The trope of “man vs machine” is almost as old as the eldritch monstrosities of Lovecraftian lore, and certainly as old as the first tall tale of John Henry who out worked a steam-powered hammer. The number of films on the topic are endless, from Blade Runner to Terminator to The Matrix to I-Robot. Not to be outdone, gaming has recently become saturated with the trope, and I am beginning to suffer from asphyxiation from the question, “Can artificial intelligence be considered life?”
I say that I suffer, because I am team “NO!” Therefore, I have given Legion the business in Mass Effect multiple times. With this disposition, I am already anticipating earning bad ending in Detroit: Become Human. Here, In Robothorium, the premise is that society improved once humans introduced artificial intelligence to robots, but eventually, those robots mustered the audacity to make arguments for social justice; they demanded the kind of equal rights that humans enjoy. Humans responded (appropriately, IMO), to these demands with war. To my dismay, I am required to take on the role of S.A.I.A., an artificial intelligence designed to lead the robots to freedom…or something to that effect.
While the art direction is certainly a change from the gritty, almost steampunk aesthetic of Deep Sky Derelicts, the user interface feels similar; certainly the positioning of units on the tactical battle screens remind me of similar games. Here, however, moves are still turn-based, but I am not at the mercy of drawing from a certain number of “cards,” but can perform the same action in as many consecutive turns as I so choose. In the first dungeon, I begin with three robots, selecting from a tank, a DPS, and what I would call a “utility,” as it can cast and do damage, but the damage comes only after I have “marked” enemies with skills that enhance damage over time—both in the “DOT” sense, and also negative modifiers from which teammates can take advantage. A few missions into Robothorium, I would commission a female-looking bot who functions like a bard, with a focus on offense or defense depending on which “face” it wears to “perform.” To complete my team of five, I rescue a support bot that is essentially a healer. Unfortunately, I did not have any space left for the “jack of all trades, master of none” bot that I would later acquire.
I eventually found a bot that could be classified as a healer, and placed it on my backline. I enjoy the idea of maintaining a more “complete” team of five so that I can experiment with every class, but the game also feels easy because I have so many combat options. During my entire time with Robothorium, I never lost. In fact, I never even so much as lost a bot during combat. At most, I would have to heal upon return to base when my shields would fail—indicated by the blue meter that recharges after every fight; health is red meter restored at base; the yellow bar is the “overheat” indicator that forces a bot to skip a turn if full.
Right now, Robothroium feels more of a complete game than an Early Access one, and that is both good and bad. The good news is that fans of the dungeon crawler genre can dig right in without worrying about missing features. Goblinz Studios is actively patching the game, and even addressed an issue of the game freezing during battles. The bad news is that I cannot imagine what more Robothorium has to offer beyond the few hours I have invested into it; the game certainly does not give me incentive to push further, as it feels very formulaic in its story, archetypal factions, skill trees that may as well be linear, and underwhelming loot. The dungeon crawler genre is crowded, so Robothorium will need to bring the heat if it hopes to be distinguished from the competition, lest it risk getting lost.
Preview code generously provided by Goblinz Studio.