EGX Rezzed: Hands-on – Clonespace
Sitting in the indie room at Rezzed, Clonespace may actually be among the more ambitious games at the expo but was possibly drawing less attention for not being one of the prettiest.
This is not to criticise it, as the game on display was a pre-alpha build and felt like a demonstration of the concept, selling the promise of what was to come. The demo running of Clonespace was a tutorial to the main game, putting you in the shoes of a newly cloned human who is setting out to try and save the species.
At this point in the future, humanity has uploaded their consciousness to a computer system – a sci fi concept that channels classic Clarke and Asimov (think The City and The Stars, or The Last Question) but takes it in a different direction. When you need a functional body it can be cloned for you, and I suspect that in a universe as dangerous as the one we have here we’ll get through a fair few of them.
The gameplay on offer showed several game mechanics, the most common being flying a small spacecraft through a two dimensional field. There was a moment of confusion before I realised the main control was W to accelerate; but the ship automatically aims towards the cursor – energy trail flaring behind you and curling as you turn, and allowing momentum to move you one way while firing in another.
Your lasers get quick use, initially destroying asteroids for the valuable crystals within them and then taking down enemy ships that come to harass you. Clonespace’s own website describes itself as “asteroids-style”, but it feels completely different to the classic arcade game – there is simply an aesthetic similarity, and even that is dispelled when seeing targets shatter and your tractor beam start scooping up debris. Enough resources looted, you’re told to return to base and rebuild your ship… which is surprisingly literal.
It’s here you see how much control Clonespace wants to give you; the basic ship design isn’t much more than a triangle, but you can quickly reshape it, taking the outline and adding nodes to stretch into new shapes. I swapped out basic components for slightly improved versions (albeit without any context for how much they might be improved in the tutorial), increasing the size and adding some extra lasers for good measure.
Adam Nasralla of developer Pocoloso was on hand, explaining that the size of the ship would affect its handling and mentioning some of the ship components still to be added to the game – the current selection running between lasers, cockpit, engines, tractor beam and teleporter. Ah yes, teleporters…
You can switch to an overhead view inside the ship (the same view that is used when at your base), still looking toward the cursor and able to wander from section to section. Running into the teleporter allows you to board an enemy ship, using the same view to shoot at (and by shot at) by enemy crew members, trying to storm the bridge and hijack the vessel. Want some alien tech? Why not just steal it?
Well, maybe you don’t want to. Adam explained that the plot of the game follows the search for a cure to a virus affecting humanity; aliens may be friendly or hostile but neither state is essential for the story, and the four other races can all be made friendly through some diplomatic handling, providing trading options. Of course, with big enough guns you can just go in and blast everything instead…
With multiple ships the AI will handle team mates, useful after the tutorial’s sample hijack and even more so at the end with a pitched battle between at least a dozen ships on each side, albeit a one-sided one against you to bring the demo to an end.
Adam explained that the plan for the final game includes having clearly designated sectors to explore, with hidden lore to fill out the back story and a significantly wider selection of ship components to deal with special situations – the example given was needing to gently mine asteroids for rarer resources that would be destroyed if the entire rock shattered.
There is an ambitious scope to the planned game, and the core element of flying into space blasting asteroids and enemies is fun even in this very early build. Being so early in development though, it did feel like a lot of the game’s appearance was functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, but in seeking to give players the chance to design their own fleet (and possibly space stations too), and approach the universe their own way, it will be very interesting to see how it develops.
Clonespace is in development for PC, Mac and Linux, with a release in 2015 planned.