Throughout my gaming career, I have never been able to get into arena shooters. So, you can imagine, I was a little sceptical starting a game that is still in its pre-alpha phase. It wasn’t until I started shooting invisible robots that I realized that the game had one of the most unique concepts I have ever seen.
Aftercharge is Chainsawesome’s first FPS and while they still have a lot of work to do, they have the beginning of something interesting. This is the third game to join their library alongside Knight Squad and BeatBlasters III. Originally, the game was born as a prototype that earned Chainsawesome Games an honour in the professional category of the Pixel Challenge 48-hour Game Jam in 2015. The first version of the game was titled Electric Panic and it was played in a top-down perspective much like the studio’s second game, Knight Squad. The Chainsawesome team wanted to change the gameplay up, so they sat down and attempted a much more ambitious project. From that came Aftercharge, the arena robot shooter.
Aftercharge is a competitive 3v3 FPS that pits primarily invisible robots against a squad of special security enforcers in fast-paced skirmishes. The robots are tasked with destroying special nodes that are scattered across the map. The enforcers must defend these points and take out the attacking robots in order to win.
The attacking robots require teamwork, stealth, and their special abilities in order to destroy all six nodes. If one of the attacking robots is downed by an enforcer, a teammate can rush in and revive them. Since the robots can only use melee abilities, they must coordinate their attacks in order to outsmart the enforcers.
At the beginning of each game, the player chooses from a variety of robots or enforcers. Each of these characters has their own special abilities and playstyles and after each round, you switch teams. If you were playing as a robot the first round, you and the rest of your team swap to play as enforcers.
There are a few different robots with distinct abilities and ways of attacking. One of the robots that stood out was Turbo. As the name suggests, this robot specialized in getting in and out of difficult situations quickly. It did not feel like this mattered, however. Once an enemy found me, they made quick work of me. When an enforcer would eventually down me, I would either have to wait for a teammate to come and revive me, or wait for the enforcers to take the rest of my team down. This is where Aftercharge will either make it or break it as an arena shooter. Team FPS games like Overwatch, at some point, require team communication to secure a win.
Staying in constant communication with your team is vital especially when you are playing as a robot. As a robot, you are significantly weaker compared to the enforcers and it is likely that your robot will be shot down. Communicating with your team will ensure that they are able to revive you and then you will be able to organize with a new plan of attack.
After playing as these robots, however, I did feel rather underpowered and fragile. Even though I was invisible most of the time, it felt like the defending enforcers knew exactly where I was. Once they hit you, they are also able to track your movements. This makes it difficult to try and make a comeback by destroying the nodes.
On the opposing side of those meddlesome robots are the enforcers. As an enforcer I felt powerful and, with gun in hand, I was able to take down the enemy robots with no problem at all. This was the problem, however; even I could tell that the robots were going down too quickly. This either resulted in our impeccable teamwork or that we were just too strong. Each enforcer feels kind of like a typical class you would find in a shooter. There are five classes of enforcers to choose from. These ranged from a soldier, who uses an assault rifle and the Huntress, who takes aim with a sniper rifle. It was when I became an enforcer that I felt like I was able to fully take on the other team. It was fun trying to take down the enemy robots with my special abilities while also making sure they couldn’t destroy the nodes.
There are abilities that allow the enforcers the nullify the robots invisibility and make it easier to take them down. Another fascinating feature when playing as an enforcer is your energy gauge. The amount of energy you have determines what you can do as an enforcer. Your weapons and abilities are powered by the energy gauge. Every time you fire your weapon, it takes a little out of the gauge. To replenish, you must go stand near the nodes and they will power you back up. I found this to be an interesting idea as it forces the player to keep track of your actions. On more than one occasion I had to decide on whether pursue my target or go back and get more energy for the long run to my goal.
The map and the atmosphere enhance the overall experience of the game. You feel like you are on an alien world having this epic battle between invisible robots and powerful enforcers. At the time I was playing the game, Aftercharge only had one map. Chainsawesome plans on releasing another map later on called the Refinery. Like the title suggests, the map features a more industrial locale. The arena featured industrial equipment and the overall area resembled field mixed with a quarry. Various types of trees and rock formations littered the arena which allowed for cover and different ways to access the nodes.The invisible robots could run use the rock formations as vantage points and survey the enemy’s locations and determine the best ways to destroy the nodes.
The graphics in Aftercharge were bright, vibrant and exciting. The arena was a deep purple which gave the feeling of being on an alien world. The guns and abilities glowed with neon green and orange which made gameplay exciting and gave the feeling that the characters you were playing were not normal soldiers. The robots themselves had designs that accompanied their various abilities. The Turbo robot was slim which gave the impression that he was fast. The bruiser robot was large and had giant fists that he used for destroying the nodes. The enforcers looked very different, however. Most of them wore some sort of gas mask and clothing to represent their classes. The Huntress was the most unique as she sported a cloak that covered her head and body. She looked like she was used to hiding in discrete places that no one could find her.
While Aftercharge does have its issues, it also has the possibility to become one of the next great arena FPS. Most recently, the team has added an additional map in their playable build, as well as new skins and two new playable characters to choose from. By the end of it, they hope to have four maps and 10 characters, five per side, in total. In addition to that, Chainsawesome has some work ahead of them to deal with some of the issues still present in the game. Since Aftercharge is still in pre-alpha and they still have time to refine the overall formula, this game has the potential to be a great addition to the genre. I know I will be looking forward to coming updates and am excited to see how the game evolves over time.