After getting some hands-on time with the early access build of Human Head Studio’s Minimum, I can solidly say that I plan to pick this title up once the full version launches. The game is fun, fast, and has its own little bits of uniqueness that really pulled me in.
When I first heard about Minimum, the main thing that drew my eye to it was the visuals. I loved the minimalistic and blocky style of things, especially when I saw just how much the fine folks over at Human Head Studios could create with straight lines. Every piece of armor and every weapon (including their upgraded forms) look new and interesting. It’s comparable to Minecraft, but with less textures (read: none) and way more weapons. You might think that having no textures in a modern day game is a bad thing but I assure you, Human Head makes it work.
Everything in Minimum is a polygon, and Human Head Studios makes blocks look fantastically good. Human Head circumvents the normal need for textures and smooth features with skillful lightning and interesting designs. Everything in the game has a shadow and it adds a surprising level of depth and detail to what should be a basic design structure. There are sometimes glowing crystals which cast dynamic light on the cave walls they’re in as players run around them. They prove that not every fresh title has to look like Uncharted, or The Order: 1886.
Of course, Minimum doesn’t skate by on charming visuals alone. As I said earlier, the game is fun. It takes the MOBA formula that was made popular by games like DOTA and League of Legends, and chops and screws with it until it’s something you can only find in Minimum. Instead of lanes, the maps reminded me more of something from Unreal Tournament 3.
Right now Minimum gives you access to two different play types, Titan mode and Team Deathmatch. Although TDM plays out as one would expect, Titan Mode puts a spin on things. When playing Titan Mode, the whole point of the game is to power up your team’s Titan. Once it’s up and going, it’s your job to help it break through the other team’s defensive walls and smack their base down. Of course they’re not just standing there sucking their thumbs; the other team has a Titan and is going to be doing their best to stop you.
Each match of Titan Mode begins with the players getting into the map and equipping their first piece of armor, then the Titans activate. They’re towering gargantuas, a player comes up to about their ankle. At this point there’s not much else to do but to follow your Titan as it makes its way to the enemy Titan so that they can duke it out. You can fire on the enemy Titan to help yours out, or try and kill your enemies so that they can’t hurt your heavy-hitter. Eventually one Titan will wreck the other and continue on to smash defensive walls until it too is destroyed.
Once both Titans are down, the creeps begin to spawn. Imagine them to be something like minions, but they’re unaffiliated and not all that threatening. However, the creeps are there to serve another purpose: they drop components which your avatar needs to craft armor and power up their titan. The more creeps you kill, the better your chances of winning are. The game follows a rinse-repeat method until one team has conquered the other.
I did mention gear, didn’t I? Each time you play, you choose one of your pre-decided loadouts. You enter the match with two weapons and a device (such as a turret or grenade), the weapons starting at level one. Each kill you get on a player or Titan drops a glowing block, clearly ascertainable by the swirling energy revolving around it. Once you pick it up, your weapon will get an upgrade making it look cooler, more threatening, and more devastating. On top of appearances, the weapons have secondary fire modes and even get added abilities and functionality.
Two great examples of weapon progression are the “Bullet Hell” gun and the swords. When you rank up the Bullet Hell, it gets more barrels which expand to the sides. The next time you pull the trigger it will shoot like a ship in a bullet hell game, making an arced spread. When it comes to leveling up the swords, they begin to emit explosive energy which damages enemies and creeps nearby, making close quarters combat with your character a more and more unappealing task for your enemies.
Every time you die your weapon will lose upgrades. I’m not absolutely sure how that system works, but I believe you lose one level of upgrades or it starts you off with a certain upgrade level depending on how much time is left in the match.
Of course, good weaponry isn’t the only thing you’ll need to survive. Your character has three slots for armor: helmet, body, and legs. Each armor gives you different buffs and debuffs, for example, the Berserker Helm makes you deal 5% more damage, but take 10% more damage without any upgrades. Once you’ve picked a helmet, body armor, or leg armor, you’re stuck with it and lose the option to equip the other options for that slot.
Each piece of armor has three upgrade levels (as compared to the five a weapon has) and you use the components to upgrade as the match progresses. There’s nothing like having the greaves that speed you up at max level and watching as you leave trails of fire when you sprint. However, keep in mind that upgrading your armor isn’t automatic, and it does take a few seconds. It’s best to find a good hiding place to upgrade.
Last but not least, there’s more to crafting than just slapping together armor while in-game. There’s a wide array of weaponry available to you. At the end of every game you receive more components which are used to buy blueprints and craft all new weapons and devices. The customization is as endless as the graphics are basic.
After a few matches (i.e. once I got a hang of the gameplay), I found myself enjoying Minimum more and more. I would come home from work and end up sitting down and opening Minimum for reasons other than to get additional playtime with it for this piece. There was nothing more fun than watching an enemy glow brighter and brighter (Minimum’s health system) until they exploded under my blade or bullets.
It was even exceedingly exciting when I jumped into a match and realized that I had made a synergistic combination of armor and weaponry that I hadn’t expected. I felt like a mastermind of the game when I realized that the Berserker Helm and Greaves mixed with the Knight’s Armor made me a devastating force with swords.
All of that said, my favorite part of Minimum is when both teams’ Titans meet on the battlefield. I’m a sucker for set-pieces, and watching the Titans duke it out up-close while bullets whizzed through the air and swordsmen dashed about was hectic and wonderful. Those moments are when all the collecting and upgrading comes to a head and it turns into a huge battle. You’ve got to explode your enemies, dodge the foot falls of the Titans, and do your best not to get blown up yourself. It’s honestly those moments when everything good about Minimum is on display and it’s gorgeous.
Minimum is quite an amazing game. Beyond the minor issues with the menus (as would be expected, it is in Early Access after all), the game runs smoothly and is quite the harbinger to the full release. Human Head is clearly working hard on this one, and it shows.