Space Grunts 2 — Can’t quite lift-off

While attempting to stand out within the already crowded genre, Space Grunts 2’s mash-up of different mechanics and ideas left me feeling a bit less than stellar.

Space Grunt 2’s developer, Orangepixel, has taken fundamentals of the rogue-lite and deck-building genres and tore them up to blend a unique experience with a focus on speedy gameplay. You’ll be constantly on the move, exploring procedurally generated sci-fi inspired levels whiles fending off alien creatures with their deck of combat cards to reach their goal, gaining new cards with different abilities as they go.

But despite showing great potential for unique gameplay, Space Grunts 2 struggles to get itself in gear and unfortunately misses the mark.

Upon starting the game, I had a choice of three characters, each offering slight differences in the form of stats that change their effectiveness with certain types of cards. I then found myself spending most of my time looking at rather straight forward, smaller maps that didn’t show too much variation in layout and become rather repetitive very quickly — with the 8-bit style art changing enough as you progressed to keep the game somewhat visually interesting.

Character Selection

Most levels I entered during my time playing showed what felt like slight changes to the layout, with the end of each level being the only point of interest I had to find. This turned the possibility of exploring and finding new little areas to gain items and find new enemies into a bit of a bore as after a few levels I just ended up looking for the objective avoiding almost everything else. The only obvious change was the setting, due to different environments, and while this offered a nice change of scenery every once in a while, a lot of the levels I played felt the same and other than very neat and well-done environmental art, never really court my attention other than the art.

While trying to reach the objective, players can collect up to 52 cards that can be used in combat. These offer a fair amount of variety thanks to different abilities like armour and explosives. It’s then a shame that combat can be so easily avoided, as I found myself able to skip nearly every enemy during certain levels, never entering combat at all.

Combat

The few times I did enter combat I was greeted with a combat screen that — despite being clear and concise — felt very plain and lacking any real flair or tension. The already rather lacklustre music that looped constantly with no change or variation didn’t help during my playtime either, making the times I was in combat lack any sense of urgency and feeling pointless. The few times I finished combat I’d gain experience points that eventually levelled up my character, at which time I could choose one of three cards that offered upgrades or abilities. This, however, felt a bit redundant as I had already realised that I could skip so much of the combat which meant that levelling up offered no real benefit during my time playing.

Most enemies can easily be ignored completely and those you fight tend to be too easy and are defeated with little challenge, making what could have been an interesting combat system feels unrefined, which is made all the more upsetting as despite its somewhat simple approach, it has the potential to be a standout mechanic.

Making a few changes to certain aspects of the game could help enhance what appears to be a solid foundation.

Exploration

Expanding on combat, to fully take advantage of the deck building mechanics with more diverse and varied enemies, offering more opportunities for players to find and explore each map with more points of interest, or tweaking enemies to provide more challenge or chances to enter combat. These are just a few changes that would be welcome and would help expand players options during gameplay and take the good ideas present currently and elevate them to a higher level.

Space Grunts 2 still has the potential to be a great game, and hopefully, with more time and new development focused on expanding its already solid mechanics, it will become the game that it can be.

Space Grunts 2 is available as an early access title on Steam, for PC, Mac and Linux. You can follow the developer on Twitter or check their Website for more information.

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