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Review: This Means Warp - Chaotic indie co-op fun

Published: 14:00, 17 March 2022
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Ship with its crewmembers
Ship with its crewmembers

This indie gem could attract the co-op audiences as it offers simple but fun and engaging gameplay, and its timing couldn't be better as there is not much on the co-op horizon at the moment.

This Means Warp is a co-op game set in space developed and published by Outlier, an indie game development studio based in Ireland and Canada. The game Early Access is available as of today on Steam. 

It can be played solo or with up to 4 players. The games' graphics style is old school, pixelated, and cartoonish, resembling games such as Among Us & Overcooked.

You are set on a journey through space with your spaceship trying to travel and survive the hostile space environment. The universe is procedurally generated and should offer endless different, replayable procedural worlds. The game is fight-oriented as most steps of the journey involve fighting mini-games in form of 1 on 1 deathmatch or time-survival.

Norgs are player's main enemy Norgs are player's main enemy

The story background is told through news and communications with your system, but the game does not focus on it much which I appreciated. The game is very beginner-friendly as it offers help and hints through-loading tips and in-game messages. They are timed moderately as I didn't find them overwhelming like on some other games.


  General

The player is offered a choice to select a character among several unique options. Each character has the same skill set but is adjusted differently. The skills are movement speed, aim, and repair speed. Each is important and character selection should depend on the user's style of play. Characters that player doesn't choose are viable options for crewmates in the future.

In the beginning, you are given a basic spaceship which you can upgrade with additional weapons, defenses, shields, message translators, and more.  

The ship moves through a number of fields one by one. Each field has a certain type: battle, survive the attack, mystery, acquire new squad member, shipwreck, merchant, etc. Depending on the location inside the galaxy, you can choose between 1 or 4 different adventures you want to pursue next. 

At the end of each galaxy is a boss space ship which has better shields, weapons and more health compared to the other ships, but does reward more upon completion. After finishing a galaxy, you are offered a choice of selecting the next galaxy's enemies boost: will they have more health, better weapons or something else.

Crew selection process Crew selection process

Players can hire 3 other crew members, one member per galaxy level. Each A.I. member can be appointed to certain functionality on the ship and can be ordered on the fly as needed. I found them pretty helpful as they try to fix damages on the ship and load weapons if empty. 

If there are no side jobs, they will engage in fights as well. You can also buy robotic helpers that repair ship damage and extinguish fires.

  Gameplay

The fights are engaging and fun. They mostly start out strategically, where you do your several pre-planned opening moves but gets chaotic pretty soon as you start losing focus on every little thing happening and start focusing on only major impacts. That, unfortunately, makes fights resemble each other.

Fights, in the beginning, can be won by attack, attack, attack strategy, as the opponents are not really challenging, but after the first level, enemy ships become more powerful, with better shields, guns, and more ships personnel. 

There are different types of opponents, each having a different set of weapons and defenses. There are offensive, defensive, and mixed-oriented ships. Some of the ships have more than one side, and rotate mid-game. One side is for attacking and the other for defending.

At your disposal, you have single rocket weapons, stream/laser weapons, and different types of bombs. You can target enemy weapons, defenses and walls. All are useful as attacking their weapons gives you the opportunity to continue damaging their ship while they are unable to attack you until they repair the guns. 

You can also create wall breaches inside the ship which can throw out enemy personnel in the vacuum, and depending on how much the respawn has been upgraded, they can take as much as 20 seconds to respawn. 

One of early enemy ships One of early enemy ships

The same goes for you too, as you constantly have to balance between repairing your ship to not have permanent damage and attacking the opposing ship.  Both you and your ship personnel can get sucked out through the broken walls, so you have to move carefully near those points whether you're just passing through or trying to repair them. 

Most of the weapons, ammo generators, and defenses have cooldowns that can be reduced with upgrades. They also have health and shield which can also be increased with 3 upgrade slots per item.


  What makes it unique

What I really liked was the idea of permanent damage to the ship as it gives a feeling that every interaction matters. As your ship takes damage, you have a certain amount of time to repair it, and once that time passes, that damage can only be partially fixed. Ignoring damage during time can reduce total ship health significantly. 

If this option was non-existent then the game would probably only be offense-oriented as there would be no difference if you finish your opponent with 1 bar of health left or more. This way a player needs to pick his actions carefully, as not only the current moment matters. 

You can win one battle by brute force, but what is the point if you're left in the middle of the galaxy with a ship hanging by threads.

Ship can get permanently damaged if not repaired on time Ship can get permanently damaged if not repaired on time

Because of that, the game can become increasingly hard based on the difficulty level selected, which might be turndown for casual players who won't take kindly to their ship being destroyed in one battle and have to start a new journey from scratch. 

Although that is one of the game's key gameplay points, it could be useful to be able to fix at least part of the permanent ship's damage in between squadrons.

Traveling through the galaxy players can engage in mini-games that reward offensive or defensive upgrades or gear. The games include running through checkpoints on ships, collecting passing wreckage in space, disinfecting ships from bugs, and collecting items on the ship. They are mostly fun and don't take much of your time.

  Multiplayer

The game offers local and online multiplayer, where you can join and create a squad with your friends. Although I was not able to test this feature,  I can imagine it can be pretty fun as the game dynamics reminded me of Overcooked which is a pretty fun, nerve-wracking co-op game as well.

One part of the players can focus solely on offense and apply as much damage to the enemy ship as possible, while the other part focuses on keeping the ship in one piece by repairing the damages and disposing of the bombs.

The ship corridors are tight and players cannot pass through is other, so timing and communication are key to a successful partnership.

At the moment, there is no PvP mode and I have no information whether that will be included in the future. It might be a fun chaotic feature, especially in 4 vs 4 modes.

  Conclusion

As someone who plays a lot of co-op games, I liked This Means Warp as it reminded me of some other games I enjoyed. The fights were engaging but not too hard, although there is some space to broaden the fighting gameplay and improve ship management.

I did not come across any major bugs, glitches, or crashes so I would label it as solid on the technical level.

As there is nothing much happening at the moment in the co-op scene, you might want to give this game a chance.

The Good

  • Easy to get into
  • Fun and challenging
  • Promising Co-Op
  • Suitable for all ages
  • Technically solid

The Bad

  • Fights could be diversified more
  • Ship management could be improved
8/10

Our Rating

Great

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