít mean to sound jaded - the genre is popular for a reason - but itís important to find the unique qualities in any new release that might help set it apart from its contemporaries.
A Measured Approach
One thing that does set Metaverse Keeper apart is the decidedly clunky combat. Where similar games (think Enter the Gungeon or Nuclear Throne) have separated movement and aiming with a twin-stick approach, Metaverse Keeper opts to go a more classic dungeon-crawler route. For such a combat-focused game, youíre pretty limited in your flexibility, as your character will always attack in the direction theyíre moving - this forces the gameplay to be a lot more deliberate, and less reactionary. Last second dodges can be performed, which adds a tantalising layer of risk/reward - itís just such a shame that, due to the lengthy cooldown timers on these, theyíre presented as a last resort rather than a bread and butter move.
The Numbers; What Do They Mean?
The core loop of Metaverse Keeper is pretty streamlined when you boil it down to base elements: clear rooms by hitting enemies with things, get rewarded with bigger things, with which to hit bigger enemies. It comes as a surprise, then, that the way your progress is tracked seems so obnoxiously complex. Itís never quite explained why you might need three different currencies, for starters. And as for getting hit? Well, the red bar, that must be Health - that blue one, Shield, and the orange, thatís Vitality - or, wait, wasnít that for items? To top it off, each ability comes complete with a maximum capacity and a cooldown timer. So itís not as though Metaverse Keeper doesnít keep you busy - with so many numbers to manage and maintain throughout a run, thereís always something to keep an eye on. But more does not always equal better, and the statistical smorgasbord presented to the player serves more as a distraction to the core gameplay than a key aspect of it.
The Spice of Life
A big concern when playing any kind of game that promises massive amounts of procedural or randomised content is that you may start to run across duplicates. This usually signifies that the scope of the underlying assets just isnít high enough. Whilst Metaverse Keeper does seem to have the building blocks in place for a robust arsenal to be available, the amount of duplicate weapons that I came across in my few short hours with the game suggest either that too much of the content is locked behind progression walls, or that thereís just not yet enough to go around. In either case, getting all too familiar with a narrow range of options within such a short time frame doesnít fill me with confidence for the long term engagement prospects. This will definitely be something to watch for in the coming months, as developers Sparks Games have yet to prove themselves one way or another.
Got The Look
One thing that this game really succeeds on is the clean and cutesy aesthetic, reminiscent of early 2000s Flash gaming. The animations are all lively and expressive, and there are some really nice gameplay touches here - I especially enjoy how being close to failure is handled. Where in many games youíll be subjected to an irritating siren, or the screen might pulse red, here your character simply professes their concern through a pictographic speech bubble, signalling that they really would love it if you could collect some hearts right about now. This is a great detail that, in conjunction with other similarly animated UI elements, adds a lot of charm to the game.
Itís difficult to say where this game is headed, as the short time the developers have allocated for Early Access doesnít leave much room for sweeping changes. Whilst continual boosts in content will always help with variety, if the core mechanics underpinning it all arenít satisfying, Metaverse Keeper will struggle to have staying power.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.