Reviews

GoD Factory: Wingmen Review – In Space, Nobody Can Hear You Strategise

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Platforms: PC
Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Nine Dots Studio
Publisher: Nine Dots Studio
Singleplayer: No
Multiplayer: Yes

This review needs to be started with a major disclaimer: reviewing GoD Factory has been difficult, and not just because I was also covering a few other games at the time. Due to playing Destiny, Planetary Annihilation and the new Sherlock Holmes I started GoD Factory around 3 or 4 days after getting the code, which also placed it 3 or 4 days after official launch. Not a lot of time passed the release date, I’m sure you’ll agree, and yet even this shortly after launch GoD Factory’s community is tiny, and I struggled to get matches with a full house. Ergo, this review may be rather rough around the edges as cobbling together matches with a full player compliment was hit and miss, to say the least.

All that also means I’d like to apologise for the lateness of this review. Between the busy schedule and the inability to actually get matches with real players it took some considerable time before I felt happy enough to talk about the game in detail

The gist is simple enough: a 4v4 tactical space combat game, with the goal being to annihilate the enemy’s gigantic carrier before they destroy yours, done by doing 7 integrity points worth of damage. The big talking point here is that the capital ships are not just single huge health bars floating in space awaiting barrages of missiles, but rather are made up of smaller components that must be damaged and destroyed individually. The destruction of one of these components then  negatively affects every member of the team. Annihilate the radar system, for example, and the enemy team won’t be able to see quite as far on their mini-maps. Blow up the core located inside the massive carrier ship and the shields covering every other vital area will drop, giving your team a better run at victory. Wipe out the repair bay and it will take longer for ships to be repaired in dock. In total there’s eight different places to attack on a carrier, but the catch is that with just four players per team you all need to focus on specific areas in order to actually take them out. Sporadic assaults across the enemy carrier will always lose to an opposing team that are focusing their assaults on certain areas, especially since each part of the ship can regenerate slowly if left alone.

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It’s a war of attrition, but no matter what you do a match will never last longer than 20-minutes, and that’s because both carriers have a giant cannon that is fired at the opposition every few minutes, dealing a single point of damage.  You can, however, attack the cannons which slows down their rate of fire and thereby gain a slow but steady advantage. The hull of a carrier isn’t classified as one of the components, but it too can be damaged, a harder proposition given that it has over 50% more hitpoints than any other part of the ship. On the flipside, though, the hull has no regeneration ability and can be hit from anywhere, making it trickier for the opposing team to defend. Ripping apart the hull will result in every other area of the ship taking heavier damage when assaulted.

Being able to target specific sections of the ship brings a tactical edge to matches, and encourages you to work with your teammates. It’s here that the small player count irks me a tad, though, as four players make it awkward to defend and attack, whereas around eight per team would have allowed for the forming of little groups to run diversions, launch strikes and muster a defense. Still, regardless of the player count it remains a game of skill and tactics, and there doesn’t seem to be any clear best route to victory in terms of where to strike and in what order. Taking down the core might be worth 2 integrity points, but to get there you need to take out the shield generator first located inside the ship, a challenging task. Do you instead opt to work on eliminating the hull in order to get the damage bonus? Or maybe the main deck should be the first target since destroying it halves the fire rate of a carrier’s quite powerful defensive turrets? Perhaps aiming for the repair bay and ammo depot is best so that enemy fighters find it harder to keep their ships flying at maximum efficiency. It’s a great design concept that allows for lot of decisions that can influence the course of a match.

Teamwork is even further encouraged by the inclusion of combos, performed by hitting an enemy’s ship with two or more types of damage within a short frame of time, an effect that cannot be triggered by just a single ship. In total there’s 6 different types of damage: ignition, perforation, decay, distortion, overload and detonation. A basic combo, for example, would be to combine decay damage with overload, creating a shield leak that slowly drains defense. Higher level combos involving several types of damage can also introduce effects that can harm ships that get too close to the victim. Again, it’s a great design concept, although with just four players it can be hard to get a coordinated assault going on a single enemy ship, even though each pilot’s machine can actually take quite a beating before succumbing.

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Yet another interesting element is how you can take two ships into battle, the idea being that not only can you swap between them to access different weapons and abilities but also that if one gets damaged you can hurtle back to the hanger and change over to the other one, allowing the original machine to be slowly repaired. But why bother swapping, after all you could simply respawn, right? Wrong. If one of your ships is destroyed it’s replaced by an inferior drone for the rest of the match. The supply of drones is infinite, but since they suck in comparison to your own ships you’ll want to stay alive as long as possible in order to maximise their power.

Combat between players is fun, but lacks that magical spark required to make it stand out, largely because your attacks feel light and powerless, like you’re swatting at a fly.  The keyboard is an acceptable method of piloting your ship, but really a joystick or controller is the best option for making those tight turns as a mouse struggles as the mouse struggles to keep up with the action. Naturally battling another player is a hectic affair since g-force nor gravity present any problems for you, giving you free rein to spin like a madman. Even once locked into a fight, though, escaping is relatively easy thanks to the boos, and thus death isn’t actually that frequent, especially since you have a hefty shield that prolongs firefights. Special abilities are also mixed into the recipe like being able to teleport short distances, create clones and much more, and then topping it off are quick-turns that all ships have access to, letting you spin 180-degrees or 90-degrees at the tap of a button.

The special abilities and relatively high durability of ships both make for fun fights, but without a sense of impact and power combat lacks any palpable excitement. I enjoyed every dogfight, but was never left with a racing heart or sweaty palms. It’s missing an undefinable quality, as much as a cop-out it is to say that, and definitely needs its weapons to feel more powerful and impactful. Even the explosion of an enemy ship feels weak.

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Where the game’s second biggest problems lies is within its pacing. The strong emphasis on remaining alive so as to retain your primary ships is great, but it is also coupled with fairly small amounts of ammunition. A single dogfight can deplete your ammo supply hugely, and even if you don’t get into a battle with another player it means you have very little weaponry to attack the enemy carrier. Between this and your desire to keep your ships alive you’ll find yourself heading back to the docking station frequently, sometimes even after a single fight so that you can reload and get a decent run at the enemy carrier. It gives the lengthy matches a jarring pace.

The biggest problem, though, is that there’s just nobody around. I mentioned it briefly in the opening of this review but GoD Factory: Wingmen is almost a wasteland at the moment. Even logging in during the evening reveals maybe 20-players, while afternoons frequently yielded none. Yet I hate to count this as a flaw as such because it’s not the game’s fault, but on the other hand a multiplayer only game that focuses on teamwork does need a strong player base otherwise you’re essentially wasting your cash. It’s a tough situation from both a reviewing perspective and from that of the potential customer.

There’s also the simple fact that there’s just not much going on to chat about. There’s a single game mode to compete in, and every battle takes place on the same map. Granted, some of the debris floating in the centre gets shifted around, and naturally being set in space not much can be changed, but the developers could have at least thrown in a few different backgrounds to keep things more interesting. Instead we have a single backdrop which features a huge, floating metal woman, which is presumably where God Factory gets its terrible name.

Be warned that there’s no singleplayer mode here, though the developers plan to make the next entry in the series a solo experience. The closest you can get at the moment is to create a match filled entirely with AI controlled bots. These artificial opponents are okay for filling out a slot or two at the very most, but they are sorely limited, and of course you can’t communicate with them or direct them to attack specific areas, thus defeating the biggest part of GoD Factory: teamwork. Indeed, during testing in several matches populated entirely with AI I barely ever saw them actually destroy a  carrier component. When they did manage to get their game together the target almost always seemed to be the hull.

There’s an extensive ship customisation suite brimming with parts with which to build your dream machine using in-game credits. It’s nice to have such a deep selection that can alter not only the stats of your ship, but also the weapons and therefore tactics are your disposal. Do you want more speed? Better agility? Or maybe heavy armor and a selection of badass weaponry? Pour enough time into the game and you can access vast swathes of tech to play around with. The downside is that God Factory’s interface is ugly and lacks any intuitive design. Even sitting in the hanger my first glance at the menu didn’t immediately communicate the basics. It’s a small and easily overcome problem, mind you.

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From a technical standpoint GoD Factory isn’t anything to write home about, but the artistic style manages to make up for it with some brilliant designs for the various ships. The presentation of both the graphics and audio fail to give combat the punch it so sorely needs, but is otherwise pretty good. The soundtrack is forgettable, yet it fits the style and melds nicely with the gameplay, therefore doing what it needs to.

The harsh truth is that at this point God Factory: Wingmen isn’t worth recommending, not because it’s a bad game, but because it simply doesn’t have enough players. There’s a strong chance that days after purchasing the game you’ll be left with nobody to play with unless the publisher and developers can find a way of getting some attention directed toward it. Launching with a single mode and map probably wasn’t the best idea, either, as the player base that I can only assume it had on launch haven’t had enough to hold onto. Opt to delve in regardless and you’ll discover a good space shooter that offers great tactical gameplay, but that also needs an injection of content and a little more combat oomph to make it truly great.

The Good:
+ Tactics matter.
+ Teamwork matters.
+ Good customisation.

The Bad:
– Combat is lacking something.
– One map, one mode.
– Where’s the players?

The Verdict: 3.5/5 – Good, bordering on great.
With a focus on teamwork and tactics God Factory is a game that deserves to find an audience.

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