Developers: Kraken Empire
Touted as a “fast-paced immersive adventure shooter”, Kromaia sees you take control of a ship in 3D space, where your task is to navigate obstacles and take down enemies. We’ll be honest, it’s not the first time a crowdfunding effort has pitched something like this, but Kromaia's distinctive aesthetics and expansive approach to player customisation are looking to set it apart from a SHMUP genre that’s very much back in vogue thanks to the likes of Kickstarter and (in this case) Indiegogo. We’ve had the opportunity to test drive a preview build of the game to demonstrate the control system, though it should be noted that this only included a survival mode. Basically, the idea is to shoot enemies and accumulate points whilst trying to dodge the enemy fire and oncoming obstacles until your shields run out and it’s game over. The ambitions of the developers at Kraken Empire do extend further than this -- there will also be a story mode which will make up the bulk of the main game, full of puzzles to solve and more tricky obstacles – but we didn’t get to see that, so we’ll have to take their word for it.
But back to what we did get to grips with. Kromaia boasts a control scheme that uses a “six degrees of freedom” navigation system, which to put in layman’s terms is essentially raising or lowering the pitch of your craft (up and down), steering left or right, or strafing left and right. This in itself is nothing revolutionary, but it’s the speed and fluidity through which you manoeuvre your ship that gives this game an edge over most. Being able to seamlessly go from strafe to turn to pitch means with some deft mouse click or button presses (the controls are customisable to your preferences) you can dodge enemies or obstacles with a certain amount of style and grace, without losing the quick-paced nature of the game. It can be quite rewarding at times to pull off a nice dodge with a quick strafe or tilt, although mastering it will require a certain amount of practice. But the good news is, it’s a control system with a large amount of promise, which is handy, because if the main game is going to be focussed around puzzles and obstacles, a good control system is vital to its success.
There are also numerous ships for you to take out and shoot seven hells out of your enemies with. Each of these ships have the same controls, but handle differently due to their thruster layout. Different ships have different strengths and types of firepower, so it’s about finding the ship that works for you. This adds a nice degree of variety to a genre that can become stale after a time.
The guys at Kraken Empire are currently seeking funding for Kromaia through Indiegogo, and aren’t exactly thinking small, with some pretty hefty plans for the whole game when it is released. Not only do they plan on making the most of the fluid controls described earlier, but they plan on programming AI to adapt to your play style – whether you’re an aggressive shooter, or a “stop to shoot” kind of player, the AI will adapt and react differently towards you. But that’s not all; the developers want you to be able to fully customise your experience. To the point where they are planning a guide to help you alter the xml file which controls how the game plays. In theory this means you can alter pretty much anything from how your ship looks and feels, to how obstacles react, and even modifying enemies and bosses!
It’s definitely an expansive, ambitious project, and one which on first impressions definitely looks to show sparks of promise. The implementation of the controls is noteworthy, especially if you dedicate some time to them, and the variety on offer from the different ships is a nice addition. The big win will be in whether the developers can deliver on their fully customisable experience without alienating those would be coders that don’t have experience of it. Also the other big unknown for the game is how the main bulk of the game will shape up. What remains to be seen is whether there will be enough variety to keep you coming back for more in the main game itself rather than relying on coding changes to bring the depth of experience you would want from this type of game.
But all in all, first impressions of this game were good, and if you like the idea of a fully-customisable, fast-paced shoot-em -up, then Kromaia could be the indie project of your dreams.