This week, top-down co-op shooter Trident's Wake hit Steam Early Access hoping to capture the imaginations of sci-fi action game fans everywhere. Created by Argentinian development company Bacus Studios, the game lets players jump into advanced combat mechs and join the fight to defend humanity's last hope of survival. We had some hands-on time with the game earlier this month (along with the insight of Bacus Studios' CEO Ignacio “Nacho” Baldini) and from what we've seen so far, Trident's Wake is shaping up to be the kind of action game shooter fans live for.
Self-described “lore nerd” Baldini started by explaining the game's story. Trident's Wake takes place a thousand years after a nano-tech epidemic has decimated the Earth. As a last-ditch attempt at survival, scientists send frozen human embryos into space on a terraforming ship called the Trident, and for the next thousand years the humans who remain on Earth fight tirelessly against the mutinous nano-tech without knowing the ship's fate. Things aren't going well on Earth though, and when the game starts, humanity's desperate enough to go in search of the Trident.
Gameplay takes place in a series of procedurally-generated levels on board the Trident—places with names like “Industrial,” and “Tech Labs.” The idea is to “liberate” these places from the alien life currently occupying them, and you start by choosing a level and a Sentinel. The latter come in different types like Vanguard, Strider, and Juggernaut, all which come with their own special powers (special attacks, healing, etc.) to help your team. Once you've chosen a Sentinel type, you can further customize it by choosing your weapon loadout and selecting custom armor colors. Your last choices before jumping into the action are whether to connect to voice chat service Discord and whether to play locally or online. (As of this writing, the interface is slightly confusing since the color scheme makes selections somewhat unclear.)
Choices made, Baldini and I started our game and set off in search of a collection of data packets. Movement and aiming were easy with controls that should be familiar to any shooter player; the same went for reloading, weapon swapping, and item interaction. (At his suggestion, we used a controller to play, since bugs are still being worked out in regard to PC keyboard controls.) As we moved through darkened hallways and control rooms, we were occasionally beset by blaster-carrying monsters and exploding fireballs of death. These were easily dealt with since enemies appeared sporadically and in small groups. Navigation was just as easy, thanks to a compass arrow attached to our characters that pointed us toward objectives (this has since been replaced by a mini-map.) One disappointment within the level—again related to color choices—often things appeared interactive that weren't.
On the way to collecting data packets, we encountered two other items also awaiting collection: weapon parts and something called Matheria. Baldini explained these function as currency, allowing players to tinker with and upgrade their weapons. Here's where Baldini really warmed up. Clearly, the game's crafting system is his second love after lore. With much enthusiasm, he extolled the system's unique approach, saying players can endlessly change the attributes of weaponry such as railguns and rotary cannons, a fact that Bacus Studios hopes will greatly increase player creativity when it comes to weapon customization.
Nearing the end of the level, inches from achieving our objective, we were swarmed by enemies and things became chaotic as we spun and ran and fired. I died during this sequence, but thanks to the level's Resurrection Station, only temporarily. Baldini mentioned while reviving me, that Trident's Wake has (toggleable) friendly fire, something that's sure to cause consternation and chaos, especially during four-player games.
First level done, we checked out our haul. We had just enough Matheria to tinker around with things like firing rate and ammo capacity on our two starting guns, then Baldini spent some time discussing what else is in store for the game. In response to questions about matchmaking, Baldini said that Bacus Studios' philosophy doesn't use matchmaking because they believe in letting gamers of all ranks play together. Disregarding the competitive attitude of so many online shooters, Trident's Wake's focus is all about having fun with friends. To that end, all players can play together, and all classes can use all weapons. In addition to that, Bacus will be adding text chat in the game lobby.
Though short, the hour we spent with Trident's Wake made clear what the game is all about. Granted, this Early Release build has some issues, such as a sometimes vague UI, limited interactivity and erratic enemy spawning. It also remains to be seen if rank-averse matchmaking will be fun for low-level players or simply frustrating. Further, there are still a lot of unknowns when it comes to how well the procedurally-generated levels will scale depending on the number of players, and how rewarding it will be to replay them. Still, if all goes as Baldini and the Bacus team hope, the final version will offer sci-fi fans the kind of fast-moving, ever-changing, friendly-fire free-for-all that'll keep them following the Trident's Wake.