Developer: Wild Factor
Publisher: Plug In Digital
This preview is based on an early access title.
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from history is that humanity is essentially just waiting around for either an incredibly intelligent AI of our own devising or a bunch of aliens to turn up and enslave us all, because when put under the whip we make a solid, if slightly whiny, labour force. True story.
So, here’s the setup: you are a robot tasked with mining resources from the far reaches of space at the behest of your metal boss. The problem is the boss’ wife has taken a liking to the squishy humans that inhabit some of the planets, and has requested that you do your best to protect them, which is a small problem given that hordes of insane, wild robots launch attacks every night. In order to defend the humans, then, you have to drag their sorry hides around with you from planet to planet and use them to mine resources, which are then spent on constructing defenses to save their worthless squishy lives. Seriously, screw those freaking meatbags.
It’s a situation that cannot be taken seriously, so it’s a good thing that the static screens filled with dialogue are well written and genuinely funny. Emails arrive from your mom back home who insists that you wear your hand knitted jumper and that lasers only hurt when they hit you in the face, while your own robotic character desperately tries to find out if using resources to save humans is going to get him fired, or if any help is coming, because that would be great. Please.
Once you’ve been dropped onto a planet the first thing you need to do is allocate your supply of humans to resource collection, quickly judging what you want to grab and at what rate. Basic metal is used in the construction of walls and machine gun towers, while other materials are needed for creating rocket towers and other things. Defenses in the game’s current form are limited to simple walls, machine gun towers, rocket towers and lasers towers, and you simply toss them down in the general direction of the incoming enemy horde, indicated a short while before a wave attacks by a red icon flashing on the screen. Should you the enemy engage their brain for a second and decided to launch an assault from the other direction you can recycle existing defenses before hurtling over to the front line and redeploying your stuff, picking and choosing which weapons to use depending on the enemy type. Big, bad bull bots, for example, can largely shrug off machine gun fire, so rockets are the way to go, especially if you sink some resources into upgrading them a time or two.
Completing a planet rewards you with a chunk of gold that can be used to buy new stuff, but there’s also an interesting risk vs reward mechanic at play on the planet’s surface as you can send humans to mine gold deposits as well, which obviously stops them from gathering the materials required to build your defenses. It’s a clever idea, but one that’s let down by the fact that unless you’re able to devote your entire workforce to mining gold for a large amount of time, the rewards aren’t really worth the effort, especially given the very limited selection of items to buy.
When you’re not on a planet saving humans and blowing up robots there’s a shop you can visit in order to purchase some new equipment. Some of it is specifically for your humans as it boosts willingness to work and productivity, while other stuff is for defense. It’s a barebones selection of stuff at the moment with two items locked off due to its Early Access nature, but I have the sneaking suspicion that there’s not going to be much more on offer in the full game either, reinforcing my belief that Freaking Humans is fun, but doesn’t have a whole lot to offer. I have no way of knowing if my assumptions are correct, though, as a visit to both the Steam forums and official game website reveals no published plans from the developer or indications of what’s coming down the line.
A second shop offers up upgrades for your robot and other things purchased by spending Cores which are gathered from fallen foes or from around the environment. These vary from bumping up the speed of your bot to increasing the health of the main base or giving you more storage space for humans.
Back on the ground there’s a couple more building options for you to play with, assuming you’ve bought them from the shop. Placing a mechanised mine down on top of a patch of resources bolsters production by 200% while a pathway of booster pads can be laid to speed up your fleshbags at minimal cost. Explosive mines can also be laid out for unsuspecting robots to wander over.
One of the features the game touts proudly on its Steam page is DNA Fusion, the act of combining the DNA of two beings to produce a new fleshy thing for you to boss around. Don’t worry, the original two subjects survive the process as well. If you combine two humans then only their common traits will carry over to the creation, but if you throw an alien into the mix then that aliens abilities will also carry over, granting your new creation such awesome things as laser eyes or being able to explode violently. Look, I never said these abilities would be something the hybrid would actually want personally.
The game’s official webpage describes Freaking Meatbags as, ” real-time strategy game that’s all about building a base, mixing meatbag DNA, then convincing those dolts to help you gather resources.” It’s a sentence which conjures images of armies, varied buildings and yourself seated in a chair, blithely yelling orders and looming over a strategic overview of the battle. But in truth what Freaking Meatbags is, is a pretty basic tower defense game. You throw down some defenses, perhaps using the environments natural chokepoints, and that’s about it. Managing the humans is simple, there’s minimal thought required to defend your base, and there’s little else to worry about. The gameplay is occasionally mixed up by having the base element removed entirely, leaving you to meander round a planet, gathering up weapon pods for your robot and using them to gun down the wild robots, at which point Freaking Meatbags becomes a simplistic shooter.
Freaking Meatbags is….okay. And that’s all I can honestly say about it. I’m struggling to find a whole lot to talk about that doesn’t amount to me just saying it’s okay in a slightly different way. There’s certainly nothing bad about the game. Indeed, for an Early Access title it’s surprisingly polished and free of bugs, and for 20-minutes or so it’s quite fun. But then you’ll get bored, turn it off and completely forget about it until the next time you fire up Steam with a spare half-hour of time and remember that Freaking Meatbags is still in your library. You’ll enjoy it again briefly, and then forget about once more. Maybe that’s enough. Maybe.
Development is far from finished yet, and thus Freaking Meatbags has plenty of time to be improved upon, and doubtless when it finally releases I’ll come back and offer up my final thoughts, but in its current state there’s not much for me to recommend here. Although the official website nor the Steam page offer any insight into where the game is going from here, screenshots and trailers released by the developers show several more buildings that could potentially bolster Freaking Meatbags greatly. With a more varied selection of buildings and the opportunity to construct larger bases, this could become a great little strategy game.
But here and now, at this very moment, it’s a mildly enjoyable, very simple strategy game with a strong sense of humour but little in the way of actual gameplay to hold one’s attention. I want to love the game because it has an undeniable charm produced by its wonderfully retro graphics and its indie spirit, but I can’t just yet. The potential is there, now it just needs to be realised.
Early Access Recommendations:
Worth buying to support development? Yes. The potential for something great is there.
Worth buying if you just want a game to play? No. Wait until development has progressed further, or the game has been fully released.