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Besiege

Besiege

After five long years of early access, this physics-based siege builder is ready to knock the house down.

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Besiege is probably the most accurate digital depiction of what's happening inside a mechanic's head when they're scheming up various clever ways to fix and destroy everything around them that has ever been released - so far at least. I realised this after getting tasked with wiping out four wooden airships that were armed to the teeth with massive cannons for protection, along with an army of moody self-destructive cattle running around below for good measure.

Fueled by the ridiculous conundrum ahead I set off to work, scheming from a massive range of possibilities to create my magnum opus; a flying flamecopter. Starting with a basic frame, I used all sorts of blocks and gizmos to improve it; from snapping pistons onto giant mechanical arms that could spin at any speed to putting a sundry of spikes on top for a cool look. Perhaps a few more death blades would do? Maybe I should add some armour as well? To be fair, it would go nicely with the extra rockets. 128 blocks of wood, 15 balloons, dozens of braces, several flamethrowers, and a quick moment to admire my genius and I was finally ready to roast my enemies alive - if it had worked, of course. Those balloons I attached were pathetic at lifting weight, causing the flamecopter to plummet straight towards the ground and light a kamikaze cow on fire. After taking a moment to witness this colossal failure and rebuild my self-confidence, it was back to the drawing board.

You'll probably experience a lot of memorably absurd moments like this in Besiege too, a physics-based siege builder similar to the likes of Kerbal Space Program. Instead of figuring out rocket science, however, you'll be creating plenty of self-designed quixotic machines to complete a series of different tasks across four kingdoms. Most of the time, they'll end in utter chaos because of the sheer freedom granted to you from right from the beginning of every level.

Besiege

Each one you barge into always begins in the simplest of fashions, with a suspended cube in front of an obstacle lying ahead that's just begging for you to give it a function, a purpose, a way to complete the challenge and move on to beat the next one. These tasks are simple to start with, but soon enough they escalate into increasingly elaborate requests from navigating minefields to decimating an entire fort or even stealing a prized possession such as a massive sword.

Building a contraption in Besiege is intuitive thanks to a flexible construction system that's easy to use yet difficult to master. Blocks can be selected from a handy tab menu and snapped onto another block to attach them with a satisfying "clink" sound, and effortlessly removed with a quick undo. Secure your invention with braces and congratulations, you've made a plank of wood with wheels. While it's good for knocking a pleb's house down, however, it won't hold up when you need to start doing real damage or labour. That's where the other tabs come in. These greatly expand the capabilities of what you can do from better locomotion to adding actual mechanical functions such as swivel joints, hinges, grabbers and contractible springs. Weapons are where I brainstormed my craziest ideas.

Besiege

The tranquil setting subtlety aids you during the process as well. Most of the dioramas are surrounded by a white void with soothing chimes for music and a lovely painted aesthetic, almost suggesting that everything is taking place within a daydream. It applies to the amusing little details too, such as the way animals and farmers bob up and down like action figures to the irritating horns those knights use. It's quite peaceful on the whole, at least until they're torn apart in a shower of blood when you show up. Everyone you kill also ends up getting their name and death detailed at the bottom of the screen to rub in your fantasised tyranny too. Sure, I felt a tinge of guilt for a while, but then I heard their amusing death cries - an icing on the cake that kept motivating me to conjure up even more outlandish ideas.

Time and time again I tested, trying to use the impressively realistic physics simulation to my advantage and turn some shambling mess into a masterpiece of engineering. The best part is that Besiege encourages free-form building, so you don't need to stick with traditional ideas. Sure, you could theoretically slap some wheels on a flimsy trebuchet and call it a day but thanks to the versatile modify tool (which lets you tweak a block's activation key and parameters such as speed) the real enjoyment comes from building something far outside of Da Vinci's mindset. Think among the lines of functional planes and helicopters, tanks, battle elephants, bipedal robots, racing cars or a hideous combination of them all - there's almost no limit beyond your imagination, skill and that bounding box. Heck, you can build the ultimate machine to beat every level right from the start or spend an eternity fine-tuning your efforts into a work of art, like this crane I made. The arm can literally become longer, spin around, ascend and descend towards objects and, somehow, it doesn't rip itself apart when picking things up! It's absolutely perfect until it needs to travel up a steep incline where it topples over and snaps. Despite this design flaw (and the undeniable truth that my machine was just a crane), watching it work was truly a sight to behold.

Besiege

Mind you, this does lead to a few significant downsides too. Since absolutely everything is open from the moment you start, it's easy to feel overwhelmed, especially since most of the mechanical blocks only have brief explanations. You'd think that the optional tutorials provided would help you out here, but surprisingly they're mostly barebone. Only the very basics are given any insight, namely using the camera or how to put wheels on. Once the guides do go into depth, however, you either end up with some overly complicated contraption that didn't work or the absolute worst methods for steering. Add to this the occasional janky bug that can cause your machine to re-enact the ending to The Thief and the Cobbler and you have yourself a few frustrating moments.

Fortunately, while you won't find much help within Besiege, the dedicated community more than makes up for it with an absurd amount of guides for you to follow. I used one of them to build a fantastic auto-stabilising quadcopter, for example, with a few bombs added on so I could reign terror on anything below. There are other extensive community features as well from mods to an excellent level creator and hundreds of meticulous machines others have made for you to try out. There's even a multiplayer mode with dedicated servers if you fancy trying to recreate Robot Wars or Wacky Races.

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After taking in the humiliating failure of my disastrous flamecopter, I returned with a machine to top all others: the Annihilator. Massive in size with 479 blocks, it featured saw blades at the front to cut anything apart and could turn like a beastly tank. Best of all, however, was the whopping 28 cannons on top that could both rotate and look up and down for good measure. Soon enough I rolled straight up to my enemies, aimed the artillery in their direction and fired - the next thing I saw was the beautiful sight of four airships crashing onto those pesky cows I mentioned before. Glorious.

It took a long time to become confident enough with my building abilities to create the Annihilator, but eventually, that becomes part of the fun. Besiege capitalises on the energising joy of watching something you've constructed succeed with flying colours or obliterate itself in the process, and I can't wait to make something even more ludicrous next time.

Besiege
08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Almost unlimited potential when creating machines, the building system is simple, detailed physics, lots of varied levels, a serene aesthetic that has plenty of funny touches, fantastic community.
-
The tutorial is severely lacking with little explanation and some poor advice, it still a few bugs left to sort out.
overall score
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REVIEW. Written by Bradley Newson

"The best part is that Besiege encourages free-form building, so you don't need to stick with traditional ideas."



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