Scrap Mechanic is a creative sandbox multiplayer game that really brings out your inner engineer. It's not the same blocky world you would expect from games like Minecraft. It's a complex building game that makes use of a series of circuitry and switches, which allows players to build more detailed and defined contraptions. Taking away the stagnant limitations of everyday castle building, Scrap Mechanic introduces movement into the mix. This gives you the option to create actual moving cars, as well as airborne vehicles, provided that you are able to correctly place your circuits.
There are always various things to consider when building something, seeing as you literally have hundreds of building materials available to you at any given time. You have a lift tool, which makes working on various angles easier, especially when said inventions become too big for comfort. My favorite, however, is the Connect Tool, which is the bread and butter of movement in this game, and it allows players to link gears and wheels to their respective power sources.
Still No Survival Mode
Scrap Mechanic has been stuck on Early Access for more than a year now and only offers its Creative mode to current buyers. That's not to say that the current mode isn't good enough, but nothing makes a game feel more dead than minuscule updates and lengthy promises. The game promises an upcoming Survival Mode, but most of the Steam reviews show that their backers may have abandoned all hope of ever seeing it implemented. It's a bit disheartening, but our preview will still only focus on the current mode available.
So That's How It's Played!
Character creation is mostly limited to gender, as players are only offered two stout dwarven-looking options to choose from. These things don't often matter when it comes to building games, but it would really help to have something that can establish individuality, especially when playing with friends. Being able to change the color of your vest or pants would be a welcome addition.
It's easy to get overwhelmed when beginning your journey in the world of Scrap Mechanic. You are given a field manual to start with, and this book will act as your bible for pretty much the first few hours of the game, as you familiarize yourself with the equipment and the many parts on your extended inventory. While it does give you a general idea of what the basic tools are for, you will still be forced to undergo a series of trial and error for the rest of the tools. I managed to build my first vehicle with the help of the manual, consisting of a driver's seat, an engine, a set of wheels, and an axis for front wheel steering. It wasn't the best looking car out there; in fact, the vehicle was merely a plank with wheels, but at least I was able to build something that actually worked.
My state-of-the-art plank car, complete with boosters.
Seeing your first invention come to life is priceless, to say the least. It's one of those hands-on tutorials that opens up your mind to a whole line of ideas for future creations after finishing it, giving you a clearer perspective of what is possible in the world of Scrap Mechanic.
After your first car (provided that you started with a plank car), you might be interested in polishing it up a bit. Maybe add moving doors or even expand it to a heavy duty truck. Before you know it, you're already making factories that make cars. Clearly, your imagination (and knowledge of the mechanics) is the limit. My plank mobile was already a giant milestone, as far as my experience with building games is concerned, so just imagine what amazing contraptions people who are accustomed to the game can come up with.
Bring Out the Big Guns
Not wasting time on my filthy building skills, I immediately accessed the Steam Workshop for various player-created content. To be honest, I expected nothing more than glorified cars. I was truly astounded with what other players have built throughout the game's lengthy Early Access period.
I found actual working bulldozers, flying jets, spaceships, and a fully operational AT-AT from Star Wars. Learning the game is one thing, but seeing the amount of circuitry and moving joints players have invested on their creations gave me more insight on what is truly possible in the game. It's a very complex building game, but one that does not shy away from complex ideas such as the ones featured.
Despite lacking its supposed Survival Mode, I had a lot of fun with the free-form Creative Mode. I managed to construct cars, conveyor belts that basically acted as my mini roller coaster (please forgive me, for I have such limited imagination and building skills), and a catapult that shot me across the horizon. One thing I'm really fond of is the game's ability to let you click and drag your mouse to create multiple strings of blocks, instead of manually placing them one by one. It really speeds things up, allowing you to create more items at a flick of the wrist.
As far as Multiplayer is concerned, there isn't anything special other than the novelty of laughing at your unfortunate friend who's having problems steering his poorly built vehicle. I'm guessing that the Multiplayer aspect will greatly shine once the Survival Mode launches, but given the community's reaction, it's not likely anytime soon.
Scrap Mechanic clearly takes the cake, as far as innovation is concerned. You can still play it as you would any Minecraft game, but the amount of options available will just make you question yourself as to why you're not arming that castle with jet boosters and giant wheels--- maybe even make it a mech while you're at it.The trailer alone shows the many things you can do if you put your mind into it. I've actually been working hard to construct something akin to Speed Racer's Mach 5, but to no avail (more due to my own ineptness than the game's limitations).
For a game that's been on Early Access for the longest time, Scrap Mechanic's community is hard at work with their creations, gradually posting contraptions one after another. It puts me in complete awe to see how creative and dedicated people are into building actual working inventions, from an Iron Man suit replica to a Gundam mech that extends its wings at a push of a button. Keep up the good work, you guys! I'll just shy away and not post my plank car to save myself from embarrassment.
Graphics and Sound
Scrap Mechanic's graphics are a breath of fresh air compared to the average building game. Instead of the voxel-based square terrain, you are given a nice cel-shaded environment waiting for be explored. Of course, there's no point interacting with it on Creative Mode, as it only serves as a canvas for your next masterpiece. Here's to hoping that Survival Mode comes out soon! One thing worth noting is that the game still feels highly unoptimized, showing various signs of lag and frame drops when making big projects. I can understand the lack of texture, but the dips I'm getting seems a tad unforgivable, given that I'm running it on credible specs.
Another factor where Scrap Mechanic is severely lacking is sound, which just fails to match the game's excellent visuals. Hitting trees or blocks with your hammer provides such lackluster thumps, it's easy to think that you're just mindlessly swinging your weapon in the air. Saying that it's mediocre is overestimating the game's sound effects at best, to the point where driving your car just sounds like a lawn mower that isn't even moving.
Ah yes, the age old question. Is it worth it? If you are into Multiplayer Building games, then there's definitely some fun to be had in Scrap Mechanic. However, I would advise that you wait for it to feature additional modes before investing.
In its current state, $20 is asking quite a lot. The investment wouldn't be as painful if the game was updated regularly. With the poor optimization, slow on updates, and single game mode, it feels like the developers have forgotten about it at this point. You would be better off spending your hard-earned money on other building games if you're really looking for a creative outlet. I'm honestly a bit torn on the matter because the game really has so much potential and offers a certain depth of complexity that can't be found in similar titles. Here's to hoping that Scrap Mechanic officially launches soon, or at least has a major update, as I'm truly interested in seeing the final product.