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Review: Autonauts (Nintendo Switch)By Nayu At 19.07.2022 19:16

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The cute low-poly style of Autonauts with bright colours will appeal highly to some gamers, as well as its target audience, as it feels it is aimed at a younger market due to how instructions are phrased, although older gamers will enjoy it just as much because it can become quite intense once past the early stages. The tutorial explains how the basic principles work: resources like wood and stone need to be procured from the various elements on the planet and turned into items that robots can use. Exploration into dark areas on the map enable those resources to be found; there are forests, beaches, areas to mine and other environments too. Blueprints need to be laid on the ground then resources added to them to create workstations that will create tools, storage objects and other items. There is a charming animation every time enough supplies are gathered and the item is created. Initially a lot of the gathering is with wood. Trees are chopped down into logs, which can then be refined into planks and poles. Sticks and stones are needed for the primitive spade, axe and other tools.

For someone who has never used computer code it might seem daunting that the created robots - at least three hundred are allowed to be created from the start - need to be programmed in order for them to do anything. Thankfully the tutorial goes through each step which is getting the attention of the robot (once it is built), showing it what to do in a few steps, then setting the program so that it will keep repeating until certain situation is reached such as there are no more trees to cut in the area that the robot can operate in, which is limited to a reasonable sized area that can be changed at any point.

It takes a bit of time to get used to how the programming works, but it is fun getting several robots performing multiple actions at once. There is not really a story to it, but there are dozens of tasks that need fulfilling in order to continue to the next stage of developing the area, of which there are eight for each planet. These can be done in any order and do result in more tools and item blueprints being unlocked. There is a day to night cycle but there does not seem to be a difference in gameplay other than it being darker. There is humour dotted throughout in the dialogue, and also small elements like birds stealing berries that have been whacked out of bushes with a stick before they can be collected and stored.

There are two main issues with this that actually make it become completely unenjoyable. The first is that tools break quite quickly and need to be remade. Despite initial attempts to get robots to create tools, it is quicker for the player to do the tool making then give the tool to the robot who will then carry on with their task. For example, when there is a lot of seed to plant, so spades are needed to dig holes in the soil, it gets irritating having to constantly make new spades and keep handing them to the robot, because the tree falling robot and the log chopping robot also need a regular supply of axes. The robots can be programmed to pick up equipment in a set area and then run their program, but the tools still break out at some point, causing a halt to the operation until the tool is replaced.

Worse still is the bizarre quirk that brought a premature end to the game before the higher levels of civilisation could be achieved. Robot programs should keep running until there are no more supplies in the area the robot works in. At first they ran their programs regularly, only stopping when out of equipment. However, past the tutorial, the robots would randomly get stuck on part of their program. It was not because they had broken their equipment, or because they had another robot get in their way. Stopping the program, then setting down the equipment or item if applicable and then restarting it fixed the issue, but for some reason that kept happening with all robots, each one almost frozen and unable to do the next part of the program which had worked many times in the past without issue.

If the problem had happened a handful of times it would have been acceptable, but it happened with every robot repeatedly, and it was faster to ignore the robots and do the tasks manually which goes against the whole point of Autonauts: automating processes with ease. There was not an issue with programming because some used the same program that the tutorial used, and none of the programs had been changed - robots can be made to wait a while before continuing a task, so long as they have enough memory in their brains to do that step. This autosaves, and there are a few save slots, but no amount of reloading could change the inexplicable problem.

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Final Score
It is a shame that [i]Autonauts[/i] has a notable bug that rapidly reduced enjoyment and led to a premature end of the game. The style and concept are well executed, allowing many approaches to completing progression goals that are so numerous completionists will be in heaven. Creating and replacing tools as they break is an acceptable part of the game, but constantly having to stop and start robots in their actions because of an inexplicable error loses the whole automated process that is central to [i]Autonauts[/i]' functionality.



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