Hero shooters have been a constant in gaming for the last few years. It seems like nearly every developer has taken influence in some manner from the genre, whether that’s in terms of the gameplay itself or the monetization. With Crucible, Amazon hopes to take a slightly different approach hero shooter.
Taking place on the planet of the same name, Crucible is a Free to Play hero shooter that’s a melting pot of different elements and gameplay, and Amazon’s first big step in the gaming market. On the one hand, you have a hero shooter with a choice of 10 unique hunters, each with different abilities and playstyles at your disposal. On the other hand, it takes elements of the MOBA and Battle Royale genre’s and mixes them all together into this rather interesting blend of mechanics and ideas that for the most part makes up an enjoyable shooter. That doesn’t mean its perfect.
Let’s get the first thing out the way; It’s a Free to Play game, so as you might expect its got a few monetization options, such as founder’s packs that offer currency and exclusive skins as per the norm in the genre. Opting for a battle pass system, you’ll unlock cosmetics and skins as your progress through the tiers in each season, as well as having the option to purchase in-game currency to use in the store.
So what works in Crucible? Unique modes, and progression.
Your choices are rather sparse, with only three modes to choose from at launch. But despite this these modes all felt equally enjoyable and challenging. Each offered up completely different objectives to scratch what itch you may have, with alpha hunters acting as a quickfire battle royale as four teams of two battle to be the last ones standing, with the chance to form temporary alliances if your teammate falls in battle. Harvester command sees two teams of eight scramble to capture and control the most harvesters, and my personal favourite heart of the hives, a blend of PvP and PvE gameplay as you take down giant creatures and capture their hearts, all whilst fighting off the enemy team trying to do the same.
These three modes all required different approaches and tactics, and while they can become a bit repetitive and can make continuous play a bit boring, they certainly have enough variety for different kinds of players to enjoy each one.
But what’s a hero shooter without its heroes? Before matches begin, you have a chance to choose one of the heroes that you’ll play for the duration of the match, each with an overview of their abilities, but it’s how the hunters evolve during a match that really stood out during my time playing. Unlike its peers, Crucible lets you choose from a few different upgrades that you’ll acquire during a match by collecting essence, a resource found on Crucible that acts as a kind of experience you can gain from harvesters or killing wildlife found around the map. The more essence you gain, the quicker you unlock the upgrades.
Some of these change the way certain abilities work, such as supply drops giving you a turret or slowing targets with a gas grenade or they simply amplify one of your abilities already, but its this extra level of depth that went a long way into making my hero a bit more suited to my playstyle and kept things interesting as I changed heroes and progression steps between games.
But with all that said, it’s a shame most of the heroes have the typical archetypes you’d expect. One uses shields, another is a long-range attacker with a grapple, another uses smokescreens, so in that regard, they’re not that unique. However, that doesn’t stop each from playing differently, it just feels like I’ve seen a lot of these hunters in some way or another before in other games. It’s then made even more frustrating that some of these heroes were partially worthless when I played them or had some abilities and upgrades that are clearly better than others in certain cases and it definitely shows.
Certain hunters such as Sazan had a mixture of weapons that you could change on a dime and gave a huge amount of room to adapt to situations and felt fun to play, while others like Rahi barely made any impact to the team’s success in the match in general with little damage, abilities that felt useless, or were just plain annoying to use.
Not to mention that some essential features seem to be completely missing from the game like a mini-map or voice chat, and the fact that inactive players are simply left standing around in a match, basically amounting to dead weight instead of being replaced for inactivity with a new player, means that it doesn’t quite feel like a modern, online game at times.
Thankfully from my experience connectivity wasn’t much of an issue so at least when I was playing, it ran smoothly. But its doesn’t mitigate the fact that communicating with my team would be near non-existent and having to play matches with one less teammate general ruined a few matches for me, making it hard to want to keep playing. It’s very clear the best way to play at the moment is with friends over an app like discord to get the best experience.
But it’s the unbalanced hunters that really puts a dampener on the whole experience, as it becomes clear very quickly what the best hunters are, leaving the others to sit their unused and limiting your options to play.
It’s because of these issues I found it hard to really get into the game at the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that Crucible is bound to fail. Maybe after some patches and tweaks to the heroes and slight changes the game could be refined into something excellent, but right now it feels a little too rough in some areas.
Only time will tell if Crucible has what it takes to stand toe to toe with its competition, and while its issues can sometimes put a halt to its otherwise fun and unique take on the hero shooter genre, its potential is clear; It’s now up to Amazon to fully realise it.