Early Access Authorized: Freaking Meatbags is real-time strategy at its funniest
The line between real-time strategy and traditional tower defense combat has been growing thinner and thinner for years, largely at the hands of the ever-innovative indie scene. However, that line has never been more clearly broken than with Freaking Meatbags, studio WildFactor’s breakout title which is currently in Early Access on Steam.
You play as Chip, an unfortunate janitorial robot recently tasked with cleaning up far-off planets—planets currently on a crash course with the system’s sun. Of course, you’ll need more than a Swiffer and rag for the job. Your boss equates clean with exterminate, so you’ll be spending your time building and maintaining defenses in order to fend off nightly waves of wild robots who are all clamoring for a bite at your central base. To make matters worse, the best help most planets have to offer is a handful of lazy and unreliable humans.
That’s right, you’re hurtling toward a fiery doom on hostile planets with nothing more than a bunch of freaking meatbags for company.
"Oh come on, guys; do something!"
Luckily, your army of reluctant blood-sacks is good for more than just absorbing insults; they’ll also gather resources at your command, unlock secret caches and grow your stock with a little help from gene splicing. This frames the basic gameplay triangle: Gather resources, explore the planet, build.
This triangle is made more interesting by a wide cast of supporting structures and utilities. DNA mixing, for example, allows you to select which traits your humans possess, and retain between planets. They’re all effective if complaint-prone resource gatherers, but with a little help from alien genetics, your humans could be complaint-prone resource gatherers with laser eyes. Add in other outcomes like built-in rocket launchers, on-contact detonation and an effective human battery—adding to your power pool and thus increasing the number of structures you can support—and your units themselves become a project of their own.
Maintaining a balance of abilities is crucial for an effective base, if only to provide a fallback web of laser-equipped miners who’ll pick off any wild robots that slip through. You’ll also want to construct mining drills which increase gathering speed in a set location; roads that expedite delivery by giving your humans a speed boost; barracks that increase the number of units you can maintain (overpopulate and the excess will just starve); and defensive walls that blockade and funnel incoming robots, giving your offensive units time to pick them off.
The attacking units at your command are currently somewhat limited due to the game’s infancy, but the basics are there. Gun towers, missile launchers, laser towers and deployable proximity mines will be your bread and butter. Each is uniquely suited to dispatching a certain type of robot—light, heavy, flying, etc.—and will prove necessary at some point. Every tower built takes away from your power supply, thereby incentivizing an upgrade to your total voltage and forcing you to place towers strategically. Coupled with the aforementioned walls, this lets you build a labyrinth of pathways and choke points—no easy task while keeping track of everything else.
Surprisingly, you’re more than just ringleader in all this. As Chip, you’ll also be running around the planet, ideally with a few machine gun and rocket drones at your side, in order to keep things running smooth. Pick up the offensive in an underdeveloped region, collect scattered resources, direct separate squads of humans—you’ll be doing anything and everything that needs doing because your staff is a bunch of squishy imbeciles.
"Oh screw it, I'll do it myself!"
But they don’t have to stay squishy imbeciles! Everything from humans to towers to Chip himself can be upgraded by spending gold and cores, primarily gathered by completing missions and collecting the scraps of defeated robots respectively. In addition, if you can spare the manpower, you can mine a bit of gold from most planets. Similarly, if you have the time to check, you might luck out and find a nice chunk of cores lying in a planet’s farthest corner.
Freaking Meatbags is built on elements cherry-picked from RTS and TD and held together with a well-realized aesthetic, delightful music and a thick coat of humor—sometimes too thick, but generally enjoyable and often laugh-out-loud funny. With so many factors and units to keep track of it can be as frenetic as it is strategic, and fans of either side will want to keep an eye on it as it hurtles toward a full release.