A repetitive, uninspired mech game that somehow manages to make giant fighting robots boring.
Look, I don’t think it’s difficult to get people invested in the idea of battling mechs. As strange as the human obsession is with creating weapons of mass destruction modelled after our own anatomy, I’m sure nearly every person is bound to at least pivot their heads when they see Voltron forming or a Gundam flail it’s comically large sword around. The idea of piloting one of these colossal death machines is inherently cool; They walk, they fly, they have an arsenal of weaponry attached to every orifice. Just that summation alone should be enough to explain why mech games have such a dedicated and unwavering fan base: They’re goddamn cool. Yet Project Nimbus, bafflingly, takes the concept of flying your very own battle mech and delivers one of the most uninspiring additions to the sub-genre I’ve seen in years.
Project Nimbus will see you piloting Battle Frames and shooting down enemies in the sky. That’s it. Now, that might sound like an over-simplification of the gameplay, but every mission revolves around that same loop. Whether you’re defending an allied ship or some oil tankers it plays like a very frantic flight simulator. I think that’s my biggest issues with Project Nimbus; if one were to remove the humanoid robots and slap in some helicopters or jets with futuristic weaponry and a slightly smaller turning circle, it would play exactly the same. All the enemies you encounter are functionally identical and all the games missions revolve around blowing them up quickly or blowing up enough to survive. It’s simple, but not in the way that makes it easy to invest your time into. Simple in that it gets stale very quickly.
And the lack of variety doesn’t get any better over the game’s different modes. The campaign offers a story, Survival offers a wave-based “last as long as you can” affair and Warfront is where the bulk of your time would likely be spent. Over a series of selectable mission types, players will be able to earn points and currency to level up, unlocking new Battle Frames and upgrade their already owned models. Yet, the improvements are only statistical in nature. It never really feels like an accomplishment when you enhance your boost or reload speed because it’s never initially obvious that it’s better. I don’t think I’m alone when I say that upgrades are always better when they actively change something, be it visually or in terms of player feedback. All the mechs pilot the same, zipping around in the air with full 360-degree control, the better models just have more weapons. Yet to unlock those better models you’ll have to grind through the same, monotonous missions to just get to level 3. It’s a painful gameplay loop, one that barely rewards the time players will invest in it.
What what is perhaps most baffling to me is the utter lack of customisation available to the player. You won’t be able to design your own mechs or playstyles, switching out specific parts to build your unique experience. Battle Frame improvements are blanketed categories: Speed Duration upgrade, or Reload Speed upgrade. Nothing is mech specific, nor can you unlock unique parts. That means there’s literally no reason to use the starter Battle Frame when you have a more advanced model unlocked. Different stats per Frame would have made for an experience that allowed for player expression, focusing on speed over firepower or rather selecting the lumbering, tanky mech with a boat-load of missiles.
And this problem with similarity carries over to the level design too. While visually different, taking players from a flying city to the big ol’ ocean surface, nothing is unique. Structures won’t damage you when you fly into them, meaning you don’t need to take into account a new variable within more industrial areas; you can move around the space exactly the same as if you were in the open sky. The locations look like something ripped out of the PSP. In fact, that could be said about most of the game’s visuals. It looks extremely dated, from the highly unpolished and uninspired mech design all the way to the janky UI. Project Nimbus, in many ways, feels like a mobile game rather than something ported over to the Switch from PC.
The story is awful. So bad that I actually had to restart the game twice because I was convinced I had missed some sort of explanatory cutscene. It takes the approach of throwing military jargon and sci-fi technobabble at you in the hopes that it’ll sound cool and therefore be engaging. Yet it fails at this as most of the inane babble characters spit back at each other during holographic strategy skins akin to early Call of Duty games, bounced off me like deflated ball. You’ll have audio logs to listen to before campaign missions boldly titled things like, “Iwata’s Ideology” that involve a man droning on about some mundane global philosophy which only served to bore me even more. There’s a paper thin lore explaining it all, characters who many will probably only remember because of their anime portraits and a plot that unfolds into absolutely nothing.
Project Nimbus is not a good game. It is a game that succeeds at doing what I had previously thought impossible and takes the high octane thrill ride of piloting a mechanised human and strips it of any excitement, life or joy only to leave behind a carcass of monotonous gameplay, bland visuals and an absolutely painful story.
Last Updated: May 20, 2019