XBLA’s Most Wanted: Gunbound
In the wake of upcoming turn based artillery giant Worms: Revolution, the sheer vacancy of this genre becomes ever more apparent. The genre is populated almost exclusively by Worms, but there are a few other games which have made a name for themselves over the years. One such competitor which has maintained popularity throughout its existence is Gunbound. This free to play online artillery game just had its 7th anniversary since its inception in Korea back in 2005. Developer Softnyx’s approach to the genre includes an extensive item-based stat customization engine as well as several different “mobiles”, each with different elements and stats. At the heart of the game is aiming and shooting, but there’s something strangely deep about it too.
When you boot up a game of Gunbound today in 2012, you’ll note not much has changed in the UI over the last several years. The game has never had a graphical update (that we can tell), you still can’t change the resolution, and there’s still not enough information on each mobile in the mobile selection screen. That said, the amount of content has at least doubled in every respect including mobiles, items, maps, and game modes. While estranged from its early adopters by a lack of true game experience upgrades, if Softnyx were to join Nexon (developers of Dungeon Fighter Live) on Xbox Live Arcade and beef up the presentation of Gunbound, this mobile blastin’ multiplayer game could be just as addictive as it was on PC.
What should change:
Presentation – While charming, the graphics featured in Gunbound are almost 10 years old now. Many games ranging from Dragon Ball Z to Tales of Vesperia have featured beautiful Japanese anime-themed visuals rendered in 3D. If that’s too much, go the Jet Set Radio route and get it on with the cel shading. Even simply sharpening the visuals and improving the textures in compliance with larger resolutions would be welcome. We don’t need an overhaul here, but as it is now it might be seen as “cheap” in the current gaming landscape.
Information – In typical free to play game style, there’s never enough information about how things work throughout this game’s menu system. For instance, each different mobile has a type to it, and each type has a strength and a weakness; one can only know this by reading the guide on Softnyx’s website. Put information like that in the game, and explain how the heck Assassin and Princess work while you’re at it!
Matchmaking – The lobby system is a staple in the F2P online game space, it’s something Korean developers/publishers feature quite often in their non-MMO excursions, but it won’t work on consoles. A traditional matchmaking experience would be lovely here: quick matches, teaming up with friends before entering the queue and private matches should round out a generic but welcomed matchmaking suite.
What should stay the same:
The content – There’s quite a bit in this game after all these years, there’s almost too much content at this point. Considering you have to put in a lot of time with each mobile to really understand how best to take advantage of its playstyle, there is a ridiculous amount of time to be spent with just the basics. On top of a massive store with, again, arguably too many items, they may even want to cut back a bit. For simplicity’s sake, however, let’s say that what they’ve got is plenty; maybe throw in an XBLA exclusive mobile for celebration’s sake.
The mechanics – The game works great. In fact, we’re pretty sure other than added in-game effects, new modes and mobiles, this game hasn’t changed much in 7 years. There’s no critical errors (read: stylistic choices are not critical errors, even if some of them are confusing at first) that ruin the game, there’s no glaring shortcomings, there aren’t even any long-term shortcomings.
Why it would succeed:
It’s a fun game, people have been playing it for years, and it’s got a great mix of casual and competitive. The charming, cutesy and decidedly Asian-styled graphics are widely appreciated by some, though it’s up for debate whether a drab military re-theme would actually sell better (a depressing argument to give credence to). Gunbound is also perfectly setup to be played online or local due to its team based nature and, if it must come down to it, it’s not Worms. An artillery shooter that isn’t Worms.
Who doesn’t love options?