PREVIEW / Bot Colony (PC)

 

I complain a lot about lack of original ideas in indie games. It seems almost every indie game uses retro pixel graphics or zombies or some other tired trope like that. As such, I obviously appreciate the unique ideas behind Bot Colony. Still in Early Access, the game is based around the idea of solving a mystery by commanding robots verbally. It’s sort of like a text adventure mixed with a modern adventure game. There are clearly good ideas behind this, and it shows promise, but how successfully does it pull off these ideas? As it turns out, not as well as I hoped.

The main mechanic of Bot Colony is interacting with robots. You can either type, or use voice-to-text. It is indeed similar to an old text adventure game. And like those games, It’s frustrating. At this stage, the robots only respond to very specific commands. When your goal is to get specific information out of them, this becomes a serious problem. While they sometimes respond impressively well to questions, the specific syntax means you often have to ask the same thing several times for the right response. In this age of digital assistants everywhere you look, I’m surprised the game has so much trouble. You even have to refer to specific times of day in order to get some of the details, which is honestly more trouble than It’s worth.

The good news is, there’s a tutorial. The tutorial actually makes up the first of the game’s two “chapters.” The bad news is that it’s a fair bit different from the other part of the game, and even the tutorial is confusing. It’s designed to teach you the different ways you can talk to the robot, and you’re meant to use these tactics to get the robot to show you all of its video clips of the family who it serves. Except that isn’t actually what you need to do in order to complete the chapter, which is just as well, because you will never figure out the arcane commands required to get all of the videos. Instead you need to use a bunch of pictures to put the house back into shape. There’s more confusion to it than even that, but suffice to say it took me a while to realize that there even were two different goals. And once I figured them out, they were more frustrating than fun.

Bot Colony still shows signs of eventually reaching its potential, though. On its own, the gameplay of finding what’s out of place and commanding the robot to fix it can be fun, even though it’s simpler than what the developer ultimately wants. There are signs of polish in the presentation too, including a live action cutscene and realistic behaviors from the NPCs. And the concept is definitely clever, with the robots responding to some commands better than I expected.

Right now the game might not have a ton to offer, but if the concept interests you at all, I do highly recommend supporting these developers. Like I said at the top, creative new ideas are so rare in the indie scene these days, and this could end up being a nice breath of fresh air. We’ll definitely follow up when the game finally releases.

 

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