After covering Too Many Games for three years I’ve learned what to expect from the indie game showcase, where all the small local indie developers show off their latest in-development projects. Usually we get to sample a few twin stick shooters, mobile games, or top down adventures, so it came as somewhat of a pleasant shock when I discovered Colony One, a full-blown 3D Action-RPG from Quartic Entertainment. And after sampling the pre-alpha build and chatting with the devs, I learned just how ambitious their new project is.
Walking past the booth, the first aspect that caught my eye was the pause menu. Strange, right? But I couldn’t help notice the familiar radial style menu set-up from my favorite series, Mass Effect. That was just the first of many similarities these two sci-fi action RPGs share. As I specced out my character, I noticed character traits that could increase your ability to persuade NPCs, indicating the possibility of unique dialog opportunities with other characters. I was also presented with many options for abilities and spells to round out my character’s combat options.
Talking with the developers, I learned that the sprawling, epic RPGs from BioWare and Bethesda served as inspiration for some of the mechanics and gameplay of Colony One. Speaking about the challenges a small independent developer might face when tackling a massive undertaking such as emulating the types of experiences from these powerhouse studios, the developers responded with enthusiasm. While acknowledging the unique challenges, they also told me that this is the only type of game they knew how to make and the only type of game that they wanted to make.
My demo starts with the main character waking up in a sterile looking room with a lootable locker in one corner. Another character comes in to question me and I’m presented with several dialog options with varying degrees of politeness. Similar to the BioWare and Bethesda RPGs that served as inspiration for Colony One, it appears that players will be able to play their character in several different ways, ranging from kind and conversational to rough and abrupt. I want to dive into the action, so I tell my visitor to get out of my way. It probably wasn’t the nicest response, but I had to figure out what was going on.
Mike from Quartic Entertainment gives me a little background on the game. The main character is a mercenary working for the police who discovers an ancient alien artifact. The characters of Colony One know that the artifact held some kind of significance to the ancient races, but the people are unsure of what it does. It’s your job to unravel the mysteries surrounding the artifact. It’s a classic set-up reminiscent of Mass Effect and other sci-fi narratives. It’s clear that the developer wants to pay homage to other works in the genre. This is evident not only in the narrative and set-up, but in the general gameplay as well.
I quickly find my way over to the police office thanks to the unique dial under my character that sports two semi-circle bars for health and mana/energy, as well as a handy quest tracker. I talk to a police officer who gives me the classic first RPG mission of clearing out a house/room/location of some small enemies. Another objective tasks me with finding a goblin-like creature named Grom. I can already tell that the developer has big plans for the game, as the first area has several explorable buildings and other areas. In the early build that I played, some of the buildings and areas felt sparse, but that’s to be expected in a pre-alpha build of a game.
I head to one of the apartment blocks to hunt down some creatures. Combat features both gunplay and abilities (in my case, a good old-fashioned lightning bolt). Aiming is relatively simple; just rotate the character until the red targeting line is close to the enemy and pull the trigger. There is also a dodge/roll mechanic that allows you to quickly move about the combat area and dodge enemy attacks. Combat at this very early stage seemed overly simple, lacking the common strategic play, ability combinations, and buff/debuff/strength/weakness interplay of some other action RPGs. I know that as the game moves through production the developer will have an opportunity to continue evolving and expanding these systems and mechanics. I can tell they are already on that path judging by some of the other options and skills available to players.
After clearing out the few enemies in an apartment block, I head over to the local bar to find Grom. It’s there that I stumble upon an argument between two angry sounding men and a small green goblin, Grom. He promptly blows up the two men confronting him and turns to discuss matters with me. Afterwards, I report back to the police office and Grom becomes a squad member that will follow me in my explorations and combat. Unfortunately, my demo comes to a close with Grom at my side in the forest section outside of the main town. I quickly die at the hands of several enemies as I roll back and forth waiting for my weapon to cooldown.
At the very end of my demo and interview, I couldn’t help but smile at the pause menu once again. There were undoubtedly kinks to work out in this very early build of the game, but I was so intrigued by the likeness to Mass Effect and the possibilities for this project to keep growing and changing. It’s certainly a tall task for a small indie group to take on a project such as this, but one thing is unquestionable: their passion and ambition, and their devotion to the project. Colony One doesn’t have a release date yet, but the developers said it would be hitting PC, Mac, and Linux in the coming years. They are just starting on their journey, so if you want to help the developers out, check out their Steam Greenlight page right here.