Well Wrack is back, sort of. It’s not the game that it was in 2014 – but that’s okay. It went into the cocoon of development and metamorphosized into a beautiful hybrid butterfly. Wrack: Exoverse is a first-person tower defense game with roguelike mechanics. It cranks up the gunplay of Wrack with the added dimensions of strategy and procedural generation – but can it’s hybrid mixture amount to a recipe for success? Final Boss Entertainment was generous enough to provide me with a preview copy of the early access version, so let’s find out. Here are my initial thoughts on this very early build of Wrack: Exoverse (hereafter referred to simply as Exoverse).
One thing is clear – Exoverse is up to something completely different than Wrack in it’s gameplay. It’s procedurally generated, and thus does not feature the surprisingly above-average level design that Wrack emphasized. The main arcade mechanic – the combo multiplier – is used toward a different end in Exoverse; the points accrued on each level earns you cash to use for towers, weapons, and items, serving as a form of progression rather than simply being a hi-score system. All of the little changes at work don’t make Exoverse strictly better or worse than Wrack. It’s simply a different kind of game, with one exception – the presentation.
The presentation in Exoverse is familiar and just as phenomenal as it was in Wrack. As soon as I booted up the game I was greeted with a brightly coloured and nicely detailed orb-thing. I don’t know what this orb-thing was at the time, but it made a great first impression; an overture, if you will, indicating good things to come.
The cel-shaded, 3D graphics in Wrack: Exoverse are the crown jewel of it’s presentation. These are some of the most beautiful graphics I’ve seen from an indie game. Everything has a decidedly stylized comic book feel. The player animations in particular are of a very high quality, running flawlessly and featuring very energetic and cartoonish movements.
The first Wrack featured a pretty great soundtrack by the legendary Bobby Prince, the composer for Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom II, Duke Nukem II and Duke Nukem 3D. I’m unsure as to whether or not Mr. Prince is responsible for the music in Exoverse because it’s quite different from the original Wrack. The soundtrack is much more beat-focused, with bouncy, danceable rhythms and even an abundance of horns. Unfortunately, according to the development blog for Exoverse, Mr. Prince has been dealing with some health trouble lately, so his absence from the game would be understandable. Let’s hope that he has a speedy recovery so we can all enjoy more of his wonderful game music.
But aside from these presentational aspects Exoverse is obviously very different. Exoverse takes the gun mechanics from Wrack, improves upon them, and applies them within a roguelike tower-defense setting. This setup – first person shooting within a tower defense grid – is not unique, but it’s a combination of genres that hits the sweet spot for me. I really enjoyed Sanctum and Sanctum 2, for instance, which is very similar to Wrack: Exoverse. There are also other games such as Orcs Must Die and Dungeon Defenders that are similar in concept, and the developers wear this influence on their sleeves. The fusion of these genres can make for very compelling game play.
Compared to the other games in its genre, Exoverse is unique with its roguelike mechanics. Thanks to procedural generation each playthrough will feature different maps and enemy wave compositions. Even in the very early press copy I played the procedural generation successfully provided me with interesting maps.
There’s a central hub area where upgrades, weapons, and towers can be purchased and used for future playthroughs, serving as the progression system in the game. Exoverse also features several playable characters, each with their own unique tower and weapon. Multiplayer, however, was a kickstarter stretch goal that went unreached and so it seems unclear as to whether or not it will eventually make it into Exoverse during its early access period.
The biggest disappointment with the original Wrack was it’s lackluster gunplay, but that seems to be rectified with Exoverse. The sound, animation, and visual feedback have all been improved leading to a much more visceral experience. The weapon variety, too, has been improved upon in Exoverse. The original Wrack featured an unfortunately low number of droll, uninteresting weapons, but they’ve added a swathe of new and exciting ones in Exoverse to compensate. The rifle they’ve added is especially satisfying to use, with great audio-visual feedback for headshots.
One of the unfortunate things about this game is that it didn’t exactly hit the ground running with it’s development process. So far, the developers had to suffer through a disappointing first wave of funding on kickstarter, and the name of the game was changed from Wrack: Starfall to Wrack: Exoverse. But I sincerely hope that Exoverse has a successful early access period on Steam when it launches early March because this game has a hell of a lot of potential.
But as it stands now that’s where much of Exoverse lies – in potential. Like with any early access title, you’ll have to ask yourself whether or not you want to invest in that potential. But based on my first impressions, I have no doubt that Wrack: Exoverse is deserving of your support. You can find it on Steam Early Access starting March 6th, 2018.