Multplayer-only games are a risky business. They hinge solely on the fact that the gameplay is enough to make playing exclusively with other people at the expense of any sort of single-player experience tolerable.
It’s not easy. It’s mostly not always fun. Yet Orbital Gear is a game that manages to be so blazing hilariously enjoyable that you almost forget there’s a bit of room for improvement.
Orbital Gear is a multiplayer-only action game centered around one mechanic: gravity. Each player takes control of a little mech, outfits it with two weapons and a utility, and takes to a system of planets and debris to murder other players.
Mechs can run around the planet they’re on, and inevitably jump off – catapulting themselves out of the gravity well of one planet and into another. Everything applies at this point: using planets to slingshot around, getting lost in the void, failing to escape a planet. All these, and more, completely change the dynamics of a deathmatch.
Getting used to the gameplay happens very quickly; what takes even longer is discovering the various weapons’ functionality. Players can equip 2 weapons from a selection of 12, each with different stats. What Orbital Gear doesn’t explain is how each weapon works.
Through experimentation, it is swiftly discovered that each weapon has drastically different capabilities far beyond what a few stat bars can portray. One gun fires a moving gravity well that eats health; another fires flak that rips through planets at an angle matching the impacting one; yet another spews forth a jet of flame at short range.
The variety of weaponry makes Orbital Gear a very strategic game. Two modes are available at the moment: deathmatch and “destroy the enemy base.” Not all weapons can harm buildings, and some are flat-out perfect for murdering opponents but less so for building levelling. A balance must be struck, especially given how the game treats health and ammo.
Every player starts out with a set level of each, and ammo will refill – to a certain low point. Extra health and more ammo must be ripped from opponents’ cold dead corpses, which is fortunate since there currently isn’t any respawn delay – nor a limiter as to how close respawn occurs to your murderer.
Aside from the fun weapons, each player also chooses one of four “utilities.” Functionally they vary appopriately, but unlike the weapons their usefulness isn’t guaranteed. A couple can make or break a brief skirmish but some, like the mines or the turret, are absolutely useless.
Orbital Gear is a very fun game, but not without a few weaknesses. The lack of any sort of AI, whether for training or to supplement a battle with friends, is very noticeable. The inclusion of such would make for a much more action-packed experience.
Currently the maps are also rather lacking. Featuring various arrangements of planets, debris, and white spheres that repel players rather than attracting them, they mix it up with transparent planets and such but the variety isn’t really there. In all there aren’t many maps and matches will cycle through them quickly unless this changes.
As this game is still in beta, Orbital Gear can’t be given a full review treatment – to its benefit. As of right now the game is lacking in the arena variety, a huge problem for a multiplayer-only game. With time, and perhaps with the Steam Workshop, Orbital Gear could be a classic action-packed way to pass a few minutes… or hours… or days.