Doborog Games have a new entry in the ‘kind of beat ‘em up’ genre, albeit one that comes with a bit of a twist. Releasing first in 2017 on Steam Early Access, Clone Drone in the Danger Zone sees us fighting waves of robotic enemies in an effort to survive. The twist though comes in the shape of the story behind the game…
So, that story and the narrative behind Clone Drone in the Danger Zone is a pretty interesting one; albeit pretty shallow. The Earth has been conquered by robots, and they have enslaved humanity. Yet instead of turning us into batteries, as in The Matrix, they have a somewhat simpler fate in mind for us. People have their minds and consciousness transferred into a robotic body, and they are then sent out to fight in a robotic version of the Coliseum. The idea then is to stay alive because obviously if our mind is killed in the robot body, it’s curtains, and the next human is plucked out, bunged into a robotic skeleton and sent out to fight.
Graphically and Clone Drone is very appealing, with a cute voxel style that evokes perfectly the robotic nature of the world we find ourselves in. Our robot looks subtly different each time a new one is constructed, and seeing them being sliced into their component parts is pretty harrowing. The sound is worthy of a mention here too, as each section between the rounds is narrated by a couple of commentary bots; they can be genuinely funny to listen to. The rest of the sound effects are as you’d expect for a fighting game, all whistling swords and crunching impacts, and this all means that the presentation is pretty top notch throughout.
Now, progression, I hear you ask, what about progression. Well, there is some, so settle down at the back. As you win rounds in the arena, you have to return to a kind of waiting room between the bouts, where you will find some upgrade stations. Each round you win gains you one upgrade point, and these can be spent on a variety of upgrade paths. Do you want to enhance your default sword, maybe by adding flames? Do you want to gain the ability to kick opponents, or get access to a giant hammer, or a bow if you prefer to fight from a distance? Maybe you’d like to have an eye on the future, and unlock a clone that you can take over if you should die (definitely do this, is my pro tip). You can even purchase armour, or improve the cooldown of certain abilities, such as the dodge move, so if you stay alive long enough, you can build your robot into a lean, mean, metal killing machine.
Now, we’ve had a look at the robots and what you can build, but how about the game itself? Well, it plays very well, with a couple of limitations. First off, there are a choice of modes to go at with a Story mode, where you have to escape from the arena by defeating a certain number of waves of enemies, at the fore. There is also a Challenge mode, where you are set a certain goal or specific way of playing; challenged to make it to the end. These can be things like only using a hammer or a bow, or even only using kicks. It’s this which – as the name suggests – really ups the challenge of Clone Drone in the Danger Zone.
The last way to play is online with a group of players, either co-op or in a PvP last robot standing mode. With cross-play enabled and working pretty well, there’s no shortage of other players to match up with. It’s here though where a real niggle comes about – the net code is a bit primitive. Due to this there are a number of unexplained deaths and some very bad juddering to deal with, especially on the lift at the start of each level. Once you are actually fighting online, it’s not too bad, but it is nowhere near as smooth as playing solo.
The combat is pretty satisfying though, if not delivered via the deepest combo system I’ve ever used. You see, you are pretty much left to use an overhead smash with your chosen weapon (except the bow, obviously) or you can use a left to right slash. Or, if you are feeling fancy, a right to left slash. And that’s pretty much it, apart from a dodge move and the aforementioned kick, should you unlock it.
Whatever you use though various body parts can be severed in this way, and chopping the legs off a fast robot is a good way to slow it down. In fact, one of the bigger enemies, SpiderTron 5000, has to have its legs chopped off in order to bring its vulnerable head closer to the ground. All while it throws bombs at you!
The enemy robots get progressively harder as you go through the levels, and all in all, the combat is a great deal of fun, even if every bout seems to devolve into a circle strafing attempt to get behind your opponent, before delivering the coup de grace. What there is in the combat system is a lot of fun – good mindless fun.
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone does what it sets out to do, all by not taking itself too seriously, and by keeping bouts short and sweet. Dobrog Games have made a game that is great for short blasts and so if you like robots, fighting or robots fighting, it’s certainly worth a look.
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone can be downloaded from the Xbox Store