Abstract Arena Preview: Smash That FIRE Button!

abstract arena splash

Social media left our collective privacy for dead, but gave us the chance to connect with just about anyone. We first came across Abstract Arena while browsing a Facebook group for aspiring independent developers. Something immediately encouraged us to ask for more!credici logo

The team at Credici  were more than happy to discuss their latest brainchild. The game isn’t out yet but, a brief conversation and several hours later, an almost-complete early access version of it was thrown our way!

In exchange, we promised to spend some time with the title and publish our honest and objective opinion of it. Here’s what we think of Abstract Arena!

That Sweet Retro Feel…

2D Top-down shooters are a thing of the past. Add arena elements and the genre goes back to the early years of video-games development.  Yet Alberto decided to give it a shot!

When the 2016 edition of the GameMaker Italia Development Competition came around, he laid the cornerstones of his project. Over the following couple of years, a larger group of people would come together to help polish Abstract Arena. Today, Alberto can count on the help of composer Gergely Kovács and sound designer Bálint Mikó.

The results of their joint efforts left us pleasantly surprised. From the very first moment, this game felt like a trip back to the local arcade. In theory extremely simple, its art-style is one of Abstract Arena‘s best features. Shades of pastel fill the screen and return an environment that is both pleasing and relaxing.

Abstract Arena Gameplay Screenshot

Light Pink and white look great, but only if you can see them right!

An excess of light is not always a good thing, though. Little contrast between objects on the screen can make the scene challenging to watch for some people. We were displeased to find the game has no colorblind options. The developers told us that darker levels can be unlocked as a reward, but people with a vision deficit may find it hard to get there in the first place.

Kovács’ soundtrack also does wonders. While playing or browsing the lobby, we would often spot some within the group slowly banging their head to the music. These sci-fi electronic tracks perfectly match the space theme that Abstract Arena is going with!

… With A Fresh Coat of Paint!

The game ran flawlessly throughout our time with it. We  stress-tested an old AMD HD 6870, never dropping below a solid 50 FPS. Not bad at all for an early access title! Some features were still missing, but Alberto told us that what we were seeing is pretty much what will make it to the retail version.

There’s plenty to do in Abstract Arena, although some details are left unveiled. The game offers four different modes and six ships to choose from. The former are thoroughly explained with a dedicated tooltip; the latter not so much. Knowing stats, special abilities, and counters for each vehicle without visiting the game’s website would have been cool. The same could be said for power-ups and in-game objects.

In this colorful bouquet of features and characteristics, there was only one thing we couldn’t really get over: controls. Optimizing your game to support legacy XBOX peripherals is a great choice; building a PC video-game without making full use of keyboard and mouse is a deadly sin. What sounds like a detail had a tremendous effect on our experience.

Abstract Arena simulates the twin-stick shooters of old and needs combinations of keys to understand what the player wants it to do. By default, movement is achieved through your directional arrows. Weapons and special abilities are triggered with letter keys. The steeper learning curve and need for more dexterity mean that you’re unlikely to enjoy your first few matches.

A much simpler approach could have been two keys to accelerate and break, mouse to navigate the levels and activate the weapons. We hope to see that and much more in the final version!

So… Yay or Nay?

There’s always room for improvement. Abstract Arena is an extremely promising title and a great success for a first game. Tooltips, help, better controls, and even more variety are always welcome. The guys at Credici  may want to give their creation a last once-over before the appointed release date.

On that topic, we found conflicting information. The official press-kit stated that the game will be ready by summer 2017; another website had a much more precise September 30th. We didn’t want to ask. As long as the game’s playable when it comes out, we’re happy with either of those options.

Steam recent shift toward a new platform to replace Greenlight may also mean trouble for this project. A Kickstarter campaign to finance the game was launched and is currently some 200€ short of its goal. Our impartiality doesn’t allow us to contribute directly, but we can guarantee Abstract Arena deserves all of your support!

We’d like to thank Alberto Muratore and everyone at Credici for their extreme kindness and co-operation! Keep up the good work! 

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