Flying Wild Hogs has a lot in the works right now, but somehow the Polish studio managed to squeeze in an explosive action-RPG as well.
A few days ago, the Polish game developer Flying Wild Hogs (FWH) announced the latest game that it has in the works. Being produced with help from Jagex (the team that brought and continues to support both iterations of RuneScape), the title known as Space Punks was shown off as a chaotic action-RPG, played from an isometric angle, which is quite unusual since FWH are recognised for their FPS games. As part of the announcement, I've had the chance to dive into the game, ahead of its Early Access launch on the Epic Games Store, to get a feel for what is on offer, and so far, I've had a lot of fun.
Designed as an isometric ARPG, the game asks players to pick one of four characters to head out into the reaches of space to complete a contract to earn gear and become stronger, to be able to then take on more challenging contracts in turn. It's sort of like a typical looter-shooter game loop in that regard, but plays in a more arcade style, which is ideal since chaos and explosive action is crucial to the success of Space Punks, and in this regard it delivers without question.
But, as Space Punks is also a free-to-play game, you don't get a sprawling ARPG that really allows you to connect and become attached to the characters. You get defined levels with defined objectives, where at the end of each one, you return to the hub location to reap the rewards and improve your character. And talking about this design, the levels are quite small, and the objectives are pretty repetitive. Destroy a key item. Kill a powerful enemy. Capture a zone. Sure, you will have side objectives to complete alongside this, but that largely revolves around wandering the map to find a number of chests to gain resources and gear to become stronger. It can all be a little repetitive.
Yet, the arcade, simple to understand, chaotic, and smooth feeling nature of Space Punks offsets this design quite significantly. The characters, be it the nanotech wielding Eris or the humanoid pig Finn, feel unique and fun to play and each bring something new to the table. Match this up with the variety of weapons on offer that if you are a fan of the wild world of Borderlands will hit right home, and you get a thoroughly enjoyable game that can be hard to put down.
I will say that the RPG aspect of the game and the character development seems like a major investment, and to really explore it will require you to sink a decent portion of your own time into it to really draw value from it. It's a little grindy. On the other hand, I, who has mostly played this game solo so far, has found that the levels and the contracts are more than approachable alone and don't require all that much investment into the skill trees and the improvement of a character. Granted, this is provided you don't rush into combat too quickly - and this is on the harder, more rewarding difficulties for that manner.
There's no doubt about it, Space Punks is designed to be played cooperatively. Solo is more than plausible, but considering this game has abilities that synergise between the playable characters, and hordes of enemies that won't hesitate to overwhelm you in an instant, having a few pals along for the ride is encouraged. Space Punks really is better this way. It's more fun, chaotic, and entertaining across the board.
However, so far, one thing has caught my attention that could become a nuisance down-the-line. As this is a free-to-play game, there are missions that are locked behind time-gated windows, meaning the missions are only playable within a certain time period, and once that time period passes, you have to wait until the mission opens again. It seems like the sort of design choice you'd get in a free-to-play mobile game truthfully, and it can be irritating. In fact the idea of free-to-play, while great, is sort of a double-edged sword in Space Punks, as new characters require a currency to unlock, a lot of cosmetics are tied to a premium store, and there are battle passes to unlock new gear and goodies. None of the paid content affects gameplay or your ability to progress the story, but it's not exactly hard to miss when you are at the hub location in-game.
For what it is worth, if you're looking for a chaotic, explosive, isometric shooter that really is fun and packed with action, you won't go wrong with Space Punks. Sure, it isn't perfect right now, but if there is one thing the free-to-play model does mean, it's that the game will have a range of new content, be it characters, locations, weapons, or gear coming in the future, so there's plenty to look forward to, which is pretty great for a game that is only just making its way into Early Access.