From the first moment I got to sit down with Minimum – an upcoming release from publisher Atari and developer Human Head – I knew I was going to be in for a treat. Minimalist visual styles have been all the rage in recent years, with games like Minecraft and Journey proving that you don’t need super-detailed graphics in order to stand out from the competition.
In fact, Minimum‘s visuals made my first impression all the more memorable. While my first couple of matches took some getting used to, I quickly realized how refreshing it felt to play a shooter that went easy on the visuals. Project lead Norm Nazaroff presented the game as being true to its name: Everything is minimalistic, from the visuals to the gameplay to the customization.
Blocky white stick figures shooting each other with black guns sounds a bit iffy, but when I was given a chance to go, I realized how much fun it actually is. Right off the bat, I was able to draw similarities between Minimum and Uber Entertainment’s Super Monday Night Combat. Both games follow the MOBA structure found in games like League of Legends and Solstice Arena. Minimum?like Monday Night Combat?borrows the “destroy the enemy base” goal and places it under a guise of a third person shooter.
Unlike Combat and other MOBA titles, Minimum goes even simpler, abandoning the traditional class system in favor of allowing players to build their character as they play and change things up as needed. In one match I found myself starting with a sniper rifle and some explosives, only to switch to a sword and machine gun loadout when I started to struggle.
You can set your equipment loadouts before the match, and there will be plenty of unlockable weapons once the game launches. Customizing armor is where a lot of the in-game strategy takes place. Not only do armors make your character look different, but they pack strong abilities. I found myself instantly flocking toward speed boost pants, but other pieces contain different perks and drawbacks. For example, a certain body armor will boost your defenses in exchange for a big speed decrease. There’s also a helmet that will drastically raise your damage output, but lower your defense. There are only a half dozen or so armor options right now, but I was told to expect more in the future.
During my play session, there was only one game type available: The MOBA-fueled “Titan” mode. The beginning of each Titan match features two AI-controlled giant robots marching down the main lane toward each other. Using weapons and equipment, I found myself going all out against the enemy’s mechanical beast, dealing almost negligible damage until our robot dealt the final blow and marched on. From there, my team’s bot broke down anti-Titan walls, dealt with Titan turrets, and walked through an onslaught of enemy attack until he was finally taken down.
The game also releases creeps – passive minions that drop Titan-boosting items when killed. The team that harvested the most creeps before the Titans re-launched ended up with an advantage.
Each of my matches lasted until one Titan reached the enemy base, though there’s also a time limit in case a match runs long.
In its current state there wasn’t much to see outside the battlefield, but what is there looks promising. By using resources earned from winning matches and completing goals, players will be able to forge new weapons and equipment which can be added to any of the numerous loadout slots.
Perhaps the most uplifting effort is Human Head’s approach toward early access. Nazaroff explained that the team will be using the period as a beta test. They’ll use that time to roll out live updates, re-balance the game as needed, and regularly gather feedback as to what players like and dislike.
The team already has plans for a free-for-all deathmatch mode, as well as a third playable map. Other features, such as cooperative modes and AI-controlled teammates, are a possibility as well. The team is focusing primarily on gameplay and balance during the early access period, so many of customization features won’t be available as soon as it goes live.
Keep an eye out for this one in the near future: Minimum should be launching on Steam Early Access in the next few weeks.