Release Date: June 4, 2021
Sometimes, I forget how much the attitude and aesthetic of a game can add to – or detract from – enjoyment. Obviously, games are best when all the parts feel like they compliment each other, and they all fit the tastes of a given player. Depending on personal taste, even one element feeling off can ruin an entire experience, or it can just be a small annoyance in an otherwise excellent experience.
I knew very quickly that Garbage wasn’t going to be for me – I found the whole tone of the game offensive. While I take responsibility for not doing a good enough job reading about the game before purchasing it, a playable homeless person fight club just feels wrong to me, an uncomfortable making light of a serious humanitarian issue. However, I do generally enjoy simulation games, and I was curious to see if the actual gameplay was enjoyable enough to make me able to ignore the icky feeling I had about the premise.
The short answer was, no, it did not. There are seeds of what might have been an interesting game if it came in a different wrapper and had the mechanics cleaned up a bit. Basically, you scavenge for loot, use the materials to build structures in your home base, and interact with those structures to improve your character and prepare for quests and battles. It’s not exactly groundbreaking in either the RPG or simulation genres. You need to manage three conditions (hunger, hygiene, and warmth) each of which can cause a pretty significant debuff condition if allowed to get too low. You also have to train your combat skills (strength, agility, and defense). As your level increases, you can unlock different abilities, and some other ability slots, as well as get incremental increases to both your health and energy. It’s not a bad game play loop at its core.
Which leads to the other thing I really didn’t care for, which was the absolute monorail style. You can travel, but only to one area. Once you gather the materials there, they don’t respawn (although you may find slightly different resources and NPCs depending on time of day), so unless you can effortless beat the fight encounter that allows you to unlock the next area, I can see it being possible to get soft-locked out of progression, especially on the harder difficulties. All the encounters proceed automatically once you’ve chosen which character or characters to send in for the fight, so there’s no real strategy to combat. In some instances, fights in later areas felt far easier than the ones that came before, and you don’t know the difficulty of a battle without committing to fighting it.
I don’t know if I could ever like the game given the way I feel about the conceit overall, but I feel like Garbage is designed to provide a playable (but not really enjoyable) experience for folks that like the concept, and can overlook some weak game design to watch mostly naked homeless people beat each other up.
I was surprised that Garbage sold as well as it did – SteamDB estimates somewhere between 14,800 and 40,600 copies. Reviews are mostly positive, with the majority of detractors citing gameplay issues and bugs. It is ranked 4556 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.