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Project Nimbus: Complete Edition – Review
The open skies are the perfect stage for fast, visceral mech action. In Project Nimbus: Complete Edition, you can do just that. Engage in high-speed dogfights as you pull off amazing last-second dodges in storylines that feel like they were ripped straight out of an anime.
While the elevator pitch for Project Nimbus certainly makes a strong first impression, the actual game itself is much more nuanced. While the core ideas of this game are solid, many of them feel rough around the edges.
How so? Read on to find out.
The game’s story really wants you to buy-in to the whole “global politics” setting, but the lack of any real memorable design makes it hard to keep track of who’s doing what.
Project Nimbus is definitely a game made in reverence of the mecha genre. Many of the settings, the mechs and even some of the dialogue recall anime like Mobile Suit Gundam. All things considered, considering the size of the developers, the amount of design work that went into the mechs is to be applauded.
However there is a difference between emulating and being derivative, and there are a lot of times this game falls into the latter. The game’s story tries to invoke the sort of bloc-based politics common to a lot of futurist mecha, and has you playing from both sides of the story. However, it all feels so similar that it all blends together.
This is compounded by my main complaint with Project Nimbus- I want to see more mechs. I know they’re in the game, but the game has them so tiny that they’re just a series of red Xs you’re meant to shoot down. They have no silhouette and I feel like the story would have been better served if there was any kind of design language put into the game’s factions.
This is how the game looks 90% of the time, sans a giant “MISSILE APPROACHING” alert.
This Battle Frame Isn’t For Show!
Project Nimbus is a high-speed mecha dogfighter. Soar through the skies engaging with other mech suits, firing at them and occasionally even getting in close with a beam saber to finish them off.
On the levels it does this, the game isn’t too bad. You can boost in 4 directions, giving a really cool feeling if you’re avoiding the many missiles constantly locked on to you. Most of the time you have a fairly standard assortment of weapons- a long-range railgun, mid-range missiles, and a machine gun. Considering how many of the levels are big open dogfights, I guess this would be an example of a developer playing to their strengths.
A Cool Toy With A Poor Playset
Unfortunately, while the controls are decent, the level design feels very uninspired. Multiple missions are essentially just wave survival, and many of them feel like a slog to get through as they’re really more about how many shots you can get off while being hounded by missiles constantly. I feel like this calls back to my problem about the enemy design- since every enemy is simply a red X to be shot at, it doesn’t feel like I’m actually solving any problems, it just feels like I’m being given targets to pad out my time to beat.
This runs into a catch-22 for the game, because it does try to change things up. Several levels involve close quarters, such as navigating through the narrow corridors of a spaceship or a military base, and that truly brings out the worst in the game.
You’ve Got To Drive First Gear In Your Giant Robot Car
Unfortunately, once you’re forced to make more precise movements like threading between gaps, you realize that the mechs all pilot with the grace of an 18 wheeler with another, this time horizontal, 18 wheeler on its flatbed. They turn on what feels like small moons, and often times for the close-quarters missions, you’re targeting small static emplacements with hitboxes that make you wish you’d trained shooting Womp rats on Tattooine.
Given how infuriatingly bad the game is when it expects you to pilot with any grace, I can understand the abundance of open-air dogfight levels. However, due to the lack of any visible variety in enemies, it does have the levels feel highly repetitive.
When the game lets you use the cool mechs, it’s really fun. Some of them have really interesting gimmicks, like special melee weapons
About The Mechs
Unlike many mecha games, Project Nimbus has you playing as set characters at all times. There is no customization to be had, which may come as a disappointment to some.
While the idea of playing as different characters in the story sounds good on paper, the lack of actual variety in gameplay makes it feel disappointing. One of the mechs you play early on, Mirai, essentially has every weapon in the game, and every suit you play from that point onwards just has different permutations of her weapons.
About The Guns Strapped To The Mechs
This gets extra frustrating because of the guns in this game, very few of them are actually usable. The machine gun, for example, is nigh useless as all it takes to not take damage is to move away from the gun. The smart missiles, while great, are kind of redundant as the regular missiles have a larger volume and can lock on to multiple targets.
The guns also really lack any kind of feeling to them, with heavy weapons like the railgun not feeling particularly heavy despite being the game’s bespoke long-range weapon.
Saved By Its Alternate Modes
However, there is a silver lining in that the game has alternate modes. There is a progression-based mode in which you play a jobber and slowly collect points to upgrade your mech to later models, as well as the game’s Survival mode in which you can play any of the mechs from the game’s roster to fight off hordes of enemies.
Having none of the mechs be progression-locked in survival is a masterstroke on Project Nimbus’ part as many of the late game mecha are infinitely cooler than their early game counterparts. One of them, the second last on the list, carries a foldable claymore that has swings on cooldown in a gun slot while its melee button becomes a block, for example. Another carries only heavy guns, but also has a powerful lance charge that obliterates most mechs in a single hit.
As much as I gripe about the technical side of this game, it’s pretty clear that the developers knew what they wanted to make, and that this is all simply part of the learning curve for making an indie game in a niche genre.
As a power fantasy of piloting a giant robot and shooting down jobbers, this game is pretty great
While the forced restrictions of the story mode bring me nothing but endless sorrow, I have to say- the game’s survival mode is where it’s at. Being able to play as even the enemy mech suits makes it feel like a set of challenge runs: how far can you get with a mech that only has slow guns or no missiles? The stage selection also lets you pick from the best stages in the game, and many of them invoke iconic scenes from mecha anime like Gundam 00.
Having put some runs into survival mode, this game seems to carry an important message from a lot of mecha anime: that life’s fun when you have the cool robot.
It’s fun being the cool robot
An important note to make is that Project Nimbus is $20 USD (RM 86.33) on the Nintendo eShop. Considering its 3 game modes and decent gameplay, Project Nimbus is easily in the higher tier of quality for its price point. Being on the Switch, it’s easy to imagine doing survival runs on the bus or train, at which the game would be quite enjoyable.
Most inspiring, however, is that the game kind of already knows what it wants to be. All the game’s problems this game has doesn’t stem from indecision, like many games often do. Rather, this feels like a game that would improve with future iterations.
It’s a fine addition to the mecha genre, especially if you’re new to the genre. The low price point forgives some of its roughness, and you’ll probably have fun with it despite its flaws. When it’s good, it’s just that good.
Review copy provided by GameTomo