Steampunk and survival. The two most obvious parts of Volcanoids are largely a part of what makes it great, as well as where it fell short for me. The self-published game released on Steam initially in 2019. It mixes elements of different genres and creates a first-person shooter survival game with loads of progression. Now, you can do it with friends.
You (or you and your friends) start the game on a submarine ported at an island. You first have to mine some ores to get started. On the mainland, you see quickly what the playing field is like. A giant volcano sits in the distance, and loads of copper, brass and all things steampunk sit around you. Steampunk has never done a lot for me, personally, so this game was interesting to experience.
There is a countdown to when the Volcano erupts, depending on the difficulty you selected as to when it blows. And when it blows, you better be underground. How? In a drillship of course. One that you have to take from the menacing COGs, robots who have taken over the human world after drilling from underground. And they shoot to kill, on sight.
These COGs are machines you generally hide from, but you really have to survive against the clock. If the volcano catches you in your early days of playing, you go back to square one, a quite infuriating lesson a player has to learn. Playing with a friend can lead to better judgment on this.
From the start, you have step by step quests that help guide you. Building up the drillship requires knowledge of a vast and creative crafting system. The game has a great number of guides and it’s hard to get frustrated at the system it sets up for you.
Fighting the COGs is a fun part of Volcanoids. When out and about above ground, you have to defend yourself with different guns and explosives, or your trusty pickaxe. What troubled me was how off the hit registration felt on the starter pistol.
There are some of those movement bugs and inconsistencies that can hold back a player. Overall, the game runs very smoothly, though, especially with multiple players.
Music is not necessarily a factor in the game; it might’ve been nice to get some noticeable music to drown out some of the creaky and sometimes annoying beeping and machinery.
The audio design is still great, though. Playing around in one of the drillships shows how intricate the design of the world is. There is a lot of care placed in this steampunk vibe, from the audio to the colors to the character and item design.
The developer is quite active and responsive on social media and with helping to fix specific bugs. Co-op play is also new to the game recently and adds a nice element to the game. It does feel like something better enjoyed with a companion.
It isn’t a story-based game, necessarily. There are hints of how you are a human fighting back against the machines, a key element to the design, and I like the idea of not only trying to survive but innovating in the face of a threat.
Some of the missions are a tad infuriating, and the game design can become quite frustrating. Those COGs are very pesky and move quite silently sometimes, making a siege of a drillship a tedious mission. Yet that is a part of the game’s ingenuity. Volcanoids is vast and takes the survival genre down a different path while challenging the player throughout.