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Abatron – Early Access Look

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Okay, so I am going to put my really productive cap on and actually make this preview more like a constructive criticism, because as much potential as I see in this game in its current state, I can definitely say that some things baffled me. Without further ado, welcome to the Abatron preview, where I shall be talking about 2 things mainly: 1) what the game features as it is now, plus helpful insights on what it will feature more and 2) my own personal opinion on what I liked, I disliked and some stuff that might be considered for the future (a.k.a constructive criticism).

Down to the basics Abatron is a real-time strategy game, featuring a sci-fi thematic, played in top-down 3rd person view like every other RTS game would. However, the game can also be a 3rd person action/shooter game, because of the dual feature of play that the developers have implemented. Basically what I mean is you start the game as the “commander” as they refer to you and you can start building your base by picking what generators and building to deploy and also fiddle with your soon-to-be born army. However, once you set these predetermined things, you can jump right into your troops (you start with 1 of the melee basic ones) and can run around the map, killing things in order to level up. The game has a tutorial mission, which explains these basics to you and kind of just eases you into the game (I don’t know how easy it is after the patch, but when I did the mission, there was nothing easy about it).

Anyways, so what is your goal here? Basically you have to manage your base and resources and also micro-manage all of your troops or at least one of them so you can go level up. As far as I could tell, there are 10 levels in total for now. You level up by going out and killing things with your troops and leveling up kind of baffled me, but this will be covered in the second part of our preview.

So what exactly do we have present in the current state of the game as of the moment? We have one map, which by the way looks very neatly made. It’s this rocky setting with some nice lava backgrounds and a very cool flashy cave in the middle of the map (though even purely cosmetic, I think this is where neutral mobs spawn from). This map features 6 player or AI spaces in total – 3 in the upper and 3 in the lower half. They are basically positioned at the edges of the map itself. As far as I know, right now the game features only a 3v3 maximum setting (with the options of 1v1 and 2v2 present) but I did read that it will be extended to more. Also in the new lobby which they added with a recent patch with which you can customly create a game we see that there will be more available maps for play in the future.

We are also presented with one playable race for the current moment. Okay, I’ll be frank here, I do not know which of all the name of the actual race was or whatever it is, so just because it was only 1, I shall leave it unnamed and just refer to it as the playable race or something along the lines. So you have 1 playable race and it is actually not fully available to us yet, out of all units that some of were locked we have the default melee ones, the default ranged ones, the supportive ranged ones (though to be fair, I saw nothing supportive in those units) and a siege unit (those were actually my favorite and surprise, surprise, the only ones you could not manually control in combat view). Besides the playable race, there is a neutral race, which I presume is native to the planet or map or whatever, which consists of small mobs and a queen (I couldn’t really figure out the queen’s spawn cycle, but when one did spawn, that usually meant brace for impact).

The main menu of the game features your standard play option, which is used to start a game and you can either play versus other people or co-op versus AI or team deathmatch which is not available yet. Then you have your missions tab where there are pre-set missions (including the tutorial one), which upon completion grant experience and what I am going to presume would be the in-game currency. Also you will be able to see your scores and collections in a future update (a.k.a, this is probably for those competitive people out there and achievement hunters, like me). You also have your own profile where it shows you statistics and experience and basically all those stuff relevant to be seen by players there. I believe the game saves replays as well, which is kind of neat for competitive play and youtubers but the main feature I loved being chucked into the main screen is the discord chat. Basically the developers have set a discord chat for alpha players and there they can, besides the occasional goofing around and creating fan content, actively report bugs and ask for help from the developers and let me tell you, I used this feature a lot.

This will be our little transition paragraph from point 1 to point 2 where I talk about the discord channel. Basically, it’s a group in which developers are always or at least 90% of the time present and even if they are not and you are in that unlucky 10% window, other players might be able to assist you in some way too. In the actual chat room you have channels for everything – like I said from the general ones like … well general, fan art one, looking for games, tournaments, lalala, where you can basically chill and have a good time chatting with the forming community to the more helpful ones like FAQ, bug reports, questions, patch notes, announcements, etc. As a game, which is in alpha and there are a lot of bugs, glitches, questions that need answering and problems which will naturally occur, this is a great asset that the developers have created, making them available to the community at all times. I previewed this game with a friend and we did indeed come across some bugs, which were preventing us from playing so off I popped into the chat and I have to say I am so positively surprised by the feedback I got. The developer was super nice and super helpful and always tried to solve the problem immediately and try his best to help the community out. This is the way it’s done especially when you value your testing community because let’s be real, if this had not existed, I would have probably had 1/5th of my playtime with Abatron and the rest would be rage inducing violence as to why I cannot start a game. So here before transitioning to my personal opinions, I would like to address a thank you to the developers and the community itself for being so helpful in such stressful situations. And here, have a smiley face 🙂

And now begins the rant … just kidding, I’m not going to rant here as I usually do when something in a game bugs me, but there were some things that I felt could have been done better or at least considered for in the future.

All right, before I say anything more: DISCLAIMER, DISCLAIMER, DISCLAIMER! I am very aware that the game is in alpha and when I mention any technical bugs, which I have been solemnly warned about from the start-up loading screen, I am doing so not because I do not know that the game is in alpha and of course it will feature bugs and glitches and I was not prepared for that … no, I am doing it, purely from a feedback point of view.

I am now going to discuss the major issue I had with the game and that is the switching between RTS mode to shooter mode (this is how I will refer to these features). First of all, it is a nice concept, however I find it both lacking and overwhelming at times. Why is that? It’s lacking because there were a few occasions, where I set up my base and I’m all like “all right, tome to go kill some random mobs and level up” and then I wander around the map like an idiot, unable to find anything. Or I run into an Ai and it completely recks me (I will address this later too). But more than lacking, it is overwhelming at times where you build up your army. Allow me to elaborate. In Abatron, you can take control of every single unit there is in your arsenal (beside the siege ones, as I mentioned) and the game not only encourages you to do that, but it kind of obligates you, because if you do not do it, or do it too slow, you will inevitably fall back in progress. But the overwhelming point comes from the fact that when and if I reach a point where I have an army of let’s say 15 melee units, 30 range units and 10 siege units … what the eff am I going to control 1st bro? Like do I stay in RTS mode to control my army or enter combat mode to use abilities, because let’s be real, most units die super-fast when you attack a base (unless they are siege units, which cannot be controlled). Also when I use all of my skills do I stay in this unit or go to another one? Oh, so you want to tell me that I have to be actively managing my base, controlling my entire army and controlling my units one by one at the same time? Bro, do I look like a mothaeffin high-tech AI to you? Like a queen can be rampaging my base while I am assaulting another player or AI for all I know.

I feel like in their attempt to make the game unique they kind of missed the target by a long shot. I get it, it’s a nice idea, however in my opinion it could have been executed better. As it is now, it’s simply too chaotic and there are too many whens and ifs that can eff you up. Honestly the game is supposed to feel like an RTS and an action/shooter, but it felt like neither. The shooter part is completely unnecessary and, as I said, overwhelming in most situations for it to be useful. Here is how, in my opinion, this could have been executed better. Instead of giving the player control over there army one unit by one at a time (because this is what actually causes all the overwhelming-ness), create champions or characters or whatever you would wanna call them. Have that one personalized leading unit and give it skills, allow the player to control only that unit and top it off, instead of having to switch out of character in order to control your army, allow the player to control the army (like really commanding them), with this leading unit. It would make everything so much more structured and people won’t be panicking all over the place all like “what am I gonna do now?”. Make a few of these per race as a choice and voila – formula for success. And you can play around with them here so much more. Make more aggressive characters, more supportive ones, tanky as well … in general adapt them to playstyles. But for the moment I felt like the game was forcing me to control all these units, lest I fall behind too much. This also loses the game as an RTS. Upon initial building of my 5 energy units and my siege buildings, there is no point in me staying in my base. Every resource is being generated and I only have to come back to place more units for construction and take the ready for action batch. I want more RTS devs. I want more things to manage and control in my base in RTS mode. Instead of pondering upon what army unit I need to possess now, give me my champion unit to control my army manually and focus more on the RTS aspect. And speaking of RTS aspect and base building, why the eff can I not decide how I wanna build my base myself? Why are there so many pre-build stuff? I remember one time, my base was so clumped up that my siege units could not move inside …

Don’t even get me started on how broken the leveling up is. Quite frankly it outright baffled me. So how do I level up? Only by going out to kill stuff with my units (which most of the time turned out to be disastrous for my unit). And how come when I am killing units in my base when they are attacking me does not yield any experience? And also, how the eff does the AI reach level 7 by the time I only click to setup my base … da eff?!? Honestly, I think leveling up is super broken at the moment. I cannot figure out, for the life of me, what actually gives me experience and what not. I would much rather start up slowly, plan up my base and where to put stuff, start gathering resources and then steadily go and level up my main character, rather than, okay, click this 4 times to build generators, put this building here for later construction and I am already running behind so I have to go into my unit and go-go-go to level up, because nothing else will level me up and let’s be real, the AI is already level 5 with a basic army. Like how do you do it, bro? Am I just dumb?

Anyways, the AI is super overpowered as well and I could not, for the life of me, find out how to tune them down (I don’t think it’s still implemented yet), however what I did find out was that we could not win a single game versus AI … and the tutorial beat me 2 times before I could finally pass it … the tutorial, bro. I did talk to the devs about this and they did mention that as it is now, the hardest AI is being generated and I really hope they fix this soon. Because let’s be real, the AI is not only leveling up super-fast, it’s killing all neutral mobs, it’s capturing the queens, which in return are taking a stroll around my base as if they were in Hollywood on a red carpet and here I am all like “what am I gonna do now?”.

In general there are a lot of stuff that still have to be done apart from the content itself. Like for example being able to actually make a lobby and invite friends from the steam friends list, which is being worked on. I feel like this was the first issue we came across, like “how do we start a game together” and at that time the only option was to start a co-op vs AI lobby and get matched together by random, which happened fortunately because not a great deal many people are playing the game. After they added these customly created lobbies, I guess it became easier, but I am a simple person I wanna be able to click invite to game on my friend’s username and for them to enter the lobby by accepting. Also I would definitely like to see some lore to this game, because there is still none. Maybe consider kind of balancing out the RTS and shooter modes a bit more and please don’t force the player to do things to succeed. Also it was a bit of a hassle to start a game most times because of … well technical reasons, but yeah, refer to my disclaimer above.

Last thing I want to mention real quick are the sounds. Most are absent still but I really liked the announcer voice over, really nice voice and also the voices of the units, though you might wanna add more than one voice type for all units, because right now they all sound the same. Also I am puzzled. What is this shrieking sound at the start of each game? Why is it there? It’s terrible, I’m glad I had my sounds turned down, because rip headphone users basically.

Major potential is what I see in this game. I hope the developers steer it into the sun and make a great game out of it and I hope we as a community contribute to its development as well with suggestions and such. All in all it’s a game I am willing to try again when it does come out fully.

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I am Fresh out of university and looking for a way to break into the game industry, improve my writing and get experience for my portfolio. Currently I am also writing for a Bulgarian media website, much like this one, but would really love to get experience in English too.

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