Mesoamerican Battle Bots

By Engi, 23 November 2015

I’m going to let readers in on a little secret of how I decide what games to review. I watch a lot of youtube videos and if something seems fun, I dive into it. This is no different for Mayan Death Robots. I had first heard about the Sileni Studios title after watching an episode of Outside XBox. They’re one of my favorite sources of video games media (other than StickyBunton of course) and when I saw Mayan Death Robots fighting each other, how could I not want to try it out. I mean, it has ancient mesoamerican cybertronic alien battles! What’s not to love in that sentence?

Disclosure: This review was written using a press copy of the game.

Mayan Death Robots, at its power core, is a multiplayer worms-like battle game. I say worms-like, because the genre of artillery strategy games was popularized by those bilateria buddies at Team 17. In truth the genre has been around since Artillery for the Apple II. So what does Sileni Studios bring to the war zone that makes it unique? We could say it’s the art style, which has a cartoony and fun feel, or even that each death robot feels fun to play and unique. Those factors do help, but it’s the gameplay that makes Mayan Death Robots feel fresh.

Unlike its predecessors, Mayan Death Robots is a real time battle with turn based elements. Every turn you pick to attack, move, or create terrain to protect you and your power core. When your move is locked in, both you and your opponent conduct your moves simultaneously. This makes the game a lot twitchier and have some psychological warfare added to it. Aim at the enemy’s power core to strike a blow toward victory, but at the last minute, switch to the ground under their feet and watch them plummet to the lava below. It takes some getting used to, and can be still incredibly nerve wracking even when you get comfortable. It also makes kills and victories so much more rewarding, as you feel much more in control than when you play a game like Worms Armageddon and someone just bats you off a cliff.

When I first started playing, I completely overlooked the value of being able to create terrain. Every turn you survive grants you one tetrino of terrain to use, up to a max of five. Having played Worms and other artillery games, I ignored this and just abused my opponent, which proved ineffective. As I killed him over and over, they destroyed the area around my power core, and I had to watch at it fell into the waters below and I lost the game. I started to use the terrain more in the way the AI would, protecting the core, and blocking shots. This truly puts the strategy in strategy artillery shooter.

There is a single player campaign to unlock more weapons, robots, maps, which I appreciate, but it’s one of the weaker spots of the game. I’m not saying that it should’ve gone multiplayer only, but when you can lose ten games in a row while still progressing in the story, there’s something wrong there. I like to earn those special robots and weapons, not have them spoon fed to me. The story is also largely forgetful and can be summed up as giant robot battles are cool and Mayans are cute, so we started an intergalactic TV show. The campaign can be played cooperatively, which I highly recommend doing for several reasons. One, this game is just way better with friends. Two, the special conditions and challenges in the campaign are as fun as a bucketful of puppies. Three, the boss fights. Sileni Studios made some amazing bosses for players to combat. Taking a momentary pause from wrecking the opponent’s core to fight an Elder God is just so satisfying and visually appealing that it almost makes me not care that I usually lose right after its slain.

I’m going to use your skull as a chili bowl.

It’s everything that you could want from one, except online multiplayer.  For some inexplicable reason, there is no online multiplayer. There’s local, which is great for couch co-op fans, but those are mostly console users. For a PC gamer, you really want to be able to play over the internet with your buddy half way around the world or a random gamer that you’ve never met. Without a online multiplayer component, the game feels likes it’s missing spirit of being a multiplayer game. Heck, I would even suggest going 4-player online multiplayer would be insanity, there could be so much fun to be had with four robot gods flying across the map and shooting. Think Towerfall, but a much more reasonable pace and more explosions.

There is potential here, Mayan Death Robots is a fun twitchy title, but has some major pitfalls where the single player is concerned and the missing online multiplayer makes the game hollow. I would not suggest getting this game for PC, but instead wait for when it launches onto Xbox One and PS4 in early 2016 where it will find its audience.

Update 11/24/15: The auto-progress in singleplayer is being addressed by Sileni Studios. A patch will fix this in the next few days.