Cimmerian Space: A Different Kind of Browser Game
F3D Games asked me to do a “promotional” review for their up-and-coming browser game, Cimmerian Space. I promised them I’d review it to the best of my abilities (no playable beta yet…?).
So, if you read my blog regularly (which most of you don’t… I SEE THE VIEWER STATISTICS!), you’ll know that I hate freemium games. Freemium games are simply games that are free to play, but have in-game cash systems that is integral to proceeding: they allow you to level up, unlock quests, buy gear, remove ads, finish projects immediately, and get new characters and abilities. If you don’t pay, the unlocking of these game-improving features is either painstakingly slow or totally impossible. The very idea of a freemium game more or less appalls me, because the freemium model is only successful when it negatively reinforces most of the game you’re playing, in such a strong way that you are not paying for extra things, but rather you are paying not to be hindered by garbage limitations the gamedevs have put in place to drive their “business model.” Games like Farmville, The Sims, and even the Day-1 DLC of EA’s Mass Effect 3… they’re all business strategies that involve screwing the player into paying more than your game is worth just to play it.
There was also a post I did about MMOs and the “waiting” games. I’m just reminding you of these things so that you know about my previously expressed opinions about freemium Facebook MMOs that involve waiting for things to complete.
Let’s get down to business about the game, now, shall we? Cimmerian is a nice word that means “very dark, gloomy, or deep,” according to the dramatic trailer. There’s also some mythological mumbo-jumbo about people living in perpetual darkness.
Essentially, the Cimmerians are, as I understand it, dark-matter hotties from outer space who sow chaos and destruction wherever they may go. Let’s have a look at the Cimmerian menace, shall we?
Please note the catchphrase: “A Universe of Seduction.” That’s also explained in a tab on their Kickstarter with a [SPOILERS] tag. Cimmerians can “infect their host with a nanotech virus that allows them to control the host. The virus can be spread through the blood or saliva, hence the recruitment of attractive men and women to spread the virus by the Cimmerian Seduction.”
Let me get this straight? Their strategy for gaining new recruits is… (I can’t believe I’m saying this)… a mind-controlling STD. Oh dear. I suppose this is a “valid” explanation for the presence of scantily clad, heavily makeupped, toy-blaster-toting babes, but… seriously? I feel like I’ve ventured into a dark (cimmerian, even) place in the world of gaming, and I don’t want to be here anymore.
You folks should thank me for reading the promotional materials so you don’t have to. They actually use the word “freemium” in both the gamedocs AND on their Kickstarter site! I used to think the use of that word was an economic leap off the cliff of doom, but apparently it doesn’t have the negative impact it used to. Why the hell not?
The gamedevs approached this game from two places, both of them being completely out of line for game development. The first was to make money. Does NOBODY read my blog? (Don’t answer that.) Of COURSE you’re not likely to make money in the game industry, even if you DO put out good games. Your life and wallet would be better served LITERALLY by getting a job at McDonald’s and working 40 hours a week. In that scenario, you’re only working 40 hours a week and there’s a guaranteed minimum wage. “But, Another Gamer, I’m doing what I love!” I can’t believe that line when I imagine you sitting at your computer for 10 hours a day chanting the mantra “pander, money, freemium, boobs” under your breath, and at the end of every work session, brutally slaughtering any artistic goals you might have had with a pointy sacrificial knife and hooded robes.
The second is their previous work experience: a fashion photographer. This made me facepalm pretty hard, because when you try to “fuse two passions” like EVERY novice gamedev says they’re going to do, you fail almost inevitably. Look at it this way: I am a construction worker, and I’ve decided I want to start a painting career, using my experience building houses as inspiration and subject matter. Do I still need to know how to paint? YES! Yes, I do! Excluding the possibility that your creative brain-poop is somehow novel and interesting to avant-garde art lovers, you’re going to fall flat on your face if you don’t know the rules: which paints to use, which media you’re painting on, and the basics of composition and perspective. Why should it be any different for game design?
The fashion photography aspect of the game is present solely in the portraits of characters in risque outfits holding blaster guns that look more fake than the AirSoft gun I spraypainted black for a prank. Coupled with the grainy, particle-based 3D animation present in this browser game, it makes my head hurt. The two art styles are so irreconcilably different that I can’t in good conscience suspend disbelief enough to say that Hotty McAlienPants is really piloting my spaceship. (No double-entendre here, folks.)
Skill in other fields doesn’t hold up in the world of game design. You cry feebly, “But look how much better my game is compared to all the games of the OTHER fashion photographers!” I don’t care, because if your game’s not good, it’s not good.
Do I even need to mention the fact that it seems rather sexist as well? There are a couple of guys in their promo stills, and although I’m not a *ahem* “fan of the man,” it doesn’t seem to me that they’re portrayed in nearly as provocative or sexual a manner as the females. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but it seems as if the gamedev is giving his ladies an arsenal of scifi weapons and kickass spaceships, and then turning around and saying, “Btdubs, your most important asset is still your body. Go kiss some dudes to get more crew members.”
Charmingly modern take on a 1950’s mindset, eh?
Another thing that irked me about Cimmerian Space: it mentions several times that we should keep in mind it’s not a triple-A title like Star Citizen or Elite: Dangerous (both of which I’d never heard of before checking out Cimmerian Space, and am subsequently more likely to buy either of them than the game I’m reviewing). I’m not going to compare Pac-Man to Dragon Age and say, “Aw gosh, this game is so crappy because it doesn’t have multiple storylines, character attributes and sidequests.” They both have different capabilities and niches, and they’re both popular because they’re both good games. If your game is bad, not comparing it to better games will not make it better.
This is turning into a rant. I’m sure there are a few of you that are still on the fence about playing this game or supporting its Kickstarter, so let me talk about gameplay. I haven’t played the game yet, but the gameplay trailer showcases most of the features that are touted in the Kickstarter and press release form. Open-feeling 3D levels are cool! First good thing I’ve said about the game! It feels a lot like Starfox 64 could have been. The pacing of the levels is also good, and if it weren’t for the photogenic ladies on the side of my screen saying, “Hello, Space-sailor!” then I’d probably be on-board with the graphics as well, because they’re a damn sight better than most browser games.
The equipment system looks pretty satisfactory, and relatively easy to navigate. Nothing special or flashy, but it looks well-designed and customizable enough to not be a turn-off. There’s a trading and crafting system, as well. Crafting is my meat-and-potatoes in games. I love it. However, to craft items, it appears you collect the necessary ingredients, and then… wait. YOU WAIT. You can, of course, pay “Golden Cuboids” to finish your upgrades immediately. AUGH. Golden Cuboids are, of course, the freemium in-game cash you get by paying real money. You get 100 for $20. I don’t know how many it takes to finish your new ray gun, but to unlock characters, it’s going to take somewhere between 50 and 100. But you get them by playing, as well, a fantastic reward of one every level. This means, if I decide I want to put the “free” in freemium, I have to use my 10 starting Golden Cuboids and level up 40 times to be able to unlock the cheapest new character, and if this game is a typical acolyte of the god of freemium, my leveling progress is probably going to be severely hindered by some sort of playtime limitation (that can also be circumvented by cold, hard cash). If that limitation IS absent, however, that’d be a big plus in my book: even if it’s a crappy game, being able to play it for as long as I want does not hurt (and may make the Golden Cuboid restrictions a little less painful). But I digress. They haven’t let me play it, so I can’t say.
In the end, Cimmerian Space is only different from all the other soul-sucking browser games in that it put a little 3D chutzpah into it, and as someone who attempts to design games, I can say the the work they put into it is admirable, if nothing else. It’s the perfect storm, however, of things I detest about these kind of games, excepting only the awful MMO element which they thankfully left out. With the previously expressed opinions I’ve posted about games and game development, asking me to write this review was like asking a vegan if he’d like to review the 21-oz. steak dinner. There is already a plethora of bad Facebook/browser games out there, but if you want to Kickstart adding this one to the list, be my guest. However, I’m afraid that as a gamer this game has about as much “Cimmerian Seduction” as a pile of cow dung and rotten tofu.
I can’t wait till the next gamedev asks me to review his or her game! I’m sure they’ll be lining up after seeing how easy I am to please. See you Friday!
P.S. Folks, I don’t know if all hope is lost for Cimmerian Space. I don’t know if the gamedev is truly earnest about his efforts or is just looking to make a quick buck. If this project DOESN’T fail, I will review it again later in the development process. Maybe then I’ll have more good things to say about it.