Drone Zone – Isotopium: Chernobyl Multiplayer Keeps It Real

Here’s a collision of interesting things. Remote Games are the blokes behind Isotopium: Chernobyl, and the premise is pure magic. Players control wheeled drones and remotely roll around a scale model of the infamous reactor and nearby town, searching for energy caches and seeking out new locations. Slivers of escape room meets Joe Haldeman’s Forever Peace. It’s currently in Kickstarterdom.

And you can play a timed demo right now. Go on.

It’s a fascinating concept, free, and platform-agnostic. Tableeters, beige boxers, maybe even console owners; all with browser capability and sign up and jump behind the wheel of an available drone. Connection issues and response times are largely mitigated by wheeled vehicles in place of flightly quad copters, and while the miniature environment is detailed and multi-leveled, it’s relatively easy to navigate even its most complex of areas.

Tiered energy caches salvaged from the landscape offer different bonuses and effects, including unlocking new areas in some cases and the ability to capture buildings. Some of these aspects haven’t yet been introduced, but even just the act of rumbling around this Lilliputian creation is fascinating. It does lack a true high level artistry, so don’t go in looking for ILM-grade sets, but the scale feels right and is helped along by the squat rollers.

Controls are easy, but this is a game of constant presses, rather than light taps. After all, you’re remoting into actual machines somewhere in a warehouse, so strong, purposeful directions are key. Commit, comrades.

So far, I’ve enjoyed immediate access to drones, and even done a cursory tour with a bunch of other pilots. Something rather cool about that, lurking around the Soviet slabs with other operators. This could conceivably become bogged down with queues as time goes by, but for now, if access is not immediate, the wait will be negligible.

The business model for the current build is a sort of F2P, with finite energy before you lose control of your buggy. This can be extended by purchasing energy via the browser store, or trading salvaged isotopes for time. It sounds a bit grifty, but it depends on what you’re willing to pay for something so novel.

It’s telling. For all the high technology being foisted upon us — the VR, the AR, smart this and that — the most exciting thing I’ve found in recent years is a GoPro’d RC car, driving around someone’s oversized wargaming table. Chernobyl is just the first of many planned environments, with Mars next on the agenda. Curious. I mean, Curiosity.

Early days for Isotopium: Chernobyl, but intriguing ones.

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