The folks over at Doctor Entertainment AB gave us a chance to play their new indie title Gear Up while it’s running through beta. It’s a free-to-play online action game in which the player can build a tank and fight other online players. There is a dose of strategy involved when playing and the game has the potential to be a lot of fun, but there are a few things this game needs to work out to make it much more playable and a bit less frustrating. Let’s go build a tank and talk about what this game is missing.
I liked the game…when I was able to play it. We’ll come back to this shortly. Some of the fun features of this game involve the fact that you’re able to customize your tank in so many ways! When I loaded up the game I already had 116 different parts options to pull from the shelf. It was unclear if I could unlock more equipment later or if this was just everything at once during the beta testing of Gear Up. The player can choose from a macabre of pieces involving different tank tracks, body, and weapons. Gear Up keeps it simple and doesn’t overwhelm a player with too many options. It did feel intentional and that does give Doctor Entertainment AB wiggle room to expand the game over time.
The graphical layout of Gear Up reminds me of the animation in Spore. It’s something about the cleanliness and animation that does it. Levels can be sprawling large distances with variations in terrain or sometimes much smaller arena’s. This can be a downside if players drop out of a game though. The matchmaking doesn’t pick up quickly on the server to replace lost players so there were times I would be left with one or two players out of a team of six. Not to mention the fact that you now have to travel the hell and back across a battle zone to find an enemy.
I liked the way the controls of the game handled once I got the hang of them. It was a weird transition for me since I don’t end up playing a lot of PC games. Sorry, I know…you’re upset now because I’m a console gamer. It’s the truth and I’m not ashamed of myself for it. All of the judgment is on me and I accept it. The game does have controller functionality, but it lacks smooth response when using a controller. It was more frustrating trying to use the controller for movement or anything. I did get a good grasp of the keyboard controls as they weren’t complicated at all. Standard direction keys and mouse can be used for aiming/firing your cannon. If Gear Up truly wants to make a better impression for controls, I would recommend making game controllers function better.
Early I mentioned a little something about being able to play Gear Up. That is a very sound problem I had with Gear Up and it made the play experience excruciating. I will give the benefit of the moment to Doctor Entertainment AB as they made it clearly known that the game is in its beta. If you don’t understand what a beta is, simply put: it’s a test phase prior to official release. It leaves the door open for bugs and issues that testers may encounter and appropriately relay back to the development team for Gear Up. The community has been doing a great job, but matchmaking was a giant pain. There were games for team deathmatch I would get into, die, and wait to respawn. The whole time I would watch other players on my team respawn, but I would be stuck at the count-down waiting for my chance at vengeance…forever. Games would randomly drop. My personal favorite, no lobbies and nobody wanting to join yours. The last issue isn’t something the developer can control, but it contributed to the frustration of my experience.
At the end of the day, I hope that Gear Up does really well out of beta. It has a lot of potential to be great fun with friends and other online players. The fact that it performs matchmaking between both PC players and Mac users is great! For a five-man team of developers, this is an impressive feat and once some of the bugs are worked out they have a real chance. If you want to play the game, check out early access on Steam and give it a shot. Even if you experience the same issues, it’s the moments when it works perfect that keep me coming back.