Main Assembly Review: Activate!

Fresh out of Early Access, here's Main Assembly Review - a sandbox of bot-building with unlimited potential.

Robots aren’t my thing, but building a bot you can ride in this Main Assembly review (and going into a battle arena) is like getting a second chance to play with Meccano without anybody knowing.

In this game from Bad Yolk Games and Team17, you can partake in a plethora of challenges, online play or a sandbox for of unlimited potential to build one bot bigger and better than the last.

There are two main sections to the game: building, which is the assembly part of the title, then taking it for a spin or entering a battle mode. But is it any good?

Main Assembly Review

Just coming out of Early Access, this is a title that’s been off my radar. There’s no story to it, bloodletting or adventure – well, that’s arguable. Perhaps the things that put me off were the robots and engineering aspect.

Starting at the tutorial, you’re taken through various tasks of adding some wheels to a chassis, then building your own through some direct manipulation. It’s a bit of a cliche for these sort of things, but your imagination is the only limitation.

Main Assembly - Robots Assemble!
Assemble! Source: Steam

Depending on the mode, or how many parts you’ve unlocked in the challenges, you’ll be able to access a catalogue that lists parts that can be used in your build. When it’s finished, you 3D print it. If you make a mistake, you can ctrl+v – clearly not used enough in games.

When it came to taking these designs out onto the road, I didn’t have that much fun playing on the keyboard. So, I switched to a controller for the test drives and stuck with the mouse for constructions.

If There’s Programming Run, Else Stick With It

Aside from extruding shapes to build a robotic chassis, you can program too. Now, I don’t know about who’s reading this, but I’ve dabbled with object-orientated programming and would rather eat my own face than have to relive that.

On first impressions, the programming section had me hovering over the Esc key. It wasn’t a particularly good-looking interface, in contrast to the rest of the lovely visuals, and the introduction of implementing math equations had me rolling in a ball, rocking back and forth.

BUT… as per the theme throughout this Main Assembly, experimentation is encouraged and swapping out inputs and reconnecting them with commands gave some wicked results. In an attempt to make a rear-wheel drive, I got it wrong and had left and right mixed up. There’re lots of trial and error, which is good.

Not For Cartographers

Another thing that’s worth noting in Main Assembly is the mapping. Starting with a mouse and keyboard combo, it started getting problematic with the driving sections so switched to a controller, as mentioned.

Main Assembly - Smash bots
Smash bots. Source: Steam

In the programming section, you can map your steering etc. to individual key presses. However, the steering was exclusively mapped to the controller and no longer the keyboard. Not a problem, but a really interesting take and makes you think.

At first, I thought the poor handling was due to their construction, but mine were always well-balanced. No, it comes down to the programming again, and you can configure the sensitivity of handling, among other things. Genius!

If You CAN Build It, They Will Come

Other than the parts in the catalogue, you can also save builds. While you can clone parts, in the Bots tab you can save configurations for a rainy day. This was a fantastic feature as believe me; it took an age to get the hang of the construction side of things.

That’s perhaps the struggle for me then – not the programming as expected, but the building. I found it quite fiddly – even with the mouse as I’d often be positioned awkwardly, dragging a part or extruding it, then having to Ctrl+V again and again.

Best of all, once you get the hang of it, you can create contraptions that your kids can get involved with. This is a very family-friendly game, and while it doesn’t teach programming on par with something like Scratch, it gets kids (and adults), thinking outside of the box.

Edna Mode Heading Again

As for modes, Challenges will help you unlock new parts to fulfil your creative prowess, unlocking stars along the way. You’ll be placed in a series of objectives, all the while, coming up with an innovative solution. Throughout, Main Assembly promotes that there is no right or wrong way to get there.

The Sandbox mode is self-explanatory, and you can easily spend hours here like the creative mode in Minecraft. Anyone who remembers ACTIVATE! will also be pleased to get the chance to build their own Sir Killalot from Robot Wars. And yes, there’re weapons and all parts are unlocked to play on your own, or online with mates.

Main Assembly - Friends
Friends. Source: Steam

If I hadn’t have received the invite, Main Assembly would have been a game overlooked as on paper, it’s not something that would typically appeal, despite the creative element.

However, you have all the tools here to create some truly amazing (working) designs. Sure, the building aspect was a struggle at times, and even now can’t wholly recreate what’s in my head, but you can’t blame your tools, right?

Main Assembly Review Summary

Fresh out of Early Access, Main Assembly is a must for those with an appetite for engineering, creativity and an infinite sandbox of ideas. There’s a bit of a learning curve if you aren’t used to this sort of thing, but well worth a look, even if you’re a bit sceptical.

The score totals a 8.5 out of 10