Indies to look out for: Wrack

The success of titles such as Serious Sam and Painkiller are evidence that there’s a market for brainless, linear and arcade-y first-person shooters. It’s with this knowledge that indie developers Final Boss Entertainment are bringing us their flagship game Wrack, a self-described “fusion of genres” that is heavily inspired by classics such as DOOM.

The game is still in development, though a playable chunk of it is available for purchase. The pre-release includes a handful of levels and is surprisingly polished, despite some shortcomings. The first thing you’ll likely say upon booting it up is, “this looks a lot like Borderlands“, and the comparison is apt: the graphics are cel-shaded and cartoony, which only enforces the arcade mindset. As far as gameplay goes, it certainly harkens back to the days of Duke Nukem 3D and earlier. Levels consist of maze-like corridors, acid pits, tight rooms and switches that allow access to new areas. Combat is pretty rapid and enemies will sometimes flood a room, upping the ante and causing panic attacks.

The enemies themselves are attractive but their AI is nothing too spectacular and they die pretty easily. If you view monsters as nothing but cannon-fodder, then you’ll be delighted. If you prefer your bad guys to pose a slightly more intellectual challenge, then Wrack will leave you wanting. The game is pretty generous with ammo as well, meaning that you’ll never be in dire straits due to being stuck with only a pea-shooter. That is a chief criticism that I have with the game: it’s far too easy. If enemies were more numerous and slightly harder to take down, Wrack would be a considerably more engrossing challenge.

wrack_05Though the weapons are not too creative, they are expertly implemented. The staples are present and accounted for: a pistol, shotgun, plasma gun and a funky neon sword that is surprisingly deadly. More weapons such as a rocket launcher are planned. All of them feel responsive and powerful and none of them become obsolete; for example, the pistol remains useful for long-range sniping and taking out turrets. The plasma gun is pretty powerful but the projectiles drop to the ground and it eats up ammo like crazy. Overall, the balance is just right and pleasing to even the most grizzled of FPS veterans.

Music is by none other than Bobby Prince of id Software fame. As you would expect, it’s electro-rock that sets the mood superbly. Sound effects are pretty decent as well: weapons let off a satisfying boom and monsters give off inhuman shrieks. As mentioned before, the game features a cel-shaded look that is quite attractive, but the environment comes off as slightly bland. A bit more static eyecandy will go a long way to making the world come alive.

wrack_06As it stands, Wrack is a delightful trip down memory lane. It takes the player back to a time when shooters were neither photo-realistic war simulations nor bloated RPG wannabes. It’s all about navigating maze-like, claustrophobic corridors while blasting the living daylights out of the assorted drones, robots, sentries and aliens that stand in your way.

I enjoyed the brief time I spent with it and am looking forward to the final release, whenever it may be. Check out the official website to keep track of the game. You’ll also be able to purchase it and Greenlight it on Steam.