Quick Look – Doomsday Vault (#JustOnePercent 67/100)

Developer: Flightless
Release Date: August 5, 2021
MSRP: $16.99

Doomsday Vault has been sitting in my library, mostly unplayed, for the better part of a year now. This is entirely my own fault. You see, shortly after it was released, I saw something about it on Twitter, and made the erroneous assumption that this was a robot farming game. When I loaded it up and discovered that instead it was a robot puzzle game, I immediately lost interest and closed it out. This is why one should always read the game description on the store page before making impulse purchases.

It’s not that I don’t like puzzle games – I definitely do – but it wasn’t the game I wanted it to be at the time. Choosing to play it during the project was a no brainer then – since it was already in my library and in a genre I usually enjoy.

You are a tiny robot on a mission – find seedlings of the earth’s plant life and bring them back to your vault. Since this is post-apocalyptic, there are no enemies to contend with – you simply need to navigate each map, looking for seedlings and the nutrients you will need to grow them. Traversing these maps will require some light puzzle solving skills, but in the first hour or so of the game, I didn’t come across anything that made me think too hard about it.

You do have a power meter, and there are a (very) few things that will deplete that meter. Just walking around and collecting things won’t put any strain on you, and battery packs seem to be plentiful. Each level has a single seedling, as well as at least 100 nutrients and one or more carbon eaters for you to reassemble. You can replay levels at any time to find the things you’ve missed, but if you manage to get about half of the available nutrients, you will at least be able to grow the seedling you acquired.

The main game is only 14 levels – in my hour of play, I completed 5 of those before getting stuck on the sixth level. This does make Doomsday Vault a fairly short game, but the game does also include a challenge mode to extend playtime. You will also unlock plenty of cosmetic upgrades for your small robot character, and for some folks, that’s a whole other game play element to pursue.

For me, Doomsday Vault falls in that weird chasm of not being challenging enough to be compelling, while still not being so easy as to just fly through it. Part of that is that it felt like I was forever fighting the controls – moving around just doesn’t feel good, and that’s not a great look on a game that really wants you to scrounge around in every nook and cranny. It’s not so bad as to make the game unplayable, but it’s bad enough to discourage excessive exploration.

Conceptually, the game is fine, but its rough edges make it less compulsively playable than it could be. Even if I could figure out what I’m doing wrong on level 6, it’s unlikely that this is a game I would want to spend too much more time with.

SteamDB estimates that Doomsday Vault has sold between 200 and 500 copies on Steam. Reviews have been mostly positive, with the one negative review also mentioning clunky-feeling controls. It is ranked 4591 out of 10,967 games released in 2021.

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