Reviews// Minimum

Posted 16 Oct 2014 11:32 by
'Minimum'. A word that means the least of, the very barest of what could be regarded as a 'thing' or even a tangible idea. Minimum extols this ideal by essentially cutting away all of the 'flannel' that exists within the realm of video games and narrows its attention on what makes games so utterly absorbing. In a medium where a $500 million budgeted title can cause people to fall asleep while playing it, you can see why Human Head Studios has decided to go for the, ahem, minimalist approach when making Minimum.

Minimum is a third-person team combat game that supports both ranged and melee-based engagements. Players are rewarded for their prowess on the battlefield by automatically upgrades for their weapons for every kill they make. As players kill others they become more powerful and, in turn, they also become a prized target. This is balanced by teams working together to take down the powerful players.

Those wielding upgraded devices that spew death at an alarming rate tend to be marked out for destruction themselves very rapidly. I'm speaking from experience here, as during the many hours I've spent playing this game I have been very much on the receiving end of the combined vengeful fury of the opposing team.

Minimum does encourage customisation and as players gain experience during play they open up new weapons and armour. This new kit can be used in player matches that have a very strict and largely functioning ranking system. This means that players will only encounter similarly-equipped opponents in any one game. This makes for a very enjoyable playing experience as no-one is terribly over-powered, and those that are meting out death to the opposing team members through the use of skill more than some inherent imbalance.

Minimum is not perfect in this regard, however, and much work needs to be done to address, for example, some of the spawn-camping issues I have encountered, which are a bane of games such as this.

Minimum currently sports three modes of play: Team Death Match, Titan and Horde Mode. Both Team Death Match and Horde modes are well known and do not require any further explanation, but the core of Minimum is the Titan mode. This form of play has links to MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) style games, with some aspects of it being automated and players acting as facilitators to ensure overall victory.

In Titan mode, players must ensure a towering robot or 'Titan', which they cannot directly control, makes its way across the arena to the opposing team's power core. Both teams have a Titan each and they are re-spawned once both Titans have been destroyed; either by each other's hand or by defences (or even the teams themselves). Titans are upgraded between bouts by collecting drops made by 'creeps' that skitter around the arena. These are neutral beings that both sides need to kill in order to harvest resources to build better Titans.

Minimum does its utmost to remain pure to the game experience and it does this by communicating to the player very clearly what is happening. This is done by having low-resolution textured, low polygon count models that allow Minimum to zip along at a very high frame rate. This gives a very fluid feel when dashing across the map to eviscerate some unfortunate opponent.

The sound design follows a similar philosophy, with directional technologies used to pinpoint the origins of attacks. When the player is close to death they start to glow, while a high-pitched whine is emitted that warns combatants of their impending doom. Minimum is all about communication and removing the fog that can often exist in games as more and more 'flannel' is applied to them during their development.

Human Head Studios are promising many updates to Minimum (Horde Mode is a fruit of that, as it didn't exist when Minimum was released). It does have micro-transaction items in it, but they are all vanity-based and thus have zero impact on gameplay. There is an initial payment to buy Minimum, so it is not actually a free-to-play game. It just shares the vanity items that crop up in games like DOTA2 and Team Fortress 2 to the point where Minimum even has hats in it. Not figurative ones. Actual hats.

Minimum is an excellent game that I have found very difficult to put down. It has a great deal of potential for growth and I could quite easily see it working on a console, as I found the controller to be the optimum tool of choice when slicing an opponent up with a very large sword.

My only gripes concern the balancing issues that currently exist, especially the melee combat. Close quarters combat in Minimum can at times appear to be incredibly powerful to the point where players can turn into juggernauts as they rampage across arenas, something Human Head Studios is hopefully aware of and is doing its utmost to fix.

Pros:
+ Very fast and fluid experience
+ Short matches and frequent player rewards
+ Minimalist (sorry!) presentation
+ Pure game play design from the ground up
+ It's got hats in it

Cons:
- Balancing issues, especially with respect to melee combat
- Simplistic visuals may put players off
- Spawn camping prevalent in some arenas

SPOnG Score: 8/10
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