by Matt Porter
reviewed on PC
It was probably just a happy coincidence that Convoy launched around the same time as a new trailer for the upcoming Mad Max game. It got people excited for some desert-based carnage, and that is exactly what Convoy brings to the table. Of course, this is a very different style of game. It’s more about strategy than action, and if you die, then it’s all the way back to the beginning. It’s billed as a cross between space Roguelike FTL and the aforementioned Mad Max. A match made in heaven?
The inspirations are plain to see right off the bat. Even the pixelated art style is quite similar to that of FTL. Your spaceship has crash landed on a planet, and you need various items to fix it. In order to do that, you drive your convoy around the world map. Signal beacons will attract you to points of interest. Perhaps there’s a merchant trading in weapons, but it’s just as likely there are bandits hiding in wait for you. You have four main quests to gather items, and the map will give you the direction and how far away each one is. Their positions are randomised each time you start a new game, and they won’t always pan out the same way when you get there.
Combat in Convoy is quite unique. Your convoy is made up of one large vehicle called an MCV, which drives inexorably forwards in the middle of the screen from left to right. The base one you start the game with is fairly useless. It doesn’t have any weapons, and you can’t move it around, although it does have the ability to stun enemies on a timer. You’ll generally be fighting other vehicles with the rest of your convoy. You start with two to defend your MCV, but you might find more along the way, or buy some from camps that can be found around the world map.
These secondary vehicles are smaller and you’re able to maneuver them around the screen which is split up into a number of lanes for combat. Everyone always moves forward, but you can accelerate or decelerate to move left or right, and you can turn to move up and down. This is all done via simple mouse clicks. Enemies will begin to come at you from all sides, and it’s up to you to figure out how best to defeat them. You might want to take down an enemy’s shields with the MCV’s stun, and then unload all of the weapons from your secondary vehicles. But what’s far more satisfying, and often much more effective, is to ram your opponents into upcoming mines and structures. This will either deal massive amounts of damage, or kill them instantly.
This is especially useful early on when your vehicles don’t have great weapons or great stats. At camps you can spend currency to upgrade base stats like armour, health, and maneuverability. Vehicles have a number of coloured slots which correspond with the amount of weapons or utility items they can equip. You’ll usually have to buy weapons, but sometimes you’ll hit the jackpot and find them on your travels.
That combat is different compared to many other games is good, but it’s not without its faults. First off, the game is very hard - as you would expect from a Roguelike - and there is also a random element. Between the two, you’re sometimes left in a situation where your convoy is battered and bruised, yet you’re forced into another fight unprepared. If your secondary vehicles are destroyed, they’re not coming back, leaving your MCV defenseless. The stun can be used to cause enemies to crash into structures, but there’s an element of luck to this. I often found myself in a situation where I simply had to wait for my opponents to finish off my heavily armoured, health-point crazy MCV. I was just sitting around for a long time, waiting for death without any other offensive measures to help speed things up. You can find new items to equip your MCV with, but they’re rare, and aren’t often found towards the start of a new game when perhaps you need them most.
Surprisingly slow paced
There’s also not a great deal of variety when it comes to combat when compared with something like FTL. In that game there are a lot of systems to keep track of, and you’re often scrambling around the screen and pausing at every opportunity. I rarely used the pause function in Convoy apart from at the start of each battle to figure out where the enemies would be coming from. Apart from that, it’s a fairly slow paced affair. Weapons at the start of the game don’t do a lot of damage, so you’re often faced with situations where you have two vehicles driving along next to each other trading blows for a few minutes until one of them blows up.
Despite the somewhat slow pace, there are some neat ideas in Convoy and I quite enjoyed my time playing it. Combat is interesting, even if it can become quite formulaic over time, especially when you have to restart the game fairly often. Customisation helps in this regard, as does the occasional mini boss, but combat usually boils down to the same ideas. Convoy will keep rolling on for now, but I imagine that it won’t stick around as long as its inspirations have.
Good customisation options and randomisation keeps things changing.
Combat becomes formulaic after a time, surprisingly slow paced.