Earlier today Robb sent me a message about a game on Steam that had gone on sale that he wanted me to come play with him. It was a team based shooter where your team pilots a steampunkesque blimp loaded with weapons and tries to fly around and destroy the enemy blimp. Each blimp is piloted by a crew of 4 people and each team has 2 or 3 blimps on it making it so there are upwards of 24 people in a single game.
It sounded interesting enough, and it had Steam cards, so I agreed to play. 10 hours of play later we stopped to go to sleep. Sceadeau, Elaine, and Snuggles also played some games with us, though not all at the same time. The game has AI players to fill out the teams, and it also has a rudimentary matchmaking system so we'd get random dudes joining the team too.
One of the interesting parts of the game is that there are three different roles on your team. Someone has to be a pilot and fly the blimp. They make decisions about what speed to go in each of 3 dimensions and are pretty much in charge of the whole operation. They need to track where the different blimps are the locations of the guns on each blimp in order to properly position the blimp in order to kill enemies without dying themselves. Being the pilot class also gives you three special flying abilities that make you better at controlling the blimp. Note that it is still a blimp, so maneuvering isn't so much a matter of split second decisions so much as proper planning. Then you have the gunners who get to carry around 3 extra types of ammo in order to maximize the damage from the different guns. The difference between 4 ammo and 2 ammo (which the other characters can use) didn't seem terribly relevant though, and it felt like gunner was just the worst class. The final class is engineer and they get to carry around 3 support abilities meaning they get to put out fires, repair items, buff items, and spy for enemy blimps. They still get one extra ammo type so they're just fine at shooting the guns too. Gunners get to have one support ability only which meant I could put out fires, or I could repair things, or I could buff my weapon. But not all three, and if my gun got hit by something I couldn't deal with I was screwed.
Another interesting aspect was it felt like one blimp could never kill another blimp. Repairing abilities seem to be good enough that you can outpace the damage that one blimp can throw at you. We could keep a blimp busy, and with some setups could keep all their weapons damaged and out of commission, but we could never seem to solo an enemy. Teamwork is key, and getting another blimp to join in and help out was often all it took to kill them. It was pretty astonishing how quickly we could go from full to dead if we wandered into a bad spot and got lit up by 2 or 3 blimps at once. In most of the games we were playing no one really seemed to have that level of coordination though. If we saw someone on our team fighting someone else we'd try to join in but setting up a proper engagement was way outside the realm of feasible. But it makes me think that a full team game could be really interesting in terms of positioning and pulling off baits and ambushes out of the clouds or out of a gulley or something.
It also had a level system, but you didn't get experience in a normal way. Instead you'd have up to 9 achievements you could be working on at any given time and you'd need to complete some number of achievements to gain a level. I like the way this worked out because the achievements were often things that were teaching about how the game worked. Having to kill 30 weapons with a rocket launcher meant I needed to keep in mind where the weapons were positioned on each model of blimp, for example. Needing to help a teammate rebuild the balloon 16 times means I need to be paying attention to the health state of our balloon and coordinate running off to fix it. Having a broken balloon is pretty devastating (it turns out a blimp with no balloon sinks like a rock and takes falling and collision damage when it hits the ground) so training your team to pay attention to it by giving them an achievement and a level for doing so is a really neat idea.
On the downside, the very idea of playing this game with a random pilot makes me cringe. The guns all have a pretty narrow cone of aiming which meant as a gunner I was pretty much at the whim of the pilot in terms of if I was allowed to shoot or not. But by playing with people I knew, on Skype, I was able to keep funneling information about where my target was relative to my targeting cone in order to make sure I could keep shooting. And if they wanted me to do something else they could just tell me over voice chat. The game does have a built in voice chat system but I don't want to talk to random people on the internet. After all, it only took two games before I had to block someone for just repeating the word penis over and over and over again on voice chat.
I had fun, and I fully expect to play again. Must get more achievements to level up my terrible gunner!