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TerraTech (Steam) First Impressions
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TerraTech (Steam) First Impressions

Cory commands the pre-release version of TerraTech and finds it a laser-shooting, tree-punching good time.

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Back in the prehistoric days of indie games, around 2009 or so, there was a web-based game called Captain Forever made by a developer called Farbs. The concept was that you flew a barebones little ship made of blocks with some piddly little zap guns. Other block-ships would try to murder you. With any luck, they’d fail miserably and you could take their blocks and piddly little zap guns, adding them to your own ship; careful design and accurate shooting were vital as the odds against you would grow over time. If all this sounds cool…it was! In fact, it was the first indie game I ever purchased. That’s quality.

The developers of TerraTech clearly thought so, too, because what we’ve got here is basically the next iteration of Captain Forever. That’s a good thing since the actual sequel to that game just kind of disappeared into the blocky void of space. Here you’ll build vehicles and use them to blast the hell out of other vehicles, then steal their vehicle-y bits for your own use. But that’s not all you’ll do; TerraTech adds some light RTS elements to help shake up the formula a bit.

Now, I don’t want you to freak out or anything, but there’s tree-punching in TerraTech. In this case, it’s more like tree-shooting, and you’ll do it because you need resources for your base. That’s right: your base! It’s your home away from home, fully equipped with block-building modules, a rocket to send valuables back for cash and a wood-powered shield. You’ll want to load up on useful blocks and bring them back whenever possible.

Bringing them back might not be as easy as you’d think, though, because you…well, have to actually bring them back. There’s no inventory here, folks. TerraTech’s physics engine is central to the gameplay and plays a part in pretty much everything you do. Early on, you’ll be scooping your punched trees back in a scoop attached to the front of your vehicle. That takes some practice and isn’t really the most efficient way to go about things, so later you can add some antigravity transport pads to your machine to make it a little easier to cart back piles of goodies. Even once those blocks are back at your base, though, they still don’t just disappear. Instead, they float above your storage unit as a giant floating column extending into the sky, showing your enemies exactly what they’ll stand to gain by wrecking you. Yikes.

The physics engine extends into vehicle design, naturally. Unbalanced vehicles are going to handle like crap, of course, and if you’re in combat and get a wheel or two shot off then it’s going to cause a problem for your maneuverability. Nothing is stopping you from sticking stuff back on, of course, and if you happen to shoot an enemy’s parts off then that’s fair game as well! The only integral part of your vehicle is the cab, so a larger vehicle can last for quite awhile shedding chunks of itself before it finally goes down.

Properly designing your vehicle is key to winning. One example: placing all your ship’s firepower on a gun rack connected to an easily-destroyed block is just asking for trouble; so is failing to include backup wheels even if you don’t think they’ll be necessary.

TerraTech is another one of those Early Access games so the moment it’s not exactly feature-complete and things are still a little buggy. You know how it goes. Still, what we’ve got here is definitely inspiring. You can drop $30 at the Humble Store for it if you’ve gotta get your hands on a copy right now, and the team intends to open TerraTech to Steam Early Access buyers in February. The full version, meanwhile, should be out later this year – if you can wait that long. If you’re into crazy vehicles, Lego blocks, shooting lasers, wood-powered forcefields or giant floating stacks of resources – and admit it, you’re into at least one of those things – then TerraTech might be worth a look when it reaches a level of completion you’re ready to shell out for.

About the Author: Cory Galliher