Polyversal Kickstarter

Bionic Dues – PC Game Preview

Developer & Publisher: Arcen Games

The fact that Arcen Games is so efficient and fast at churning out new games suggests that they might have access to a maniacal AI robot army. But many gamers agree that the chance for that AI army to go rogue and dominate mankind is worth being able to plays games such as the excellent AI Wars series, A Valley without Wind I and II, Shattered Haven, Tidalis, and Skyward Collapse. Now Arcen Games is poised to make a new release tomorrow, October 8 – a Roguelike, turned-based, strategy and RPG game called Bionic Dues. Set in a universe similar to AI Wars, the player is tasked with leading a party of four customizable mechs against a nearly unending mob of nefarious robots.

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But Roguelikes are a bit hard to pin down, and I could spend paragraphs describing all of the nuances and options available at the player’s fingers (and there seems to be many, particularly considering the loot system that evokes Diablo ARPG-style loot modifiers and collection). Instead, why not simply SHOW you what the game is like!

So join me on a pictorial AAR as I direct steel melting laser directly into the heart of the AI swarm!

Upon loading up the game, you are greeted with an attractive cityscape. To the left side, the player’s HQ health, player representation, four-bot squad, and store button are show, all displaying extensive and highly descriptive tool-tips at the mere hover of the mouse. To the right is the list of the AI swarm that is inexorably making its way towards my HQ. I have 50 turns (at them point, actually only 46, I’ve done a few missions) to strengthen my forces and weaken theirs before the final battle.

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The city scape is also where you choose your missions. Here I am choosing to take on an AI firefight, but I could tear down some barricades impeding my path, strike at an AI-claimed factory, or rescue a capture dignitary.

Before entering the mission, I should probably look at my bots to customize their inventories.

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This is the inventory screen. You can see that I have highlighted one of the many types of modules that you can add to your bots. Each of these modules offers a wide variety of passive and active modifiers, improving life or shields, raising ammo levels, altering weapon damage, or providing the ability to hack or go into stealth mode. This bot is my Assault Exo, the brute of my forces. He has three weapons, a wicked laser that smokes more early level robots, a weaker machine gun with a larger ammo reserve, and a short ranged area-of-effect grenade launcher. You can switch this on the fly during the missions, and most have several slots to alter their performance.

I also have a rocket-launcher toting Siege Exo.

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A stealthy Ninja Exo, good at avoiding mines and traps.

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And a brainy Science Exo that can hack into doors and locked chests.

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Well, I could spend hours tweaking these loadouts, but that would spoil some of the surprise of discovery for new players. Instead, let’s head over to the shop and take a look around.

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Ooohh… there is some nice stuff that adds some interesting special abilities, such as this virus that reprograms a bot to fight for you instead of against you. Unfortunately, these awesome goodies will have to wait, as I am pretty cash strapped. Only one way to remedy that – get in that mission and blow up some bots!

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This mission entails fighting off a number of bots that have barricaded themselves strategically in the city’s sewers. Unlike some of the other missions I have taken, which were marked by long hallways and loads of destroyable cover, this map seems to be much more open. I anticipate that I will have to make some tough decisions in how to deal with masses of bot troops. At the moment, my Assault Exo is my active bot, so you can see his weapons and his stealth skill can be changed and activated from the menu on the left.

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I advance a bit and immediately pick up some bot signatures on my radar. Getting a bit closer, I attract the attention of a LeaderBot and an EMPBot. Because they are so far apart, I will have to make a choice in which one to shoot first, giving the other one a chance to close the distance and possibly fire. Like more roguelikes, Bionic Dues uses an IGO-YUGO system, every move I make give the AI a chance to respond. I choose to blast the more heavily armed EMPBot, partially hoping that the LeaderBot will walk into the read glowing mines and be destroyed that way.

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The EMPBot explodes in a dramatic fashion, which would have hurt me had I been near it. Time to lure that LeaderBot into those mines.

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Oops, he fell for it, but it didn’t kill him. Instead, I managed to summon a few of his friends. This calls for an area effect weapons, so I switch to my Siege Exo to use his rocket launcher. The Assault Exo does have an AOE grenade launcher, but I have a feeling I will need a bit more firepower.

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Again, another pyrrhic victory. I managed to destroy the bots nearest to me, but they blasted me with EMP enough to stop my weapons from working for 4 turns. So I will have to switch Exos again, giving the AI another free turn.

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A few turns later, I have managed to clear out some of the incoming bots, but I seem unable to stem the tide of the onslaught. More bots have emerged from around the corner. There is only one saving grace, each EMPBot I kill briefly disables all the bots around it. Unfortunately, it also disables my weapons. Still, I am able to use that time to get into a better position and let my weapons recharge.

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At this point it seems likely I will need to use more AOE power. I need to carefully marshal these weapons, because AOE have very limited ammo and, should I run out, I will have to either look for a recharge station or do without until the mission ends.

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Whew, I managed to clear out that mob without taking too many hits. In the midst of all those bots was a chest containing a MK. II Scanner. I will have to wait until the end of the mission to see what that will do for me and my crew.

Hmm, a nice computer terminal that I can hack. The problem with these terminals is that you never know what is going to happen when you use them. Using my science bot, I carefully hack the terminal…

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And it explodes in a gigantic fireball, disabling my Science Exo for the remainder of the mission. Ah… the magic of the Roguelike, it giveth and it taketh away. If I lose all of my Exos, I will fail the mission and the AI will both advance and gain strength.

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Here I am, in dire straits again as another mass of AI bots rounds the corner to come and get me. This mission clearly pits me against numbers, while other missions are much more packed with long hallways, chests, terminals, and special AI types. That is the beauty of the game, there is a lot of variety in what you will be tasked with doing and a lot of different paths to take. In some missions, you main just need to clear out the level of opposing forces. In other missions you need to capture a factory machine and find the exit or destroy a reactor and leave before meltdown.

Arcen has done a good job in giving the missions a good amount of personality and flair. The AI bots are also highly variable, some are dumb cannon-fodder, other retreat, while other have special effects or generate leadership bonuses for their allies. As you continue to play, you have to be smart about which bot you target first.

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Again, I managed to clear out that group, with some minor scratches. Down the hall there is a number of locked doors which, unfortunately, require hacking to open. Since I lost my Science Exo, I won’t be able to open them, missing out on both temporary bonuses and possible loot.

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Nice, the mission warp pad! Looks like I survived to beat those AI scum! Almost all missions end with a warp pad, but some require that you achieve certain goals before they unlock and allow you to head back to HQ. Time for some much needed rest and repair!

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The End of Mission SitRep. Not altogether too bad, but I am irritated that I was not able to open up those locked doors and grab more valuable loot. Oh well, I have learned to be more careful in future with my fragile Science Exo.

Will humanity survive the AI rebellion? Will our intrepid heroes blow up any and everything that moves to stop the robot onslaught? Will I be able to finally afford that sweet virus hacking program? There is only one way to find out – lock and load, suit up in your Exo, and pay your Bionic Dues!

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