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Broken Bots PAX South Preview

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By Jaime Skelton (MissyS)

Maybe it’s the demands of my job, but at the end of a long day, I prefer to load up an indie game. My Steam library’s stuffed so full of indie titles I feel like an accidental gaming hipster. So while the big screens were flashing at the front of the PAX South halls showcasing some admittedly awesome games like Gigantic and Dreadnought, I was often scouting along the back of the halls looking for those low-profile games that pack the potential to explode overnight. One of those games was Broken Bots, a top-down shooter from a Belgian developer called Bunnycopter.

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Broken Bots looks simple enough. My first impression of it, visually speaking, was of a top-down shooter mini game like you might find on Kongregate. It has that arcade appeal: bright contrasty colors, pixel graphics, an upbeat soundtrack. But while it may look the stuff of Flash game legend, Broken Bots is not your browser-based bulletfest.

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For starters, it’s a competitive multiplayer shooter. The game currently offers a Capture the Flag map that supports up to 32 players. Since it’s in beta, though, this is but a small taste of what’s to come: there’s already talk about 64- and 128-player maps as a possibility, plus additional modes like Deathmatch.

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Then there’s bot customization. Broken Bots is loosely class based, in that you may choose between different weapon types (six available now, including flamethrower and rocket launcher). You also have 100 energy to allocate across your choice of special skills and passive abilities. Special skills are useable on cooldown, and include turrets, mines, EMPs, and a heal. Passive abilities meanwhile currently offer common boosts like health, speed, and fire rate. You’re free to experiment with these choices throughout a match, too, as you can at any time choose to change your bot and respawn with your new loadout.

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But the final touch on Broken Bots that makes it stand out is the malfunction mechanic. Sure, large maps, team combat, and on the fly customization is cool and all, but the randomized chaos that malfunctions bring amps the gameplay from average to addictive. The malfunction mechanic happens frequently when bots take damage, sending the screen into an 80’s style color fritz and granting a random and temporary effect to the bot. Many of these effects are negative or difficult to deal with, such as reversed steering or slowed movement. Some, however, are actually a power-up. Take, for instance, the spread fire malfunction, which turns your small frontal line of attack into an almost 180 degree cone of destruction. As a result, malfunctions act as a constant factor in team play and require thinking on your treads.

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The end result is a game that, while relatively simple, is capable of hooking you in quickly. It’s simple to learn (I watched several people walk up and figure out the controls and objectives in a matter of a minute), and implements a variable reward type gameplay that keeps you invested once you’ve started playing. The worst issue I had with the game was the graphics, particularly the malfunction mechanic, which felt like it strained my eyes a little more than necessary to get its point across.

Broken Bots is light, crazy, and fun. It’s currently in public beta and is on Steam Greenlight. It will initially be for PC, Mac, and Linux, with the possibility of launching on PS4 and Xbox One in the future. So if that trailer gives you the itch to destroy, go download the beta and prepare for malfunction!

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MissyS goes hands-on with the nostalgic and frantic competitive shooter that is Broken Bots.