I remember trying Robocraft when it first came out on PC almost half a decade ago, enjoying a few quick attempts at building robots vehicles out of blocks, slapping wheels and guns on and then taking them into multiplayer battles. Tomorrow it seeks a new audience on console, with Robocraft Infinity launching on Xbox One via [email protected] and also being a launch day addition to Xbox Game Pass.
Your first stop in the game will surely be the editor to build your first robot to battle with. It’s pretty simple to use, with a first person view and rather Minecraft-esque block-based construction. A neat twist is the mirror tool to let you create something symmetrically, while there’s a central line marked in the editor to let you see where the middle of your vehicle is. Alternatively, you can use the Body Builder to combine a class with front and back body parts to get going in moments, and there’s also the Factory, where you can view and download the creations of others – they then get a nice kick back with a bit of in-game currency.
The robot you build is entirely up to you, limited only by the amount of CPU that it uses up and your progression through unlocking the different kinds of cubes. Every block you place, every wheel, rotor, gun, leg or whatever adds to the tally with a limit of 3000 CPU points. Thankfully, you don’t ever have to worry about putting an engine in there or programming what certain parts are going to do, the game just figures that out automatically, but there’s still a ludicrous amount of variety to be had. You’ve got tiny little single cannon cars, hulking great big tanks, walkers, helicopters, and everything in between. There’s even some weird chicken robots and dinosaurs with laser cannons.
In battle, your health is determined by how many building blocks remain and how many of the other parts are still attached. If a wheel gets knocked off, then your vehicle will continue to drive around, it’ll just be off balance and struggle with certain inclines as the game dynamically adjusts the handling, while cannons getting destroyed obviously mean that you can’t use them anymore.
Bigger is better, right? Well maybe not, because you’re making a tradeoff between damage and health. There’s rewards to being smaller and more nimble, as you’re able to deal out comparatively more damage, but then a few well-aimed shots will likely put paid to you.
From just a few moments of actual play time, the game still has quite a light and floaty feel to it. Dashing around in a spider-bot with a few skittering legs and a cannon on it was fast and nimble, letting me clamber up surfaces that looked impassable, only to then happily tumble down the other side as I chased after enemy bots on the other team.
Compared to the PC original, there’s none of the free to play shenanigans at work. Robocraft took the “pay to progress faster” route with subscriptions to earn at an accelerated rate, but Robocraft Infinity ditches that in favour of paying up front to get the game or subscribing to Game Pass.
What’s quite fascinating about the game’s development is that they’re following in the footsteps of Microsoft’s own first party development. Sea of Thieves made extensive use of the Xbox insider testing programme through development and was the first of Microsoft’s first party exclusives in their pledge to put their own games straight into Xbox Game Pass. Robocraft Infinity is exclusive to Xbox One, and so there is a close relationship because of this, but it’s developed and published digitally by Freejam Games and yet it’s coming through the same processes as Microsoft’s own games, using Insider to test and making use of Game Pass to try and get as many players through the door as possible.
Making full use of Microsoft’s openness toward independent developers, Robocraft Infinity has a great opportunity to find a new audience for the sandbox building and battling that made it so popular on PC almost half a decade ago. Like a surreal take on Robot Wars, the emphasis of user creations allows for all sorts of weird and wonderful creations and then battling to see which robots can reign supreme.