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Project Nimbus Review

Project Nimbus Review

There’s a certain tightrope you have to walk when reviewing Early Access games. On the one hand, you want to encourage the occasional diamonds found amongst the kitty litter so that they can develop into something fantastic. On the other, it’s cat shit in its current form, and no amount of bedazzling is going to change that. GameCrafterTeam’s Project Nimbus is one of these mixed blessings, with certain gameplay and story elements that if refined could propel the game to stardom. But I’m not here to review the game it could turn out to be. I’m just here to change the litter box.

Performance-wise the game is at least playable. I never suffered any of the experience-breaking crashes or glitches some of Steam’s underbelly has become notorious for. Granted there were times when the frame rate got a bit choppy as the screen became more and more chaotic, but I was playing it on an iMac that was a few years old and had laughable specs compared to your average gaming PC. So there’s a confounding variable there. The only real problems I had were when I was logging in and out. Out of the box (figuratively speaking) Project Nimbus opens in a window and locks your screen inside the window, cutting you off from your toolbar and anything you were doing or were about to close outside of the game. Trying to quit back to the desktop in one instance caused the whole thing to freeze.

The gameplay itself thankfully did not follow this disturbing trend, and it’s here that you can start to see the potential Project Nimbus is hiding. Have you ever been inside the cockpit of a flying mech in free fall, shooting at your enemy who is also falling as they return fire? Ever see the red glow of incoming missiles on your HUD and start mashing the flare button until you hear the angel choir that is the rush of hot chaff being pumped out the back of your rig, all the while cursing out your main gun to load faster goddammit before you decide to switch over to micro-missiles or sniper-like railgun rounds? And as all this was happening and the ground was steadily becoming more and more of a hazard, did you happen to hear the kind of dramatic music out of your speakers that made you feel like you’re in an honest to god Evangelion or Gundam episode? I have. I’ve done all of that thanks to this game. And none of it was scripted or on rails, but just another of the many, many, many, organic dog fights I encountered in each level. One minute you’re using the game’s burst mechanic to zig-zag in all directions to avoid gun and missile fire, blasting one enemy after another out of the air.

5644dcf648ea project nimbus 12

And then the AI throws you a curve ball or perhaps (like in my case) you just maneuvered into a bad position, and you’re forced to jet off after a mech in a style more reminiscent of the flight simulators I’ve played before. Now your attention is on this one guy, and tighter turning and keeping him in your field of view becomes a matter of life and death.

To complement this mix of hovering and flying combat, Project Nimbus also comes with an array of weapons that the player can switch between on-the-fly (see what I did there?). More traditional arsenals like the machine gun or missiles are to be expected in almost any game involving dog fighting, and then there’s the aforementioned railgun that plays like someone strapped a long ranged sniper rifle onto your craft. Also new and interesting are the funnels, reloadable missile swarms that once jettisoned will tear apart any target you keep your reticle locked on. This includes ground installations, enemy mechs, missiles, the works. And appreciating the power of this new tool makes it all the more chilling as you see your opponent start to use them in later levels.

Which brings me to one of the more unfortunate aspects of Project Nimbus, the lack of control I sometimes felt I had over my performance while playing. I selected the difficulty that I was ninety percent certain was equal to “normal mode” and even then it seemed as if I was in a constant state of taking damage the longer my mech was in the air, regardless of how frequently I juked or popped chaff. This was particularly prominent in levels that locked you in comparatively small rooms filled with enemies, thus robbing you of your evasive capability. But even in the more open environments I found myself subject to one missile lock after another and still being dinged by enemy bullets even as I dodged their assaults more or less successfully. On a related note, I would like to report that being sent back to the start of a level after having lost your life to this nonsense through no fault of your own is not fun. Either fix it or explain what dodging mechanic I was stupidly refusing to use my entire playthrough.

Project Nimbus Screen 10

All of this was rendered in an art style that successfully gives off the impression that you’re looking through the electronic eyes of your mech, complete with health displays, ammo count, targeting reticles, mission updates, weapon selection, and a close up view of your current target, without taking too much of a toll on the old graphics card. That is to say, the visuals aren’t that far above what you’d find in one of those old arcade shooter machines like Time Crisis or Area 51. And there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. After getting used to the gameplay system you can tell what and where everything is, and that should be enough for those not coming in expecting pretty pictures over mecha badassery.

Although one thing that this design choice did ultimately hurt was the level design itself. Surfaces and structures in the game have a bad habit of looking bland or non-discript to the point where I found myself colliding with a lot of the terrain as I tried to navigate through passageways and confined spaces while being shot at (and this was certainly the game’s fault and not a result of my own ineptitude, no sir). The developers here have apparently chosen not to have collisions damage your health, a design decision which can in certain situations be justifiable. The one thing I will say on the matter is that part of the way a game discourages the player from doing something wrong is by hurting their score or whatever health bar they have. When I bump my giant robot into buildings and walls instead of using it to fight other giant robots, I’m not giant roboting correctly. Yet I receive no penalty for it.

Finally, let’s discuss story. I’ve saved this for last because it’s the topic I feel I’ve the least authority to speak on since I only managed to get through the first act. I can however use that experience to say that Project Nimbus’ campaign and world are, much like the game itself, promising in some ways and lacking in others. The plot is set after the third world war, where the fallout from various WMDs used by the superpowers has rendered much of Earth’s surface uninhabitable. The nations left over from the war, the ones who ruined the ecosystem in the first place, live in huge flying cities and low orbit stations where they don’t have to deal with the consequences of their forefathers’ actions. This leaves the remnants of those nations caught in the war’s crossfire, the poor bastards that have been left to survive on the irradiated and contaminated surface, to remind them through various acts of terroristic dickery. Also there are AIs that are being developed to abolish conflict by linking every human mind together, and also everyone fights with giant robots instead of planes now… robots that also have legs they never use. It’s a decent sci-fi setting, and holds a lot of storytelling promise if you want to say expound on the nature of classism or generational guilt. But that’s somewhat marred by the fact that the English translation from what was evidently a Japanese game is to say the least imperfect. And that’s tragic, because it’s like you’ve stumbled onto a story on fanfiction.net and the quality of the story doesn’t matter because the author never bothered to double as editor and you can hardly tell what’s being communicated to you other than that it might be good. Then there’s the wide-irised, blue-haired, moe twelve year old that they press on you out of nowhere early on who has to be your copilot for reasons. If memory serves, the dialogue surrounding that particular transition went along the lines of “I am giving you so and so. Please raise her to be a good person. This is not forced, this is not forced, you like this person now and if you don’t too bad I’m magically giving you custody.” It’s a tired gimmick that wasn’t necessary and doesn’t signal to the player that you’re about to tell an engaging or novel (I did it again) story.

working with project nimbus by coffee straw luzi d93oyep

In summary, Project Nimbus is a solid air and mecha combat game in its present form that makes you feel like a badass gundam pilot at its peak and like the protagonist in a bad anime at its lows. Depending on what gameplay and story changes the developers make as it nears completion, it could go either way. But for now this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

6.00/10 6

Project Nimbus (Reviewed on Mac)

Game is enjoyable, outweighing the issues there may be.

In summary, Project Nimbus is a solid air and mecha combat game in its present form that makes you feel like a badass gundam pilot at its peak and like the protagonist in a bad anime at its lows. Depending on what gameplay and story changes the developers make as it nears completion, it could go either way. But for now this is definitely something to keep an eye on.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Walrider

Walrider

Staff Writer

Misspelled his favourite type of fish.

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