by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
Is aesthetic enough?
Looking at the entirety of the shooter genre, there is a wide variety of locales you traverse and enemies that you fight. You can fight space aliens on Mars, shoot Nazis in Poland and even engage in one-on-one combat against a sentient goldfish in a fishbowl. But no matter where you are or what you are fighting, every shooter is just a bunch of moving polygons with textures over top of them.
And if youíve ever looked at all those textures and thought to yourself ďWhy even bother? I just want to shoot thingsĒ, well have I got the game for you! Itís Minimum, a minimalistic third-person shooter that takes away all of the silly textures you see in other games and replaces it with simple colours on top of cubed polygons. But can a simple aesthetic be enough to make the game stand out?
There are two answers to that question. In order to reach those answers however, lets get the facts out of the way. Minimum is a multiplayer third-person shooter developed by Human Head Studios that has just left Early Access. In terms of story, there is nothing to speak of. Just a bunch of colored, humanoid shaped polygons shooting and slashing at each other for no reason at all. Which is perfectly fine, as the game would betray its aesthetic with the inclusion of one.
Fast paced gameplay
Minimumís gameplay is functionally similar to every other shooter out on the market today. You create a loadout from a wide variety of unlockable weapons and upon spawning proceed to find the nearest opponent and riddle them with bullets. Nothing new in the core formula, and while some of the individual weapons are interesting and over the top (A fire katana and a sniper rifle that fires cryo rounds are two examples), all of the weapons fall under tried and true categories. Youíve got the sniper rifles, the machine guns, the shotguns and so and so forth. Where the game begins to shine with its weapons is via its upgrade system, whereupon every time you kill an enemy with a weapon it gains a power up that increases the weapons power and versatility that lasts until you meet your death. It provides incentive to staying alive, and functions as a proto-killstreak in a way. There is also armor that can be crafted in game to upgrade your characters defense in match, in addition to skins that can be purchased via microtransactions, though I found it had little effect on my survivability.
There are three major game modes to speak of in Minimum, with only one showing any hint of true originality. There is your classic team deathmatch mode, where you shoot at people who are not the same colour as you, as well as the ever-popular horde mode that lets you shoot at mindless enemies for a change. The Titan game mode however is where Minimum shows some originality. In this mode, both teams have a giant robot (The Titans) that march along a predetermined path towards the enemy base. Your team's job is to support the Titan by firing at the enemies Titan, collecting resources from neutral creatures on the maps and generally causing havoc for the other team. The best comparison I can make would be a combination of MOBAs and objective based multiplayer shooters, but it doesnít do the mode justice. And thankfully, it is the most engaging experience in Minimum, as it requires you to change your mindset from shooter based gameplay to a more tactical, albeit fast paced frame of mind in order to succeed.
Getting back to the aesthetics, Minimumís style is certainly one that attracts attention from the get go. Avatars are blocky but humanoid, and colored either white or red to signify whether they are an ally or an enemy. The environments and maps are quite pleasing to look at themselves, as each cube or polygon is almost always one colour. So stacking and rearranging the polygons allows for various environs to be created, ranging from Feudal Japan inspired maps to frozen hills and valleys to a deserted mining pit. Each of the levels looks great, and the design on nearly all of them is spectacular.
For all the things that Minimum does to differentiate itself and for all the things that it remains content in not changing within the shooter genre, there are the frankly massive amount of bugs and balancing issues that currently plague the game. For example, the katana weapon class is incredibly overpowered, with one to three hits being all that is required for a kill in most cases compared to the numerous rounds from most other weapons. As such a lot of matches I played turned into whirling balls of death in the middle of the map, with the advantage going to whoever can keep focus on where they currently are. The targeting reticules for several weapons, though particularly the assault rifles, feel as though they are much too wide, and thus difficult to properly wield.
And then there are the bugs. Truth be told, Iíve never finished a single game in the horde gameplay mode because every time I played the game would fail to spawn a single enemy, which caused the round to never end. Minimum has crashed on me twice during my time with the game, once when I was on the main menu of all things. When you click on a menu, whether it is in game or in your profile, you will often see the code for each weapon or piece of armor that you are looking at instead of their names. Thrown down turrets donít always fire when an enemy is standing directly next to them. I could keep going with the bugs I encountered, but needless to say the devs have a lot of work ahead of them over the next few weeks and months.
Back to the question I asked in my second paragraph: Can a simple aesthetic be enough to make Minimum stand out? While its aesthetic certainly differentiates itself from competition and the Titan game mode is a unique addition, Minimumís gameplay as a whole is bland. If youíre willing to look past the bugs and balancing issues and are intrigued by the minimalistic art style, then give this game a shot. Though if youíre like me, itís best to keep looking for a shooter thatís got some more depth to it.
Great aesthetic, interesting Titan Mode
General gameplay is bland and uninteresting, Plenty of Bugs and balancing issues