Not often associated with a top-down retro-infused action game, Daedalic Entertainment’s latest is precisely that: Glitchpunk Early Access.
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I played the demo during the Steam Next Fest and forgot that I was impressed by this game as it just felt like playing the original GTA, or GTA2 – the inspiration. It’s just like the original PlayStation game with a similar story structure, albeit set in the future, and your character has the same sticky fingers – if it ain’t bolted down…
Fortunately, Dark Lord’s game, which will be in Early Access by the time you read this, is a dystopian action game where you take on a series of contracts to climb the ranks among the initial three factions. Each faction is represented by a colour on the screen with a related gauge to show your standing. Complete jobs for them, and you’ll be in high standing or kill their members, and you won’t be going to their birthday party. You’ll also have to pay a bounty to get new jobs.
Glitchpunk Early Access Preview
Starting in New Baltia, I got to choose either a male or female character for my ‘build’, opting for the latter to get fully immersive in role-playing without smudging my makeup. There’s not an in-depth story to begin with, but as you progress, you’re told of the tension with androids and their treatment, which influences some factions. As part-android, you’re a target and want a better life for yourself, so fast track into a world of crime.
Apologies for the frequent GTA comparisons, but it is like playing it again, but with bells and whistles on it. Despite having an old pixelated look, Glitchpunk Early Access looks fresh with 3D buildings and multiple layers you can interact with and get hurt if you fall from, and the lighting effects look great within the context of the art style. It reminded me a little of tinyBuild’s Black Skylands – not that it’s steampunk, but how they have taken a retro style and pimped it up with decent results.
The core of the game is getting assigned contracts and fulfilling them. You’ll head to a phonebox to see a list of offers, go to a vending machine and buy some panti- a gun, unless you already have one, and complete your mischievous tasks, ideally with as little aggro as possible. If you piss people off in this game, you’ll find your contracts hard-going as you have rival factions after you, pedestrians – if you provoke them, and if you get enough attention, a wanted level with the old bill after you. The only way to get rid of the latter is through completing a contract or heading to a garage. Get me a Dairy Milk while you’re there.
Right, comparisons (almost) over, what makes Glitchpunk Early Access any different, other than the cool visuals, ambient sounds and relative freedom to do as you please early on? Hacking. Hacking can be performed on the fly, and, as this is the future, you can hack people and devices. This helps with planning a contract as you can essentially create some drones to do the heavy lifting, keeping a safe distance yourself. Naturally, hacking comes at a cost, and that cost is focus points displayed alongside your health. It’s important to keep an eye on the gauge.
When equipped with a gun, your character’s movement feels pretty rigid, as if you’re playing a tank as you strafe without a single pivot at the hips. But, playing with the mouse as I did, you can freely look around while moving with the keys, allowing for your aim to be pretty accurate. There’s an old-fashioned feel to gameplay, and it takes a little bit of time to get used to – especially when on foot, as it’s not always clear that there are shortcuts through buildings, and easy to fall or drive off an elevated platform.
Dying is pretty common. After a quick death, you spawn just as quickly with the option to instantly replay the same mission. The only real loss is your gear, but you do keep your stats and modules. Yep: Glitchpunk Early Access is the future, so you’re augmented and can insert multiple body modifications to boost your survivability. There hasn’t been much time to experiment with everything, but this feature is essential.
Driving is better than in the demo, I think. The cars in the demo handled well but shifted too quickly, and due to the viewpoint of the game, you’d end up crashing too much. But there was no time for speed. I found myself doing the most parking up (without a wanted meter) and listening to the radio. It’s bloody brilliant! It has the same spoof radio ads and DJs similar to GTA, and with hilarious results. I’m currently listening to a piece about girth. Besides that, the music is cool too. There are four stations at the time of writing, so looking forward to the new additions.
I seldom write about glitches and what-not unless they’re blatantly obvious, and what with this being an Early Access, there’s going to be things that need to be tweaked, hence the phase. The developers are aware of a few issues that are being dealt with, and one of those is the noticeable frame drops. It got to a point where the screen would freeze for up to a minute a time, forcing missions to be unplayable. I’d be driving down a straight, the game would freeze, then there would be a pedestrian under my wheels. Honest, officer. These things can be ironed out with updates, but this became quite frequent to the point that I gave up.
Cyberpunk 2077 got a lot of stick, and as I mentioned at the time, I never had an issue, though I have since seen the issues others had. With Glitchpunk, it’s not as extreme, but it’s Early Access and a ‘risk’ you run by getting the game early. That means when it goes to full release, it’s ready and not removed from the shelves. The devs know what work needs to be done, and it’ll be worth riding shotgun with them once updates have been made. This game is old school brutal, with just as much fun when it isn’t lagging. It’s like playing Adam Jensen on a retro rampage, showing plenty of potential, but it will need swift improvements.