Project Nimbus was originally a kickstarter game that managed to amass enough funds years back. Last year, the game released on both Steam and PS4 under the Code Mirai designation. Recently, Switch owners can now taste the full experience with Project Nimbus: Complete Edition. Despite the well-meaning goals of the indie-developer, there are definitely some kinks in this mecha armor. Despite this, fans of the genre may still find something to enjoy.
As aforementioned, Project Nimbus is a mech combat game. Players operate in a vast area in which they can pilot their giant robot. Not only can mechs fly back, forth, left or right, but also ascend and descend. Understanding how a mech controls is one of the key elements of succeeding in Project Nimbus. Considering how frantic the action in the game is, knowing how to control the mech is vital. Enemies will attack and zoom in and out of viewing range without hesitation, and figuring out what direction to fly to can lead to certain disorientation. The game does a fair job explaining how the mobility works, there’s still a learning curve to the entire system.
Players can choose from a variety of different giant robots armed with machine guns, homing missiles and other destructive arsenals. Since a lot of the opposing forces will be further away, enemies will often appear as red or pink X’s. While this makes the overall presentation cluttered with said marks, it’s common with this genre. It’s possible to use machine guns and aim at an enemy, but more than often the best solution is to lock on and fire instead. Other weapons behave in a similar way; effectively using the missiles, for example, requires locking on the enemy and then releasing the button. By pressing the fire button without locking, missiles often fly individually without pinpointing a single target which makes them less viable.
Some weapons are definitely better than others. Rail guns fire quickly and inflict a sizeable damage, much more than the pea-shooter machine guns. However, players won’t be able to spam the powerful weapons indefinitely, as each weapon has its own cooldown period. Using a cooldown is welcome since there is no need to look for ammo around the map aimlessly, as ammo replenishes after being completely used. The cooldown also applies to the boost mechanic as it isn’t infinite as well. It’s just a shame the boost replenishes a lot slower than the weapons do.
That, however, isn’t the biggest issue with the mechanic. A weapon must be used fully in order to be replenished. For example if the rail gun only has one shot left, the weapon will not recharge extra ammo until you fire the last shot. Considering the pulse-pounding pace of the action, ammo depletes extremely fast, and more than often I found myself waiting for a weapon to reload even if I haven’t used it in a long time. It breaks the flow of the game and thus make the experience more tedious than it should be.
It doesn’t help that the UI itself doesn’t do a good job showing which weapon is equipped in the quick select menu on the bottom right. Thankfully there is an option to use a weapon wheel that slows down time, sort of like Ratchet and Clank. The wheel is rather finicky at times, and considering the speed of the action, it’s inferior for choosing the right tool in a split-second decision.
Even on the normal “Gamer Recommended” difficulty, Project Nimbus is rather difficult. Mecha enthusiasts might be able to breeze through the game, but newcomers will experience visual overload from the chaos occurring on screen. It becomes even more chaotic when enemies have their own homing missiles to cause massive damage. Using flares can lose locked-on enemy missiles, also having a cooldown. While it’s clever that using the flares require pressing on the left analog stick, which is already for darting around the map, it doesn’t make remembering all those different buttons and what they do any easier. In fact, seeing constant warning of “missile alert” combined with what seems to be an endless number of blinking red marks can be visually daunting. It doesn’t help that there are no health pickups in the game at all. There are still checkpoints if death occurs in a mission though.
There are several single player modes to dabble in. The first is the main campaign. There are several acts and each has chapters. The story entails a world living in the skies after a war ravaged the Earth. The game allows players to control both sides in an ongoing war, which is an admirable quality. However, the story itself is so trite and poorly told that any interest in the narrative wanes immediately. Cutscenes are bland and often depict mission briefing without much context and with stilted narration. This leads to the vocal performance which is extremely wooden and devoid of any emotion. Considering the genre usually involves melodramatic action akin to Gundam or Transformers, the laughable acting is amateur to say the least. It’s an indie project at the end of the day, so I can give the actors a pass, but it is important to point out.
Survival mode functions like the horde mode in Gears of War. Defeating waves upon waves of enemies with the purpose to obtain a high score. Unlike the story mode, any of the 12 available mechs can be used instead of a pre-determined one. The best mode in the game by far is Warfront. Players can choose between the two warring mechfactions and partake in a variety of missions. Different mechs can be unlocked as more missions are accomplished, and they can even be upgraded. Enemies drop resources that you can use to enhance particular elements, such as reload time, boost capacity and more.
One of the more gracious features is that you can still keep resources even if the mission results in failure. This means mechs can still take upgrades in order to alleviate some of the challenge. What hinders the mode is how it handles experience. New missions unlock by reaching a certain experience quota, and if you don’t obtain the new level, players must redo the same missions over and over. This makes the mode a lot more repetitive. Since missions are already lengthy, they become more grind-inducing than actual fun.
The best element of Project Nimbus is its graphics. While maps themselves are sparse and don’t have a lot of detail, the action itself is fast and fluid. The Switch version in particular is capable of running at 60 frames per second. While there’s slowdown when there’s a lot of action going on screen, it quickly picks back up to normal speed. The soundtrack is also surprisingly good, featuring a lot of bombastic orchestras that fits the action well.
Mecha fans who played games such as Armored Core or Zone of the Enders might find a lot of enjoyment out of Project Nimbus. The tight controls and fluid action suit the variety of different mechs and weapons well. The somewhat complex maneuverability also makes it an easy purchase for said aficionados. However, its inane story, chaotic UI, rigorous progression system and brutal difficulty hinder the experience. This game is purely recommended to the fans of the genre and others should consider before partaking in this frantic voyage.