Goliath could stand tall, but it'll need some polish first


Say hello to my not-so-little friend

Going by the towering monsters and robots gracing Goliath‘s menu screen, you’d be forgiven for thinking Whalebox’s upcoming game involved clashes between sky-scraping beast.

In truth, the game’s scale is a little more Titanfallthan Evangelion, with the titular Goliaths “merely” being house-sized and thereabouts. Still, after some time with a pre-release beta build, I’m thinking that with some needed polish under its belt, the game could be compelling enough to let some of its big ideas loom large.

Playing as a pilot marooned on some bizarre alternate world, the first thing I noticed was howbig everything is. I don’t just mean that world in the sense of Goliath‘s chunky, cartoonish art style which evokes more ofThe Iron Giantthan, say, Battletechor Gundam. Even the harmless rabbit-like critters populating my initial zone (the game’s areas are divided into 50 procedurally-generated “shards” across a range of biomes) were as big as a large dog. Most of the other intelligent characters, and more importantly the enemies, start at Mack truck-size and only get bigger from there. To paraphrase Pacific Rim, to fight these monsters, I’d need to create monsters of my own.

And I did. Goliath practically rocketed me into the action, setting me up with a home base and enough nearby resources to jump into my very first Goliath, a wooden automaton that reminded me of Hearthstone‘s Harvest Golem. As to exactly why my character knew how to build Goliaths in the first place, or why he sported a robot arm with a built-in invisibility device (for scampering away from enemies when lacking a Goliath to fight in), I’m still unclear, but hey, the time-to-robot was refreshingly quick.

In fact, a lot about Goliathcould be described as quite speedy. That’s a rather uncommon trait to have, considering that Whaleboxmelded the action with the resource-harvesting and crafting mechanics of survival games like Don’t Starve.

It’s almost funny, given that most survival games are characterized by the need to punch trees until wood comes out as the first step, that Goliath flips the script a bit. Here, if you’re actually punching trees and rocks for resources, that means you’re already “teched up”, since it’s your massive suit of armor that’s doing all the punching.

Combat was also quick to pick up, thanks to relatively simple controls. My wooden Goliath could punch and ground-pound its way to victory over the local wildlife, and as it leveled up I gained cooldown-governed special attacks to use, including ranged boulder tossing and a whirlwind spin attack.

Upgrades also came quickly as I transitioned through my Goliath’s stages. Goliaths belong to different classes based on their material, with wooden, stone, and metal Goliaths forming the core three types, each with different weapon preferences and innate traits. Wooden Goliaths, for example, start regenerating health when it’s raining or if they’re standing in water, but are vulnerable to fire attacks. Swapping out their parts can also change their attributes and bonuses. These parts are unlocked by completing achievement-like challenges.

In little time, I unlocked a fire-elemental variant of my wooden Goliath (it looks like it was just in a forest fire), right on cue for me to move to a desert stage full of fire-wielding enemies.

You can also construct extra Goliaths, either to serve as backup suits in case your current Goliath gets trashed, or as party members of a fashion that fight and follow you around automatically. Smart players will want to keep a deep bench of different Goliath types to adapt to changing conditions or enemies.

So far the game shows promise, and Whalebox boasts of a main story penned by Eisner award-winning comic book author Zander Cannon, whose original book KaijuMaxis a great prison drama seen through the lens of Ultraman, Godzilla and Tokusatsufandom. Hopefully, some of that creativity will manifest as the plot develops.

I’m saying “hopefully” here, because this is where I mention my biggest concern about the game at this point: the distinct lack of polish.

For one, the build of Goliaththat I played seemed to be missing a number of sound effects (combat was unusually silent for a fight between a two-story-tall wooden robot and a tiger twice that size). The game’s quest objectives were unhelpfully vague, and grammatical and spelling errors abounded. Not to mention significant portions of the game’s text, including a number of important tooltips and some dialog, has yet to be translated from Russian.

Further, the game’s interface and controls seem to be overly finicky when played on a gamepad, even though using one seems to be the more natural choice for managing Goliath‘s style of combat. Using a wired Xbox 360 controller, I found I had to press buttons multiple times for the game to register an interaction properly. This, and other technical issues like crashes and inexplicable drops in performance, leave me unsure as to what state the game will be in when it launches a week from now.

That said, there is still time untilGoliath‘s May 12 release date, so with luck Whalebox’s actual release build of will have the kinks ironed out. It would be a shame (though somewhat poetic) if an otherwise interesting indie title were to be brought low by a horde of small flaws.

[This preview is based on an in-development build of the game provided by the publisher.]