Amazon does seemingly everything. The e-commerce giant has a foothold in audiobooks, fresh groceries, Netflix-style video streaming and oh-so-much-more. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the company wants to widen its influence in the video game industry. The Jeff Bezos empire already owns Twitch, the biggest game live-streaming service, and supports developers with its CryEngine-based Lumberyard platform and AWS server infrastructure. But it’s never been a heavyweight game publisher. Multiplayer brawler Breakaway was canceled and The Grand Tour Game was a forgettable TV show tie-in.
A lot is riding on Crucible, then. The third-person online shooter is the first of two blockbuster titles scheduled to come out this year. (The other is New World, a subscription-free MMORPG set in a fantasy world called Aeternum.) Its goal couldn’t be tougher: to wrestle attention away from the countless free-to-play battle royale and MOBA titles that currently dominate Twitch’s homepage. Relentless Studios — a Seattle-based developer with former ArenaNet, EA and Microsoft talent — seems up for the challenge, though. And with a surprisingly solid gameplay foundation, Crucible has a decent shot of attracting the player base and viewership it needs.
So what is it? A mish-mash of video game genres, essentially. Relentless recommends that new players start with Harvester Command, an eight-versus-eight struggle over a resource called essence. Players accrue the shiny blue substance by capturing and activating harvesters strewn across the map. The score won’t change, though, unless you control more of these giant drills than the opposing team. There are five harvesters in total, so your team is always splitting up and trying to decide when to defend, attack and abandon different points on the map.
Relentless says this “arcade” mode is a good way to experiment with new characters and familiarize yourself with the controls. When you’re ready for a tougher challenge, there’s Heart of the Hives. The four-on-four mode asks players to defeat giant monsters that spawn periodically on the map. Once defeated, they will drop a heart that needs to be defended briefly to secure a point. Score three points before the opposition and you win the game.
Finally, there’s Alpha Hunters. The 16-player mode challenges two-person teams to drop into the map and outlast their opponents. The scale is dramatically smaller than Call of Duty: Warzone, which starts with 150 players. There’s a neat twist, though, that keeps Crucible’s version interesting: If your partner dies, you can form a temporary alliance with any other solo player you stumble across during the match. Reach the final three, though, and that bond will be immediately severed. Players will have a massive advantage, therefore, if they can reach this end-game showdown with their original partner.
The game’s obvious poster child is Bugg.
Crucible has 10 colorful characters similar to Overwatch and every other ‘hero shooter’ that’s been released in the last few years. They come from different planets and have distinctive personalities that are conveyed through some top-notch voice work.
My favorite is Earl, a friendly trucker with a massive quad cannon that doubles as a rocket for quickly traversing the map and avoiding enemy projectiles. The game’s obvious poster child is Bugg, though. The yellow robot is adorably small and packed with weapons that reflect its terraforming roots. It can crop-dust enemies to slow them down, for instance, or plant special flowers that automatically attack nearby enemies.