What makes giant fighting robots so cool? Whether it’s in movies like Pacific Rim or classic Japanese anime such as Evangelion, humungous war machines never seem to get old, and franchises like Transformers have literally milked that fact. But seeing mechs wage battle and being inside one offer two completely different perspectives and virtual reality (VR) is the best way to jump in the driver’s seat to unleash all hell. Vox Machinae has ruled the roost for a while in that respect but now there’s a new challenger, one that embraces a far more arcade-like dynamic for quick-fire battles; World of Mechs.
Just like its rival, World of Mechs’ speciality is online multiplayer warfare, pitting teams against one another until one comes out victorious on points. Developer Studio 369 has kept things nice a simple when it comes to modes, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your modes, they automatically revolve in multiplayer. And it’s purely 4v4, whether it’s Team Deathmatch, fighting to hold an area or trying to destroy the opposition’s VIP. The only caveat to that is the all-out death match where everyone is game.
There might not be much in the way of multiplayer options but you do get a few more where the mechs are concerned. These are glorious looking machines of war, and they really do look impressive as you stand on a platform flicking through the 32 models available – once you’ve got them unlocked of course. Starting with the mid-range Trooper model which has average armour, movement and weapons – the “Mario” choice from Mario Kart if you will – to gain access to more requires cash and XP. Both of which can be earnt by winning matches as well as found on the maps as hidden icons.
There are eight classes of mech in World of Mechs, unsurprisingly from the small, lightweight walkers which can nip around the battlefield and hide, to the huge behemoths that you can see from a mile off. These do, of course, have colossal amounts of armour and the most formidable weaponry because they are the biggest walking targets. With cool names like Wraith and Cyclone, these all have their own specific loadouts rather than providing a frame which you can customise endlessly.
With no way of tailoring a specific robot to your needs World of Mechs very much relies upon players happening upon one that suits them instead. Not particularly easy or simple when you have to earn valuable cash and XP to purchase them, easily picking a mech that you might hate. What you can customise once a mech is unlocked is a hull perk and one upgrade for each weapon. These can range from increased health or faster shield regen to more damage or faster projectile speed for your guns. These can then be further upgraded to add some extra oompf.
Further ticking all those arcade gameplay boxes is the control scheme. Now this will likely divide VR fans as to whether the lack of immersive controls detracts from the whole experience or not, but for me, World of Mechs’ system works for the kind of experience it wants players to have. The cockpits are quite sparse with a notable lack of virtual buttons to push or big clunky levers to operate. Apart from several screens giving you ammo counts, radar and other info depending on the match mode, there’s a sizeable amount of glass real estate to view your teammates and opponents through.
That means everything is left to classic controller scheme operation, pressing one button to reload whilst another operates the brief flight capability. So yes, you’re not quite as involved in the whole mech operation as you are in other titles so that’s something to be very aware of before going in. However, I’m not as sad about that fact as I thought I’d be. The Quest controllers are shown inside the cockpit which is a nice touch and the whole thing allowed me to simply get on with the fun of shooting other robots. I still felt connected to the mech and its moving cabin – a feature that can be turned off – and honestly, when surrounded by a couple of opponents having quickly accessible controls is a bonus. Plus, all the aiming is gazed based which makes life super straightforward and intuitive (a thumbstick aim is an option though).
This makes matches feel fast and sometimes over before they’ve even begun. You can dive right in and cause some mayhem, coordinating with teams or going rogue if you so wish. World of Mechs is an instantly enjoyable experience. There is a massive chasm between the single-player campaign and multiplayer, however. There are only five maps available at present which the campaign reuses to the point of saturation. The 20 levels are essentially the five maps reused four times each, just with a different objective. The best is always the final one as it’s a boss battle. None of which are particularly difficult, more like one extended training mission than a campaign. Oh, and your teammates like to talk which unfortunately highlights the repetitive dialogue the single-player suffers from.
So it falls on the multiplayer to carry World of Mechs, which it does so admirably. You can invite mates in or join a group but there’s only that one quick match option. World of Mechs isn’t barebones yet there are certain features you’d expect to see in a multiplayer notably absent like lobby options. And with that controller focused gameplay approach, button mapping would’ve been nice because having the reload on the same side as locomotion was awkward. Trying to strafe and hit reload just wasn’t an option.
There’s no denying that World of Mechs has been an absolute blast to play, from unlocking new mechs to unleashing a barrage of missiles in an opponent’s face it definitely scratches that mecha itch. That exuberance comes at the price of any narrative depth or reason to care about playing against the bots, they’re just too dumb to provide any challenge. Occasional matchmaking issues did occur with a “Pending connection failure” appearing but not enough that it was game-breaking and Studio 369 has been releasing regular patches to smooth launch issues out. World of Mechs has the beginnings of a great mech brawler and with a few more maps and multiplayer options could easily stand 50 feet tall.