There is a new entry in the cooperative shooting genre, with this one coming in the shape of ANVIL: Vault Breaker, a twin stick shooter from Action Square. Now, as part of my research it appears that this may be a remake of an earlier game; one that went by the name of Gigantic X, which appeared on mobile platforms and looks very, very similar. However, as the game is currently part of the Xbox Game Preview program, and also available on Game Pass, I’ll overlook this and deal with what’s in front of me. Now, this isn’t a review, as it would be unfair to scribble down fully confirmed thoughts for a game that is still a work in progress, but there’s still plenty of content included in this Game Preview version to warrant a decent look. 

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The story of ANVIL is an interesting one, but has absolutely no bearing on the game after the introduction. ANVIL stands for Ancient Vault Investigation Lab, and this organisation does exactly what it says on the tin – they go out into the galaxy, find “Vaults” that are apparently the remnants of alien civilisations and then break into them in order to plunder the contents. The actual breaking into the Vaults is actioned by Breakers; robots that are controlled from a distance by pilots so no actual people have to risk life and limb on the various planets. 

Now, the game is described as a “multiplayer co-op top-down sci-fi roguelike action shooter” by the developers, and this is a reasonable description. The only thing that the description doesn’t mention is the fact that ANVIL is a twin-stick shooter, and that things are randomly generated each time you play. 

When you do drop in, you’ll find that each galaxy that is present has a different number of planets to explore (the first has five, the second has seven and so on and so forth) and the landscapes that you encounter change each time, along with the enemies that you run into. This makes every game interesting, especially as there are power-ups to collect and use, with these again running on the random. It’s nice that you will start to find weapons and enhancements that you really like, yet the random nature will ensure you need to continue to step outside your comfort zone. The chances of finding all the power-ups you like are slim, so learning to make the best of what you are given will serve you well in the long run. 

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In addition to finding the things to make you stronger, there are also a variety of Breakers to unlock and use. There are a few different archetypes of Breakers to use, with ranged fighters like Jungler being the first Breaker you have access to, along with bigger more sturdy Breakers who use melee weapons to bring the hurt, like Guillotine. The last type is the slightly squishier of them all and these act as support; Elsa or Bronte.

According to the dev team, ANVIL is currently about 80% complete, and there are hints of this throughout the game. There are places to spend Season Points, for instance, but as we are currently in the “pre-season” phase, there is no way to earn said points. They are apparently going to be keeping ANVIL in preview for around a year, and I have to say that the basic building blocks of the game are already pretty solid. The way things play is pretty good in fact, particularly as there are powers that each Breaker can utilise in order to ramp up their damage output. Throw in the regular appearance of bosses as you go through the planets, and there is already a lot of content to go at. An “interesting” mechanic is found in the appearance, halfway through a boss fight, of extra enemies. Now, I’m not sure if this is a scripted thing, or if we aren’t killing the boss fast enough, but suddenly having three or four powerful robot type enemies spawn into an already crowded battlefield makes things very exciting indeed. If you do die, you can be revived if an ally comes and stands by your grave for a few moments, and this is always good fun when there are bullets and enemies everywhere. 

As things stand at the moment, there are no shortage of folk looking to play ANVIL – I’m guessing helped along by this Game Preview title making the most of Game Pass too – and so finding co-op partners is no problem. Obviously, the more people you have pouring bullets into the enemies the better, so while you can play alone, it’s better to take an ally. 

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Ultimately it’s a case of so far, so good then for ANVIL and the current situation through Xbox Game Preview. There’s a lot of content and randomisation to go at, and no two games are the same. I do have concerns about a few bits that are apparently planned for the future, with the progress of each Breaker being reset at the end of each season, but there is seemingly much opposition to this from the player base so hopefully Action Square will change their minds. Other than that, taking in what is present in Game Preview has been good fun and you could do a lot worse than to download it and give it a whirl. 

You’ll find ANVIL: Vault Breaker present, correct and playable on both Xbox One or Xbox Series X|S (Optimised), by grabbing a download from the Xbox Store. Just be aware you understand that this is currently in Game Preview fashion. 

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