Review: GRAV (Early Access)

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Grav is a crafting survival sandbox with some action elements. You begin your adventure on a planet inhabited mostly by bugs and slimes. After slaughtering some of the local wildlife and extorting the ecosystem for resources, your inventory will begin to fill with the three main components used for crafting; wood, fossils, and ore. There are also gems, but these are used far less in recipes. Once you’ve crafted some armor and some weapons, the next step is to set up a base. It might start as a tiny hovel, but once the sandbox experience takes hold, you’ll find yourself scouring the planet for more components to complete your fortress. Once you’ve got your castle together, what could possibly be left? Another planet of course. There are many alien worlds to be conquered, as long as you’ve killed enough monsters to find a blueprint for a spaceship. Once you find the blueprint you will find yourself grinding for the raw materials. There are tons of crafting blueprints from landmines to automated turrets. Grav has so much potential, but there are some key elements that will require an overhaul before a full release. What are they? Let’s find out, as we take a deeper look at Grav. CAGGame-Win64-Shipping_2015_01_23_14_33_26_463

The first thing you will likely notice are the striking graphics. Everything in the world is wonderfully rendered and sticks to a pretty cool looking neo-sci-fi aesthetic. This is completed by a soundtrack that displays some fine synthesizer usage, as one would expect to hear anywhere in space. Though, on occasion the sound will drop out completely leaving you listening to plants rustling as you walk. I think having a soundtrack is fine, so is not having one. But a clear-cut choice should be made. If this is only because it’s Early Access, then please disregard. The dancing/waving/pointing in the game is quite silly, and adds to the laid-back nature of the game. Players seem more focused on base building and resource gathering than on murdering each other, which is a nice change of pace for these types of games. The reason for this might be that the world consensus to being nice to strangers on the internet has completely changed, but the more likely reason is that combat in Grav is currently pretty unsatisfying. PVP matches take upwards of 10 minutes, with both players doing nothing but left-clicking. Monsters have a slightly more varied attack pattern, but still telegraph their two or three moves pretty early. You will be killing a lot of monsters to level up. The grind is felt pretty hard due to the linear nature of combat. Hopefully with the full release combat will be improved, and quests/objectives added since they will be essential components in breaking up the grind.

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Grouping and descending into a dungeon is also a decent option for breaking up the monotony, though grouping is most often used for chatting and sharing buildings. The grouping system is not fully implemented, and a member can currently only be invited via the console. Luckily, dungeons don’t require a group. If you’ve got the chops, you can brave the dungeon alone and reap the sweet rewards. Boss creatures aren’t just found in dungeons either. They have tons of health, but their attack pattern doesn’t differ from smaller versions of their species. There are a variety of boosts you can craft; health stimpaks, invisibility stimpaks, and even a stimpak to increase your speed. You will use them often as you traverse the landscape, and eventually space in search of resources. There is a nice day/night cycle, to keep you on your toes and let you know when you should head back to base. Night is a very dangerous time, but you can buy droids to assist you. Some provide light, others will provide attack or defense bonuses. They are all bought with a secondary currency called Element X, which can be mined from glowing spots on the ground by building a Harvester. Currently the game is based on Element X. Build a giant base near some extraction points, build some Harvesters and lock them down. Then about 30 or 40 hours later, when your base is massive and your level is maxed… You can head out and destroy the tech-palace of some other maxed level players. That’s the MMO formula and while building a giant castle is enticing enough, I do have a couple bones to pick.

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Before I unleash criticism, I’d like to say that once Grav fully develops I believe it will be something amazing to play. Currently, it has some serious flaws that need to be addressed before I’d put 30 hours into a game in order to reap the full reward. Combat simply doesn’t feel that fun or dynamic and needs a ton of work. Weapons don’t really seem to scale as much as levels, while incoming damage certainly does. One would think an assault rifle would be a decent remedy, but ranged damage is pitiful. On top of the low damage, they actually use ammo. Building my first pistol was a major letdown. The Generator runs on Wood, and eats quite a lot… About 2000/day, so if you get a base worth defending most of your social life will consist of cutting trees with a laser. World events are a great idea but poorly implemented. Monsters spawn 2 levels above the highest player in a zone, so a level 30 can hang out in a low-level zone and really cause some havoc. Base building is the only real incentive I’ve found at the moment. Even during the build, you will need to head out for resources which can be hard to find.  While you’re out and about you’ll inevitably find some combat. Enemy AI needs a lot of help. I can’t count the mobs that simply stood there and took their beating. It’s either that or they walk through a tree for a cheap-shot. Overall, I think Grav has all the makings of something great, but we’ll probably need to wait for a few more updates to truly find out.

Summary: Futuristic multi-world sandbox, set around base-building and domination of the landscape.

Final Score: 6/10 for aesthetic, community, and blueprint variety.

GRAV was released on Steam Early Access starting Jan 8th, 2015.

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