Thursday, 20 October 2016

Abstract Arena - Demo

A look at the Abstract Arena v1.006 demo build...

Abstract Arena title screen

The intricate skills required to master a top-down shooter have always eluded me. Having to maintain a state of 360 degree awareness while also trying to aim and shoot is something that my imbecilic brain can't readily comprehend, resulting in consecutive deaths in a variety of forms.

Despite this, they're often bloody good fun -  and, I'm happy to say, Credici's Abstract Arena  is no different in that regard.

 Aesthetically it's very pleasing, the clean white background contrastingly nicely with the crisp sprites of the arena...participants. There is a slight hesitation there, as playing Abstract Arena feels a bit like being inside the mind of an AI in an Iain M Banks novel, playfully sparring with its fellows in a simulated environment. It's not entirely clear just what it is you're controlling; they could be spaceships battling in some crazy universe, or, equally, representations of advanced AI Minds.
Abstract Arena singleplayer
In case you can't tell, I'm losing.

Frankly, it doesn't really matter -  the clue is in the name after all.

What does matter is how it's executed, and even my mind - with its haphazard top-down shooter skills - can tell that this is done rather well. Because of the aesthetic style, it doesn't take too long to figure out the key elements; who you are, and where the enemy is. Even the menus are presented in such a crisp simple manner that's incredibly easy to understand. The limited keyboard controls, while being in a slightly odd configuration, streamline the gameplay into a pure shooter experience; just primary and secondary fire, none of that confusing multiple-number-keys weapon swapping. I enjoy this kind of pure simplicity in a shooter, the better for me to concentrate on actually surviving (winning is normally out of the question).

Abstract Arena menu
Oooo just look at the pretty colours!

That isn't to say that Credici have skimped on content, even in this early build. Several different maps are available; while at this stage it's not too clear what the differences between them are, the fact that there are any others at all is a nice touch. The AI is absolutely fiendish, and even with the difficulty turned all the way down like a wimp I was still in a lot of trouble, especially when I had the maximum 6 players on a fairly small map. There is even, dare I say it, multiplayer, which seems like a shooter staple but is actually fairly ambitious for a demo. Sadly I didn't try that facet out this time, as the brilliant yet monstrous AI had me weeping impotently in a corner.

Abstract Arena singeplayer
Being honest, I died several seconds ago...
Admittedly, there is still a fair amount of work to be done before full release; there (understandably) isn't a massive amount of content here at the moment.  Despite the clean graphics, I initially had no clue what I was doing, and a tutorial would have been nice. I know, I know, tutorials are for the weak and worthless cowards too afraid to get their hands dirty! Even so, when you're dropped straight into the hungry maw of a ravenous AI, it's good to have a guiding hand. Or even a few hints really.

Nevertheless, Abstract Arena is a lovely little arcade shooter, and I can't wait to see it develop even further. Just don't try to get all philosophical on it and start questioning things, like I did. It's called abstract for a reason, dummy.

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