It’s all in ruins. The war came, and we lost. Our planet was bathed in war and fire, our people were packed into evacuation ships, and we fled our world. The next planet we found was to be our rebirth, like a phoenix from the ashes, but they burned that one to cinders too. Each of them, dusted, and we continued our panicked escape into space.
This is how Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan begins. Humanity found itself up against invaders known as the Broken, and our efforts to fight back handed us loss after loss after loss. We fled, they followed, and our last hope remains in this last stand. On a planet toxic to our lungs and mired in inhospitable landscapes, we’re making a stand.
Life holds humanity over a barrel and tasks them with a tragically big job: survive annihilation with meager supplies, an apparently endless stream of enemies in the Broken, and do so on a world that couldn’t be less interested in being worth fighting and dying over. Dark, dingy, rusted over, and seemingly transient, humankind’s last stand feels a little more like one last hurrah before the lights turn off.
An Indifferent Planet
Fighting for one’s life is a solitary affair. The planet feels empty. Surrounded by too much space and relatively few people in it, it feels hollow. There’s a shattered shell of humanity that will struggling to keep up appearances, but it doesn’t feel right. The polished metal gangplanks and pristine floating cars aren’t there. What is there is ramshackle, cobbled together in a frantic rush to prepare a world that’s already passively hostile to be the landscape needed to survive when it and its invaders become active hostile. It feels like every corner turned will offer a new conflict, new needs for humanity’s salvation, and new responsibilities. It almost never stops feeling like someone needs something from you… and you alone.
The world, though teeming with danger, feels empty. Other heroes can be seen rushing by here and there, but for the most part it seems like every battle picked up is one that must be conquered alone. There are systems to gather friends, but they’re empty, as devoid of life as the world looks reflects on how it feels mechanically. Unless heroes manage to bring their own parties along for the ride, it mostly seems like its challenges will have to be done in silence.
The planet of Titan, cruel and uncaring, is empty of help. It has little else but needs and death.
How Express and Admirable in Action
However, once the gunfire starts, the tone of Wild Buster changes. The grungy metal catwalks and vague, alien hostility become a part of the experience. In missions, the omnipresent lurking of danger feels like it’s how the world is supposed to be. Of course the world is hostile, everything in it is violent. Even you.
The heroes, split into the Guardian and Abandon factions, are cut from the same cloth as the Broken invaders. They’re merciless, almost machined into violent biomechanical weapons, whose only reaction to conflict is to respond if overwhelming force until there is either no more ammo or there is nothing left with which to conflict. Every problem ends one of two ways: rounds or resignation. Some classes are better suited to close range combat, otherwise more distant, a few have skills around support or healing, but without fail, all classes are built to end whoever is foolish enough to stand at the opposite side of the firing line.
Married in with the conflict of humanity versus the Broken is the internal struggle between the Guardians and Abandon. Although the player factions aren’t actively hostile to one another, in that there is no constant sense of brawling between them in the streets, there is a constant undercurrent of spite. As if at any point, the cessation of hostilities between the militaristic and imperial Guardians and the chaotic, violent-for-the-good-of-mankind Abandon could be all parties fighting a war on two fronts. One against the other, and the second against the Broken. There’s a teetering point that feels pointless, but present all the same.
Is This a Game to You?
Beyond the lore and action-RPG mechanics of Wild Buster, it feels a little unready. Because it’s a pay-to-purchase game currently in Early Access, the low population makes it feel remote. Without the population, it feels like a more clunky and awkward single player experience. Brushing against strangers every once in a while in town doesn’t seem to make up for the fact that each mission is a single instance, and each instance is empty of anything but generic opposition. The enemy AI isn’t incompetent, but the combat isn’t really inspiring. Every fight can be summed up with “Hit harder and faster than whatever’s hitting you,” which is a bit enthralling at first but seems to dissolve as every fight is just about shooting hard, shooting fast, hitting, healing, and then hitting some more.
Building on that, each instance has a boss at the end, which mostly amounts to hitting harder, having more health, and summoning smaller mobs to challenge the player by taking longer to fight, rather than being more stimulating.
There are some elements that seem like they earnestly want to encourage the players to intermingle. Without a strongly implemented social system or good way to search out parties in the empty expanse of the hub towns, the alien world feels decidedly alienating. It’s empty. There are neat things to do, but they aren’t that much more neat, or that much more different, than what came before them. Around the next corner is more fights, more Broken, more conflict.
In giving the players more class options, the skill choices within those classes feels limited also. Characters have a hotbar of five skills, those five skills have one alternative each. Most of those alternatives feel like little deviations without giving much customization to the hero beneath. In fact, excepting attack ranges and the healer classes, there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of variety.
For All That It Doesn’t
Wild Buster feels like it’s still in its infancy. The promise of an interesting player-versus-player system seems right around the corner, but the game’s population just isn’t there enough to make the grind leading to combat that worthwhile. The menus and flavor text still have the odd bug, or feel directly translated without accounting for differences in grammar. The heroes are numerous but don’t feel very customizable. The instances are fun enough but feel empty without friends or variety. The combat is quick and punchy but behold to a lot of design choices that don’t necessarily gel fully with one another. The best playstyle depends on killing faster, and it renders the game more of a grind than it could be.
It would be premature to write Wild Buster off, but it would be generous to say it’s a game that has everything it needs when it’s joining an already crowded market. Its competitors exist, feel more polished, and appeal to all manner of players. It’s a game that could certainly work, and it would scratch the itch of so many players looking for a grimy, sci-fi space RPG along the same lines as Shadowrun. As-is, though, there’s just not enough there, and it ends up feeling just a bit too alien.Related: Action MMORPG, Buy to Play, MMORPG, Preview, Wild Buster: Heroes of Titan