Whenever I hear the words, ‘best played as a local four player experience’, a shudder hits my near lifeless body and a cold sweat begins to appear on my brow.
Now, I’m not one for dismissing local multiplayer straight out of the box, but give me a single player title or even an online matchup over sofa co-op any day of the week. Whilst it’s simple enough to be able to get another player to join you on the sofa for a bit of couch bashing, extending those sessions to include another two can sometimes be a struggle.
Yes, perhaps I need more friends, perhaps I should just coax my old great aunt into participating in a bit of a controller battle, perhaps I should even go out begging on the street; but on the whole, I’d rather game alone in the comfort of my own space.
So upon hearing that ORBIT, the latest game to hit the Xbox One Games Store from 4Bit Studios is ‘best played with four players’, my heart sank a little. But give it a go I will, and if I’m being completely honest…it ain’t half bad.
You control a ship, sent out into deepest darkest space; a space in which gravitational forces play a huge part in proceedings with large planets, small stars and wormholes creating enough pull to see your poor miniscule ship fly from pillar to post. With the sole aim being to survive as long as possible out in the wilderness, all whilst taking out your opponent’s ships, the premise is a simple one. One that works very well indeed.
Whilst there is absolutely no single player mode on offer, what 4Bit have included is more than decent. When anything between two and four players are present, nine different game modes ensure that a good time is had by all. Set in a circular space, each map that you dive into is randomly generated, with various amounts of planets bringing a completely different playing field each time. With each globe bringing its own gravitational pull into play, much of ORBIT is spent spiraling out of control, hitting the thrusters just enough in order to escape the clutches of the planet and diving out of the way of both your own, and your opponent’s rockets. There’s a darn sight more luck involved than skill, especially when the full quota of four ships manage to fire off tons of destructive rockets at once, but it’s all good fun throughout any session. With gameplay ranging from just a few minutes, right up to half an hour and beyond, the frantic, fast paced action never really tires and it’s great entertainment seeing a rocket that you fired off a good while back, continue to spiral out of control before landing a killer blow onto one of your enemies.
Throughout play, you’ll need to balance your attacks, defence and tactics in order to stay alive. Gravity obviously plays a huge part in the game, becoming one with the swirl and vibe that is given off is pretty essential to surviving, with a few seconds of drifting in the night air possibly enough for your ship to recover enough for one last attack. Thrusters use up energy, and powering around like a lunatic will bring nothing but destruction and so the tactical awareness that is needed to succeed in deep space plays a key role. Energy is key in ORBIT and the sooner you realise that the better!
With a number of game modes in play, nothing ever plays out in too similar a fashion. The tournament section offers some fast paced battles spread over one to four events, and with Mayhem allowing the same such thing across manic situations, I have to admit that for the ultimate party to kick in, the custom game mode, Forge is where it is at. Giving you the chance to set up the game to your own liking, deciding exactly how many orbits will be in play, how strong the gravity will be and more, whether you decide to partake in a bit of Annihilate, Conquer, Survive, Destroy or more each and every game brings just that little extra into play. ORBIT isn’t just all about destruction.
Well, okay, it is really but we can at least have some decent fun in doing so.
Take part in a tournament, choose any one of three unique ships to take into battle and ORBIT begins to deliver a lovely experience. Upgrading your ship’s skills as you go, you’ll find a reasonably deep skill-tree in place that allows for a little bit of unique strategy to kick in. Winning or losing in battle may ultimately be decided by how you manage your skill set…and exactly how lucky you find yourself when orbiting those powerful planets.
4bit Games have pretty much nailed the local battle as we know it. With enough game modes to ensure that any party or night in with friends will end on a high, there’s not an awful lot to dislike about ORBIT. That said, I still can’t quite get my head around something arriving in digital fashion without anything even slightly resembling a single player mode, but I guess the cheap price just about reflects that.
Four player battles to the death ain’t half bad you know…but a crumb of single player lovingly interspersed would have seen ORBIT rise and fly high!