Worbital is an artillery strategy game developed by Team Jolly Roger. it is available on Steam and Humble Bundle for $19.99. It also has a free Demo. This game was reviewed by Joseph Pugh.
Worbital is an indie game about planetary artillery warfare. Imagine the game Worms, but instead of cute pink and sarcastic fishing bait. You control a weaponized planet spiraling around a solar system. You battle other weaponized planets death star style. It’s as fun as it sounds. So get ready to dawn the cap of Grand Moff Tarkin, because that’s no moon. (Or it might be, you can weaponize those too.)
Worbital is a real-time physics-based artillery game. At its core, you are controlling a planet that you will outfit with a variety of weapons, defenses, and gadgets and fight to the fiery and cataclysmic death with other planets. I use the term control loosely, as you don’t exactly move your planet (unless you become derailed, more, on that later).
Every celestial body in the game orbits the sun on their own trajectory line. Be they player, AI controlled or currently unoccupied planets and moons. Each one also slowly rotates on its own axis. You gather funds to build weapons and defenses on your planet, you gain some passively, but you can also build structures like refineries to speed it up.
You can also boost your funds by blasting away at unoccupied planets, think of it as mining, with an unnecessary amount of explosive ordinance. You get a bit of dough for striking foes and getting hit yourself. What weapons and gadgets you have available to use, is based on your loadout.
Worbital has three factions, and while they have some cross over, they also have gear exclusive to them. You can unlock the gear just by earning dark matter that you get by playing. Each faction has a different playstyle, one is a heavy hitter for example, while another is tricky and can move planets around. Laws of physics? Pashaw.
The point is, you have a lot of freedom in putting together your strategy before you even begin a match. Yes, derailing your planet and ramming another planet is, in fact, a viable strategy. Yes, it’s as fun as it sounds.
Your first planet has eight slots for structures to be built. Remember your planet is always spinning, so the facing of those structures is going to matter all game. You can sell off or rebuild structures and they can be destroyed if struck by attacks. As each match progresses you will unlock tier two and tier three gear, enabling you to use more powerful weaponry and defenses the longer the match lasts.
When actually firing your weapons, you have to account for the gravitational pull of the other celestial bodies on the map. Each weapon functions differently. Everything is physics based in Worbital and all the various projectiles interact in different ways.
Kinetic based projectiles and missiles can be shot down by other physical entities, but a lot of energy based shots can only be touched by other energy-related blasts. You also have a ton of defense options. Use a magnet shot to deflect other projectiles away (and hopefully into other enemies). Activate a shield, or shoot down missiles with a Gatling gun.
If your feeling super tricky, you can speed up your planets orbit, with an orbit boost. Or even swap places with another planet with the right ability. Some weapons can derail you or your foes, taking you out of orbit. If this happens, you are at the mercy of momentum and you have to direct your planet around by using the kinetic force of your weapons or boost engines.
Remember, your planet is also always spinning and what you need might be in the wrong spot at the wrong time. Get skilled at controlling a derailed planet, and you can build a nice spike and ram your enemies with it. This damages them greatly and will derail them as well. It’s a risky move, but never tell me the odds.
If you have equipped the right gear, you can even colonize other unoccupied planets and make them yours. You are then free to begin building more destructive goodness on it. Every match is a combination of strategy, wits, reflexes, and utter chaos.
Asteroids slowly become more numerous as the match drags on, a hazard you and your foes must watch out for. Some weapons, however, can even turn them to your advantage. The sun itself can even be derailed, or blown up if it takes enough damage. This causes an explosive supernova, followed by a black hole that eats away at everyone’s soil.
Each planet is covered on all sides by soil, attacks eat away at the soil until the core is exposed. If an exposed core is struck too many times. The planet explodes and its shards fly around, affected by gravitational pull and striking everything in their path.
I literally won a match, by using an evacuater to blow up my own planet. While it exploded, I flew an evacuation ship to another planet to colonize. The remains of my old planet blew up my enemies who were woefully unprepared for my unorthodox strategy. I am one with the force, the force is with me.
If this all sounds complicated, it isn’t. The game is in real time, and you will be doing a lot of multitasking. Firing at foes, building, repairing and utilizing your defenses. It’s chaotic and stressful, but not to the same degree as an RTS such as StarCraft. I would know, I’m rubbish at those. This is due in part to how well the interface and controls are designed.
The game uses some easy hotkeys and has a slick and helpful UI. You have a view of your planet in the top left corner of your screen at all times, even if you have panned away. You can also access all the slots of your planet from there. I’ve never once found myself fighting with the controls.
Controlling more than one planet at a time can be rough, but that’s not a required strategy at all and it’s one you have to personally choose in your loadout. So that’s something you can practice toward if you want. You aren’t at a disadvantage if you don’t
Worbital features a short campaign for each faction, local and online play. The AI has multiple difficulty settings. I was extremely pleased to find that they are competent and utilize the mechanics of the game pretty well.
You can also change a lot of settings in custom matches. How much health the sun has for example, or asteroid frequency. Most interesting is the fact that Worbital has three map archetypes. You have your standard one. A sun with various planets and moons orbiting around, and standard asteroids.
You have one with twin suns with fire and ice asteroids. Or you have one that is the remains of a high tech civilization, where ships fly in and attack everyone and the mechanical sun will lockdown and attack if folks damage it too much.
The campaign features a series of missions for each faction, usually, they have a quirk or two to them. They each feature a story and some dialog. The story is humorous and entertaining but not serious. Which in a way is somewhat disturbing. The characters talk about the situation so casually, when you are essentially committing the genocide of entire planetary populations. Join the dark side I guess.
Worbital has a polish that isn’t common in indie games. Everything about the game’s design is so tightly knit, I’m not sure it could be easily added on to without breaking its porcelain frame. Its a game where every piece has a purpose and its difficult to imagine how it could be better.
Everything just works so dang well. The way the game feels and plays is a profound joy and the utter chaos and unpredictability of each match keep you engaged long after you would have moved on to other games. There is so much variance to the combos and strategies you can pull off.
The variety of weapons and gadgets is huge, and each one tends to have multiple uses that all feel fun. It feels awesome when you shoot down a rail gun blast mid-flight with your own projectile. Or when you manage to deflect a world rammer back at your foe with a gravitational shield.
When you boost your orbit speed just enough to avoid an incoming volley entirely. Or when you come back from the brink of a loss in any number of ways. You have missiles and ships you can control manually. There are have kinetic weapons that are affected by the gravitational pull and you have lasers that fire in a straight line, but you have to wait until your planet has spun into the right position to utilize it.
Some weapons you fire directly through the sun to power them up. Others that can derail planets, yourself or even the sun. Even ones that can steal funds from foes or freeze their structures. Each weapon has distinct counter plays and weapons they have an advantage on.
Your gravitational shield will reflect kinetic shells, but laser beams and plasma ignore it. Boosting your speed will let you dodge dumb fire weapons, but not homing or radio-controlled missiles and attack ships, but a Gatling gun or scattershot can deal with them.
The graphics look great, all the particle effects and explosions from the various projectiles are full of eye candy goodness. The sound design is solid, the clinks and booms all sound satisfyingly good. Each weapon seems to have a distinct sound as well. Over time, you will be able to pick out what weapon a foe fired at you from the sound alone.
It would be impossible to describe all the scenarios I’ve encountered in my playtime. Suffice it to say, every match is a potential surprise. It’s hard to pin down many flaws in Worbital. A couple of weapons seem to be overbalanced, but Team Jolly Roger seems dedicated to putting out balance patches. I haven’t run into any bugs either.
The controls are slick and intuitive and the gameplay is addicting, varied and spectacularly fun. It’s strategical and deliciously chaotic with an immense amount of replay value. I can see Worbital taking its place among my list of favorite games. It’s certainly the top game I’ve played so far in 2019.
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- Slick controls and interface
- Lots of weapons and gadgets between the three factions
- Entertaining campaign mode
- Customizable free play matches
- Competent AI with multiple difficulties
- Insanely fun, polished and chaotic physics-based combat between planets.
- You can ram a planet, with your own planet. Nuff said
- A couple of weapons are a bit too strong.