I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying, “Beauty is only skin deep” at some point in our lives. It’s one of those early life lessons that we’re all exposed to somewhere along the line, and it’s probably one of the most important lessons a lot of us will ever learn. I’m getting a bit up there in years, but even now this lesson occasionally pops up to humble me. Minimum is a brilliant-looking game with an extremely sleek visual aesthetic, but at the end of the day it forgot this particular lesson.
Minimum is an interesting mix of a third-person shooter and a more traditional MOBA title. While there are three distinct modes available in the game, only one of them offers anything resembling any sort of creativity. Your standard deathmatch mode and a horde mode where your team simply blows away mindless enemies are present, but they’re largely an afterthought. What the game hangs its hat on is its Titan mode, which introduces many of the elements found in traditional MOBA games.
Titan mode sets two teams of five players in a quest to escort their team’s Titan into the enemy base in an effort to destroy a generator. This may seem like a basic concept, but it’s easily the highpoint of the game, adding in a bit of strategy that we’ve never really seen in a shooter title before. The two Titans will duke it out when they meet on the battlefield, but it’s up to your team to help take down the opposing Titan while defending your own. Once both Titans fall on the battlefield, the “Creep” mode begins, allowing you to hunt down creeps, which boost the strength of your Titan before his next appearance.
As you play through the game, you’ll collect resources that will allow you to craft armor during matches, as well as allow you to craft new weapons from the main menu. Weapons themselves can be upgraded, but not in the traditional method that you might expect. Going on kill streaks will power up your weapon, giving you more stopping power and usually a decent looking visual effect to boot, but as soon as you die you’re back to the stock loadout.
Visually, Minimum definitely stands out. The minimalistic style of blocky characters offers a very unique aesthetic. The best way I’ve heard to describe it so far would be Minecraft in HD, but that still falls a bit short. Watching realistic flames dance off of a cubeman’s sword seems to hit the best of both worlds, and really highlights something we’ve said here for quite some time. Graphics don’t mean anything if the aesthetics aren’t well done.
The problems with Minimum can be found without even actually having to play the game, as all you really need to do is watch the chat box. You’ll find the occasional, “Nice shot” or “Good round,” but the vast majority of what I encountered broke down around one word: “Sword.” See, the weapons in Minimum aren’t just poorly balanced, they seem to have almost zero balance. A player even mildly skilled with the swords can easily destroy most of your team thanks to poor damage scaling, leaving you to either take a moral stand and try to somehow take down a rampaging ninja with the equivalent of a pea shooter, or break down and join them. It’s not fun, it’s not engaging, and it’s a sign of a broken game.
On top of unbalanced gameplay, there are some bugs that simply kill any enjoyment the game offers. My time with the horde mode ended abruptly when the game simply failed to spawn an enemy, leaving me sitting in what’s essentially an empty room waiting for something to happen. Turrets will sometimes decide to simply not shoot enemies and opt to instead serve as more of a decoration. And finally, my personal favorite, we encountered some massive latency issues that resulted in the game slowing to a halt of mercifully booting me back the main menu.
Minimum may have been given a full release after spending quite some time in Early-Access purgatory, but I can’t help but think that it would have been better served with more time in the oven. If this was a preview, I’d very likely be more forgiving of its shortcomings, but this is now a full release and it falls way short of what should be expected. I honestly hope that the ship can be turned around and that the game can be given more time and attention to iron out its bugs and balance issues, because the aesthetics alone make this one of the more interesting titles out there. However, like I said at the start, beauty is only skin deep. Ugliness? That’s to the bone.
This review is based on the PC title, which was given to us for review purposes.