Much of the furious money shower that is Kickstarter has so far found its way into a plethora of independent gaming projects, many by developers who had either left or been fired from larger studios. Many of these games managed to reach and exceed their funding targets to the extent that they were able to pump that extra dosh into expediting their projects into beta faster than many had anticipated. But are these games actually living up to their lofty claims of vivid gaming experiences, now that the shackles of the publisher are gone?
One of the first non-Double Fine, non-Exile games to be funded was Ravaged by 2Dawn Studios, a ragtag group of developers with credentials ranging from the Battlefield series to Desert Combat, arguably one of the best FPS mods ever made.
Promising to combine the explosive, Mad-Max style of post apocalyptic wasteland with a traditional open world battlefield, the emphasis in Ravaged is all about the vehicles. From incredibly twitchy and fragile gyro-copters (you can tell these guys worked on Battlefield!) to beefy roll-caged utes with Gatling guns and rocket launchers welded to the tray and roof, there’s a bit of desert-roaming kit for everyone. Their demonstration videos were initially also impressive, allowing for multiple views, intricate control over movement and reasonably realistic physics for suspension and landing.
So when the developers approached us to take a look at the beta, we were certainly intrigued. Very few games like these start out with a PC focus, and I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for vehicle-centric carnage. So I dropped my key into Steam, booted up the client and… hrm. All the servers were empty. One of the problems with obscure titles is that, well, no-one knows about them, especially when they are in beta. Thankfully, the developers were gracious enough to call some of their best community players to arms and show this little Aussie journo a thing or two.
One of the first things I noticed about Ravaged was that there’s very little fanfare to it all. You join a server, pick a class and a spawn, and you’re dropped in next to a selection of (rapidly spawning, thankfully) vehicles. The UI does a great job of highlighting what’s going on – you can easily see where you need to attack, defend or “steal”, in the case of a particular map mode where you are ripping off your enemy’s fuel reserves. Controlling the vehicles is, unsurprisingly, straight out of Battlefield. You use the numkeys to change seats if you want to be a gunner or a driver, the mouse to navigate the direction and WASD to control acceleration and wide movement. The weapons feel great – loud and meaty, peppering the environment as you race across the desert, flying over makeshift jumps, enormous shattered bridges, etc.
There were about 10 people in the server at peak, so I couldn’t really get a scale for an enormous battle, but the maps are enormous and designed especially for vehicle moment. Running across anywhere feels painfully slow and I’d imagine that’s on purpose. The same goes with the sheer fragile nature of the individual – people can barely survive a few shots and there isn’t a lot of natural cover on the few maps I played. Tactics are the name of the game, and the ability to jump into moving vehicles (again, Ala Battlefield) or join another player is welcome. There’s just something really savage and awesome about racing ramshackle machines across the desert, firing out the back while a gyro-copter covers you with a rocket launcher.
Being in beta, however, shows that the game client still has a fair way to go. There is an extraordinary amount of texture pop-in, particularly at the start of each match and occasional spawn. The graphic options on offer are good (albeit DX9), but you can see there’s still a lot of room for refining some of the small things, including the sound (missiles, specifically, sound terrible). There are tons of little glitches as well – I was constantly getting stuck on objects in the map and wedged between rocks, or witnessing strange non interactive animations, such as when a vehicle explodes, its wheels roll down imaginary ground to disappear. But there’s so much promise here, especially when you check out some of the upcoming vehicles – like a slow moving mobile fortress, which is nothing short of brilliance.
With more time, more players and more vehicles, Ravaged could easily be one of the PC’s stand-out multiplayer experiences – the team say they put more of an emphasis on fun rather than realism, and it shows. The matches I had with the guys were crazy, hilariously over-the-top and most importantly, enjoyable. I didn’t feel like I was waiting around to get to the action, since there was always a vehicle nearby to jump into or a battle being raged just over the next hill. Ravaged is definitely a game to keep an eye on.