By – Sophie Jones

GRAV Review He

Multiple planets, endless exploration, hostile aliens and plentiful resources to craft in abundance. GRAV is an ambitious indie project that sets the stage for a sandbox experience which you can enjoy solo or online. Of course if you venture online be wary of human players as they will be out to scrounge gear and claim your magnificent outposts. It certainly sounds great on paper but this game is still in early access so features may not be polished. Nevertheless, constructing settlements and traveling the vast region is certainly satisfying.

The aim of GRAV is to survive. Other than this there is no real tangible story or narrative to guide you. This experience is focused on the player’s ability to explore and create whatever they desire. Expect to spend a lot of time farming the planet for wood, ore, fossils, gems and more! On your travels you can also meet several NPC characters who offer different items to trade, in one instance, a traveler offered me a pet that would help me level up quicker. Sadly, I didn’t have enough Element X (which is the in game currency) to purchase the boost. These NPC’s can make the offline world feel a little less lonely and I have discovered they are quite handy for target practice.

To learn the basics I tackled the single player mode. Once the starting world had initialized I was greeted with an array of unloaded textures, which thankfully, updated after some time. Before setting off I consulted the beginner’s guide which can be found in the menu. However, upon clicking you are redirected to a webpage and the game is minimized. The effects of this were catastrophic as the game could not function when I tried to reopen the window. I would thus avoid using this as an option whilst playing as it causes crashes.

GRAV Review He

Gathering materials is rather easy as you have a dedicated tool which fires a beam and turns all items into multiple supplies. This process is slow at first but you can upgrade the tool later on which makes gathering less laborious and more lucrative. Throughout my time playing I never encountered a carrying capacity limit. As you farm materials, kill wildlife and pick up hidden caches you add XP to your meter. When you level up your damage output and defence stats increase.

As it turned to night I decided to have a go at building myself a home fearing the subdued wildlife might become aggressive. To enter build mode you have to press ‘B’. However, that is the only simple thing about it. You can cycle through different items you want to build, from rooms to work benches but once you have chosen things become tricky. As the build menu isn’t separate from the main game you have to position objects based on where your character is stood. This isn’t straightforward as you can rarely see what you’re doing, especially, if you’re building second stories as you can’t look up. Likewise you cannot turn your avatar in this menu, so putting compartments at an angle is considerably troublesome. Another annoying aspect about this function is that whenever accessed there is a 50/50 chance that it will freeze upon selection. To resolve this issue you have to exit the mode and try again. As a substantial amount of the game is about crafting it’s fair to say it needs a lot of reworking in this area to create a smoother more enjoyable experience.

Nonetheless, when the mechanics aren’t slowing you down building things can be gratifying. BitMonster have been generous with the amount of articles you can form so creating never gets boring. Once you have assembled your basic work stations such as the factory, science lab and armoury you can create stacks of gear like pistols, helmets etc. The efficiency of these devices depend upon the ingredients you are expending and by using the factory you can refine elementary substances into higher level materials. Work stations can also be upgraded as you progress which gives you access to produce better equipment. This element of gameplay is extremely addictive as you are always pressed to find better resources to improve your load out. Additionally, killing certain enemies will help you acquire blueprints to further your crafting collection. During my time on GRAV it was clear that I hadn’t even scratched the surface of possibilities as my ordinary pistol and wooden hut were no match for advanced players who had erected Star Gates to travel to the moon.

GRAV Review He

It is worth noting that if you don’t use objects for a while they begin to slowly decay and eventually cease to exist, so, if you build kitchen and go traveling don’t expect to be able to cook in it when you return. One item which is key to surviving is the uplink station. By constructing one of these in a cheap wooden lodge you can create a spawn point to come back to when you die. Also when you perish you can go back to collect your fallen gear. The combat is surprisingly well executed considering it’s not the games key focus. Aiming is accurate and bullets can be created using ore in the armoury.

Each generated planet is populated with indigenous lifeforms. When I started out as a low level 1 the wildlife didn’t appear threatening in the least. I could walk past them and even attack and they would not retaliate. I thought this rather bizarre as the game bragged about survival yet there were no threats. However, my first impressions were quite wrong. Luckily for me I had spawned in a quadrant that only housed level 1 enemies, once I had the nerve to go further I stumbled into a level 20 zone and was quickly harassed by a giant flaming monster with a sword. In this instance I was not as lucky and met a quick death. The longer I played the more I realized that the map was divided into sections and each sector had its own level and unique elemental juiced opponents. As you advance dormant aliens in low XP zones become aggressive making the world continuously challenging. Foes are also varied and the frost, fire themed attacks add zest.

During your adventures all activities are stored as stats which you can toggle on and off. In single play I had no use for this as it didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. But when you join a multiplayer universe this screen is insightful as you can see who the big players are. The solo campaign was fantastic for learning the ropes but due to the planets lack of other life it was quite an uninspiring journey. Nevertheless, the online affair is far more exciting. The gameplay is exactly the same but this time you can relish the immense space with others.

GRAV Review 4

Servers can accommodate up to 32 players in each world, although, currently these sessions are barely being filled. I joined one of the busiest realms which consisted of 8 people. In game you have use of a chat room and your avatar has a set of cool social moves. This makes communicating with others easy and amusing. Seeing other player’s creations is another rewarding aspect and I was left in awe as I gazed at the many different constructs. Although, at one point I strayed too close to a complex, triggered an alarm, and was left looking like Swiss cheese as their defence turrets came online. Destroying other players isn’t the only fun thing to do on servers as you can also tackle dungeons with friends. These areas are packed full of challenging enemies and sparkling loot. They are strewn across the map and can be located via glowing doors.

Unfortunately, the multiplayer is riddled with issues. Within the first 5 minutes of joining the server my farming tool glitched and wouldn’t work. Without this device I couldn’t play which was infuriating. Annoyingly, even after restarting and joining a different domain it still didn’t work and I was greeted with a hard crash. Furthermore, NPC’s phase through objects, the framerate dips endlessly and objects can become sticky forcing you to jump like a mad man to avoid becoming stuck in the graphics.

As BitMonster have focused mainly on content the aesthetics aren’t the finest. Nonetheless, this isn’t to say they are bad they just lack the appropriate finishing touches. The overall theme is cartoonish which suits its playfulness, although, constant screen tearing, unloaded textures and rough edges do deter from its unique charm. The soundtrack also lacks finesse. Occasionally a techno track is heard but most of the time you are accompanied by the games sparse sound effects library. At one point all I could hear was running water even though I was nowhere near the shore.  In the primary settings you have the option to change your keybinds. You can also opt to play with controller, however, this support is only partial so I wouldn’t rely on using one. Moreover dynamic shadows, light shafts and resolution can all be altered.

GRAV Review 2

Conclusion – Is it Worth Your Money?

GRAV has a ton of potential, with the ability to create Star Gates, huge guarded complexes monocycles and more, the content isn’t lacking. In fact, it is a game that stretches your imagination as you travel across distinctive Biomes and discover blueprints you never thought possible.  However, this focus on content could be blinding the developers from tackling the smaller issues that hinder gameplay such as: loading times and lag spikes. If you enjoy crafting, I would recommend this title but be warned, the constant farming becomes repetitive quickly and the online community is severely lacking.

GRAV Early Access Technical Summary:

GRAV Review Sum

  • Time Played – 7 Hours
  • Widescreen Support – Yes
  • Windowed Mode – Yes
  • Resolution Played – 1920×1080
  • DRM – Steamworks
  • Version – Patch 21.5
  • System Specs – Intel i7-4720HQ @2.60 GHz, 8GB Ram, Geforce GTX 980m
  • Control Scheme – KB/M + Controller (partial support)
  • Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
  • Availability – Steam, Humble
  • Demo – No
  • Bugs/Crashes Encountered – Farming tool stopped working online and never worked again, leading to a hard crash.  Entering the beginners guide in-game causes the game to stop working.  NPC’s phase through objects.
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