The Mistbound universe is a place where dapper men of science with full, bushy mustaches and aviation goggles pilot metal walkers equipped with heavy weaponry, in the name of environmental consciousness. Max Bawley is one such man. Having left behind his life of serving the Empire – a group that’s only known purpose is to destroy the land for the resources contained within – Max is pushed over the edge when the organization comes to demolish his homeland. And so he sets out to destroy them in the only way he knows how, by jumping behind the controls of a giant mech and raising hell against the Empire’s legions of armies.
Reintroducing players to the Mistbound universe, first featured in last year’s Greed Corps, a thoughtful downloadable strategy game well worth its weight in space bucks, Gatling Gears presents a continuation of the prior game’s central themes. There’s been a clear shift in focus and production values since then. Gatling Gears ditches the inventive turn-based strategy formula entirely, replacing it with an experience far less essential, a twin-stick shooter on a platform over-saturated with them.
For Greed Corps fans, the main appeal comes in the form of window dressing. Most of the references to the former game are thematic, following its example in the dense aesthetics of the industrial revolution. Providing a new perspective on its shared universe, Gatling Gears brings its focus to the ground-level. Excavation units are chipping away pieces of the landmass, breaking away after depriving the land of its natural energy. All kinds of mechanical enemies provide an appeal to steampunk sensibilities while the metal walkers – the central piece used for movement and capturing territories in Greed Corps – make their return as the main character’s vehicle of choice.
Gatling Gears offers up a polished brand of twin-stick shooting that feels like a subdued version of Future Cop: L.A.P.D., as the metal walker is a gaudy piece of tech and can sometimes be cumbersome to control. This becomes a problem, as the main influences on the gameplay are rooted in bullet hell shmups, but the constant array of bullets in Gatling Gears typically move ploddingly across the screen. It would seem like this makes the task easier, but on harder difficulty settings, the playing field is filled with projectiles launched from different parts of the screen – some twirling around and following your movements, others leisurely making their exit off-screen.
Your primary weapon is, of course, an attached gatling gun that sprays bullets over a short area, making the odds seem slightly uneven, as the enemy will so often begin taking their shots from off-screen. It feels insufficient in its limited range from the onset and only after all of the upgrades are applied does it feel the way you wanted it to feel from the beginning. Further adjustments can be made to the walker’s toaster-like armor plating, as well as its grenade and rocket launchers, which come in handy whenever your main gun falls short.
The execution of Gatling Gears‘ content, while less of a defining release for the platform overall, remains technically sound. A simplified story mode carries relatively high production values. Although the way forward is set along a fixed path, the surroundings are intricately detailed and the look is fully conceptualized in contrast to Greed Corp’s simple-but-effective presentation values. Complementing the main campaign is a survival mode, that’s most similar to tower defense. It works well and is good fun online, once you find the rhythm of the action.
What Gatling Gears loses out on in originality it nearly makes up for in polish. The switch from heady board game to simplified action romp is just what everyone had been asking for – a follow-up game set in the Mistbound universe. And that’s a fine thing, as the atmosphere and the industrial influence are palpable, but an expansion of Greed Corps’ more strategic premise would be a welcome return to form, if there’s going to be a third entry.