by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Enjoying the Simple Things
Some games are concerned with telling a gripping, compelling story. Some games strive to push the boundaries of modern technical achievement. Other games, like Reign of Bullets, just want to let you blow up as much stuff as humanly possible. To be completely frank, I didn’t expect to like Reign of Bullets when I first saw its description and screenshots on Steam. It doesn’t look particularly good visually, it doesn’t do anything particularly unique, and it didn’t seem particularly engaging to play. While those are all still true, I was pleasantly surprised that once I started playing I was quite enjoying myself. While the experience is by no means deep or tactical, there’s a certain charm to a game that has a simple goal, and doesn’t get bogged down by trying to be more than it needs to.
Gameplay in Reign of Bullets really couldn’t be any simpler. Like the hundreds of horizontally scrolling air shooters available out there, your ship is constantly flying to the right while enemies fly around the screen and try to shoot you. You only have two buttons to use: the left mouse to simultaneously fire all of your weapons, and the right mouse button to turn on your shield for a second or so. At first I was thinking that there had to be more they could add to give the game some additional depth. Couldn’t I at least bind my guns to different keys to fire them in various combinations? The more I thought about it, though, the more ok with it I became. Since there’s no such thing as ammo, and you don’t have to worry about any friendly units you might hit, there’s no reason not to fire every weapon every second of the game.
The ship is controlled by dragging your mouse around the screen, and despite a small amount of intentionally implemented lag to give the ship a bit of weight the controls worked extremely well. With enemy bullets flying all over at all times I never once felt like I was hit due to any other fault with my own, which also compliments the competency and consistency of both ship and projectile hit boxes. I will say, however, that while this simplistic style of play lends itself extremely well to short bursts of 10-20 minute play, it does start to become repetitive if you plug away much longer than that. While the enemy designs and weapon effects keep everything looking fresh and fun, it all boils down to moving and shooting ad nauseum. This being the case, between my preference for playing in short bursts and its minimalistic controls, I’m surprised there’s no version on mobile devices. I’d probably be more inclined to keep playing much longer when I have a few minutes here or there than continuing to hop on and play on my desktop for more than a week or two.
Pimp My Spaceship
The heart and soul of Reign of Bullets is in collecting loot and upgrading your ship. Since there’s not really any story to play through or scoring challenges to try and beat, the real sole objective to keep you playing “one more level” after “one more level” is collective and utilizing that sweet, sweet loot. While at first your ship is little more than a junker with a tiny pea shooter of a fun, after each small level segment, each of which lasts under five minutes, you’ll be rewarded with new weapons, upgrades and/or currency. Weapons range from short range flamethrowers, to acid sprayers, to rocket launchers, lasers, and beyond, and with upgrades like damage boosts, enemy piercing, fragmentation, etc., there’s ALWAYS something new to add on to your ship. While it’s possible to spend points on things like a longer lasting shield or higher damage for your default machine gun (which becomes largely worthless pretty quickly), I recommend spending every spare point you have adding more weapons slots. I’ve gotten to six, and it’s absolutely insane. Anyone that comes within 20 degrees of straight in front of me is pulverized in split-seconds, and I love every minute of it. My only complaint with weapon customization is that there really isn’t much of a chance to “strategize”, for lack of a better word. You can do small things, as mentioned above, like give a small boost to your shield, but beyond that there isn’t really any strategy beyond “add as much firepower as possible.” I think it would have fit perfectly well withing the game’s given framework and style to add things like shield generators, cloaking mechanism, or hyper-drives as weapons to let people build ships of more varying focus.
If you’re looking for a game that’s going to engage you with fresh new gameplay mechanics or deep RPG style customization, Reign of Bullets is going to let you down. If you’re just looking for a game that lets you blow up thousands of bad guys with a ship covered in more than its weight in weapons, there are far worse titles to check out. What it lacks in any kind of depth or strategy it makes up for in unadulterated dedication to simple pleasures, and that’s alright in my book.
Satisfyingly ridiculous weapons, tight controls and fun customization.
Not really any strategy to ship upgrades, and eventually becomes quite repetitive.