Tank games have dominated the vehicular combat genre as of late, and if you’re anything like me, you were too caught up in them to wonder where the stupid games went. You know, the hilariously fast and addictively dumb car games like Twisted Metal and Bandits: Phoenix Rising, the ones that played like crack high on methadone. Thankfully, some brilliant bastard in New Zealand noticed this hole in the gaming aether, and they’re hoping to fill it with Scraps. The game has just released to Early Access, and there are plenty of reasons to keep your eye on it, but not much more.
Before I go into why this game requires your curiosity but not your attention, keep in mind that it’s in Early Access. Everything I say here could be fixed, nullified or just plain wrong in the future, so take my thoughts as if they’re coming from your cousin that keeps posting anti-vaccine stuff on Facebook. If it sounds like it’ll get rectified, it probably will, but there are no guarantees either. With that said, the foundations of the game are freakin’ solid, especially the customisation.
At the core of Scraps is vehicle construction, and you can go crazy with what you make. You construct your Mad Max death machine by attaching blocks to one another, with each block having an associated scrap cost. These blocks can be anything from anvils to cannons, and assuming the scrap limit is high enough, you can build some crazy vehicles. The customisation is easy to do while still being flexible enough to make almost any design you can think up. Then you get to drive your beautiful creation, but it’s never as fun as you’d think.
There’s a nice warm feeling that washes over you when you see something you made work, but the slow gameplay can dull it. Because the game is so heavily physics based, driving around shooting people is less like a chaotic frenzy as it is a Sunday drive. You’ll often be more focused on not flipping and damaging yourself than decimating your enemies, which doesn’t do much to keep me engaged. The other main problem is how customisation manifests in matches, or at least how it’s haphazardly chucked in.
During a match, you can customise your vehicle to better suit your needs, but there are a few problems with it. As you blow each other up at the speed of encumbered donkeys, you collect scrap to repair and reconstruct your car. Repairing is quick enough since it’s just a big button, but reconstructing your car means attaching parts block by block, which isn’t a quick process. There’s no option to load a saved design mid-game, so if I wanted to make a smaller car, I’d have to spend a few minutes piecing my build together. It’s a jarring shift from gunplay happening seconds earlier, and the amount of scrap you’ll often get is barely enough to cover you.
Unless you don’t get shot at all, you’ll have a hard time maintaining your kill-mobile for very long. So little scrap drops from damaging your opponents that even paying to get your vehicle repaired can be outside your price range. This mechanic helps to keep powerhouses from maintaining control over the battlefield, but right now, dying feels more productive than collecting scrap. Of course, if you want to die, you won’t quite know when it’ll happen.
Even though you can make insane cars, you’re not given much information in-game about the status of each component. You’re given an overall indication of how hot your weapons are and how much power you have, but nothing in the way of damage apart from the cockpit going black. I guess it might clutter up the screen with a million health bars, but at least then I’d see how I’m faring. Despite all that, the game is on the right track, and I’m hyped to see where it goes.
It needs a lot of tweaks before I’d consider it a game worth buying, but Scraps has got a lot of ideas worth noticing. With a customisation system that’s damn near perfect, all it needs is a game to use them in that’s more engaging. It’s certainly worth a look, but until it’s issues are sorted out, you’re better off waiting. I’m excited to see where it goes, but until then, I’ll go find my old copy of Bandits: Phoenix Rising instead.