Volcanoids first caught my eye back in April where it was announced that co-op action was coming to the base-building survival game. I was instantly drawn into its unique steampunk inspired artwork that combined exploration, base-building and of course, survival elements. Its unique concept of having players not only survive against hostile robotic enemies, but also against a deadly volcano that erupts at certain periods provides a distinctive challenge that is a breath of fresh air to the genre.
Volcanoids first entered Steam Early Access back in January 2019 and has slowly been refining its craft through a number of updates over the last 18 months. Volcanoids takes a different approach to survival games by not only incorporating steampunk elements, but by way the way of utilising a giant drillship as a mobile base. Your base is not only a safe haven against the hostile race of robots, but by also burrowing into the ground you can avoid the frequent eruptions of the islands volcano would otherwise end your life within seconds.
The island of Volcanoids was originally a habitable for humans, until it was invaded by the robotic army called COG. The COGs invaded the island using underground passages formed by their drillships. Why did the robotic army invade the island? To utilise the volcano as a means for its societies power. Unfortunately for the human race, this in turn causes the volcano to frequently erupt and force humans to flee the island. This is where you come in as part of an expedition to drive the COGs back out of the island and reclaim what is rightfully ours.
You serve as a crew mate to a majestic sea captain of a submarine. Here the captain will initially hand out some basic quests as a form of tutorial, but as you begin learning the basic mechanics of the game the quests become less frequent, but increase in difficulty.
The core gameplay of Volcanoids‘ is nothing new for survival games — Gather resources such as coal, copper, iron and titanium to craft various weapons and resources used to survive. Use these resources to craft items and upgrade your drillship to help survive the threats of the island. The island is segregated into three unique zones, each with their own unique resources to harvest along with different tier COGs to encounter.
Players will also use modules to help upgrade their drillship to help evolve their drillship. At present, there are six modules available to upgrade your drillship — Powerplant, Refinery, Production, Storage, Research, and Turret. Most of these are self-explanatory; Powerplant produces power for modules, production uses your resources to produce components, modules, and other upgrades, while the turret is the drillship’s primary defence against COGs. Turrets are key to survival, particularly are you begin to explore dangerous parts of the island. I can’t recall the amount of times I was out gathering resources only to be alerted that my drillship was under attack and forced to sprint back to take out number enemies.
Here is where Volcanoids strays from the status quo — The Island is home of one of the biggest volcanos you will ever see and erupts are set intervals based on the difficulty of the game. What happens when the volcano erupts? Well, like any other volcano that has erupted, lava will flow all over the island and disintegrate anything in its path, including you an your little drillship. This is where your drillship comes in handy as you have the ability to burrow underground and avoid certain death.
Exploring the underground network adds another dimension to Volcanoids’ gameplay as this allows you to not only quickly travel to another landing site on the island (and mine minerals along the way), but are also key to accessing areas that you are unable to via the surface. This is where you begin your quest towards the endgame of destroying the COG drillships that are causing the volcano to erupt. COG drillships are located within the volcano’s cave, but before accessing them players will need to ensure their drillship has been upgraded to withstand the extreme heat, and also disable the three lava sources. Once these lava sources have been disabled, now you can finally access the volcano cave and destroy COG drillships and drive those tin can asses off your island.
COGs themselves pose minimal threat to your life; they are simple enemies that run in straight lines but are surprisingly accurate with their weapon. In some respect this is a good thing because combat is fairly clunky; this is something the developers have identified are currently working on to improve. At times, it feels like you are playing horde mode as you fend off waves and waves of COGs. This is more annoying than anything as you have limited time on the surface to complete missions and gather resources, instead you find yourself battling off waves of COGs when you really need some resources to make some more ammo.
Not all COGs are the same — There are three tiers of COGs who more-or-less pose a similar level of difficulty in combat, but the unique loot that each of the COGs drop depends on their tier level and rank. Tier 1 COGs compromise of Explorer, Builder, and Miner, but Tier 3 COGs feature more advanced positions of Scientist, Engineer and Guardian. The higher the tier, the more rare loot you will obtain.
There was nothing more satisfying that burrowing deep underground in my drillship, erecting my periscope and watching the island turn into a volcanic wasteland — The island goes from a gorgeous, lush island full of green grass and life to nothing more than ash. Over the next 15 or so minutes before the volcano’s next eruption, the island slowly begins its transformation into a beautiful tropical island and is stunning.
The steampunk infused theme is a real highlight of Volcanoids as the retro brass pipes and buildings look fantastic. The detail included in each of the buildings, submarine and drillships look brilliant. The COG models themselves remind me of the Standard diving dress suits used for underwater exploration during the 1800’s, it was a shame I had to destroy a few hundred of them to help me along my journey.
Volcanoids recently introduced a fairly significant milestone with its addition of cop-op multiplayer, but what does the future of Volcanoids look like? Developer Volcanoid (yes that is correct) have a public roadmap to document its progress and to create awareness of upcoming features that are being developed. If you follow the game’s official Twitter, you will be well aware that COG models are high on their priority list and are looking great. But the team are also working on a number of features to be added to the core of the game including more drillships (along with customisable colours), improved combat, new turrets, and numerous visual improvements along the way.
Looking further down its development path and one feature that every survival game needs is PvP multiplayer action, and Volcanoid have confirmed that this along with a final Volcano Boss will be in place before the game’s full release.
- GAMEPLAY - 80%80%
- GRAPHICS - 87%87%
- AUDIO - 72%72%
- POTENTIAL - 85%85%
Anyone who appreciates traditional retro steampunk will instantly be drawn to Volcanoids based purely on its appearance. While there are a number of minor issues that plague the game, its unique concept on the survival genre more than makes up for this and will reward anyone wanting a fresh take on survival sims.
For our complete coverage of Volcanoids, please click here.