Preview | Floatlands

I can’t remember how I originally heard about Floatlands, Studio Techtrics’ first game. But it’s one that stuck with me. A lowpoly ‘crafting’ game but set in a world torn into floating chunks by a terrible, nigh-world ending calamity.

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You play as a robot, travelling between the floating chunks through various means; with each of the islands being a different size, shape, and biome. One of the major things that stuck out to me however was the fact that the game’s setting wasn’t leaning too heavily on fantasy or science fiction tropes; you’re very quickly armed with a revolver, and airships noisily streak past in the skies around your head. Indeed, it’s existing in a strange Victorian-but-with-robots setting that’s definitely not steampunk, because everything else in the game, well, quite nice. The game world is rife with various plants and animals, there’s no ‘almighty lord’s empire’ chasing you down, nor are the sheep scarce due to some ‘imperial mutton cruncher’ machine. It’s simply, quite a passive world, despite the associations that’ll be drawn when people see the steam-machines.

In design it will likely lend itself to exploration extremely well. I say likely, because the build that I played earlier on in the year, at Rezzed down at the London Tobacco Docks, felt extremely early in development; light on content and lacking any real checkpoint & indicator systems – or even a full UI. The tutorial arrangement felt very hands off, getting you going with a few simple basics that quickly rocketed from smash that rock, to shoot the deer. All of that fit the setting wonderfully, but I was still muddling menu keys by the end of the tutorial.

All of that said, the clever take on biomes; distributing them as floating islands throughout the sky, is really what makes me want to keep an eye on this project. Exploring the starting island, a slightly forested, rock-strewn plain, didn’t really offer much new other than the visual tweaks of the lowpoly graphics and that technology level. However, every few moments a vessel would roll overhead, casting a great shadow, and causing me to instinctively look up; it’s at that point, with other land masses at odd angles, and flying vessels moving between them, that the game’s potential is really shown.

In the early build that I played most of those islands were simply populated with similar landscape to that which I started on, some of them having a couple of houses; but if the developers can program in enough variety then Floatlands could definitely become something quite special, especially with co-operative play. Sky forts and terrain deforming cannon-blasts might be a bit too much to ask for from the game, but if that was added then it would be nothing short of magnificent.

Floatlands is, as the demo build gave away, at a fairly early stage in production. It’s definitely not due out for release this year, but there will be a beta for it in Q1 2018. It’s currently only known to be in development for PC, however the game’s publisher Excalibur Games have, of late, been getting mighty adept at porting to consoles.

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