Preview: Epigenesis

Preview: Epigenesis

Bombing Run was a great game mode in Unreal Tournament 2004, as it somehow managed to wrangle in the chaos that typically ensues in Capture the Flag, Assault, or Onslaught. Spawned in the middle of the map was a ball that teams would rush for, and whoever took possession would be weaponless. This meant that teams would either have to kill the entire team multiple times in order to score, or pass efficiently towards the goal: a mixture of the two was preferred. Once a team scores the ball resets, as well as player positions, starting the entire game over. Epigenesis strives to be exactly that, but with plants. Developed by Dead Shark Triplepunch and winner of  Make Something Unreal 2013, Epigenesis is currently available as an Early Access on Steam. The game is two teams, two goals, a ball in an arena, and nothing else.

There is a greater emphasis on throwing the ball, rather than running it in like in Unreal Tournament 2004. As such, it feels as if range is greater than the original Bombing Run mode. Being able to shoot from the far reaches of the opponent's side of the arena, Dead Shark Triplepunch attempts to make it much more difficult to score than it sounds by making the arena consist of fragmented platforms rather than a large solid surface. Deliberate, careful jumping is required while remaining quick to avoid the blasters defenders will use to knock the ball carrier off the platforms. The regular blaster functions a lot like the weapon from ShootMania: Storm, the defender has the option to switch to a slower firing, but more accurate railgun that disrupts the attackers momentum much more from a longer distance away.

Each team can change the platforms to function specifically for their team. Whenever a goal is scored the spawns are reset, and the goal scorer is rewarded a seed, which is used to grow plants that offer the scoring team benefits like a smokescreen, a platform, or a turret. Score enough goals and plant enough seeds to the point where it envelopes the opponent's area and it's an automatic victory, though care must be taken because falling off the platform will cause the seed to disappear when respawning.

It's an interesting take on the Bombing Run template, and despite all the gripes I had with ShootMania, Epigenesis has the potential to be entertaining, even with the lack of weapons, through strategy in the arena and a variety of power ups ShootMania otherwise lacks. The game thrives on a competitive environment and hosts tournament play while it's in early access. While still not finished, Epigenesis may very well become a strong multiplayer game with e-sports hooks, and is simple enough to make it easy to follow from the outside which is all too important when considering an audience. It's certainly a game to keep an eye on, as it has the potential to be something special.