Nuclear Throne or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gatling Bazooka

Nuclear Throne is a roguelike game about guns, mutants, guns, a good soundtrack, guns and crunchy sound effects. But mostly it’s about guns. You’ll feel the game’s violence the moment you open it: you’ll be yelled at it just for clicking the little icon on your desktop, and then you’ll be pushed into a screen where a ragtag bunch of freaks are gathered around a fire, a loud song playing over the ominous sound of wind blowing in the desert. You’ll pick one of these, he’ll grunt in reply, and you’ll sally forth into the wasteland, guns blazing.

pew pew pew pew...
pew pew pew pew…

Rewind a bit. As you mouse over the mutants, you’ll notice each has traits: from jacked-up Steroids, who can dual-wield guns that are always automatic at the cost of accuracy, to guitar-player Fish, who can roll away from projectiles and gets more ammo from ammo packs and chests. Each of these traits can be enhanced by the Throne Butt mutation, one of the many mutations which are acquired upon leveling up (well, actually upon leaving a level after you’ve leveled up) and that go from increasing item drop rate to making enemies zip across the screen after being killed, damaging everything in their path. There are ten other mutants, each with their own particularities, and you can upgrade them with a variety of mutations and crowns, artifacts found in the hidden crown vaults.

You’ll traverse the wasteland throughout several types of maps, each with a number of levels, going from the desert you see at the start to frost-covered cities and rat-infested sewers. These maps have different enemies which, of course, get faster moving and harder hitting the further you go into the game. At the end of each of the major areas (the ones with multiple levels) there is a boss fight, also increasingly difficult. You’ll fight from machine-zerking, tackling bandits to giant, mechanical dogs that cover the screen in missiles in a way that evokes bullet-hell games, all in a sequence of pre-defined themes but levels individually randomly generated. Dying means you have to start over, with nothing to tell about your previous forays into the wasteland other than personal experience.

image_318514_full
… pew pew pew pew pew…

All this will be done by using what is arguably the game’s main star: the massive arsenal of weapons. With dozens of varied weapons, that can be as simple as machine guns and pistols or as whacky as the why-has-this-not-been-invented-yet gatling bazooka (it does exactly what the name implies) and the super crossbow (which fires five bolts at a time), you won’t find the game’s weapon department lacking. A good rule of thumb to keep is that the more words and adjectives in a weapon’s name, the more badass it’ll be. Melee weapons are not cast aside, and you can chop, smash, slice and dice with katanas, screwdrivers, jackhammers, and lightning hammers. With over eighty weapons (don’t hold that number against me.. I mean, after fifty who even cares?) to choose from I could literally talk about them for pages, but I’ll sum it up: they get bigger and better the farther you get into the game; bullets go from pew pew to PEW PEW and explosions start triggering other explosions.

... PEWPEWPEWPEWPEW
… PEWPEWPEWPEWPEW

There’s not really much else to say about Nuclear Throne other than praise and reminding you how hectic it all is. Vlambeer’s game, even at its unreleased state, has much to offer and is already very well polished. It’s not so much a game about killing things, but how you kill them: choose your character, choose your mutations, choose your tools (or deal with what’s given to you from chests and whatnot) and start butchering bandits, crows, rats, spiders and salamanders for the heck of it. Supposedly you’re doing it to sit upon the Nuclear Throne, but from what I hear that’s just a fairytale to lure the witless.

Early Evaluation segments ponder on the state of a game while it’s in Early Access. For this segment, Nuclear Throne was played for 25h, last update being #83.

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