Full disclosure: The Endless Mission is an early access title in an alpha build. Everything in the game is subject to change, and is not likely to be representative of the final build.
When I was given The Endless Mission to preview, the premise that I could alter mechanics in-game really appealed to me. For some reason, I didn’t expect to find a creative sandbox. So I started to panic. I have no imagination. In fact, I lack the ability to picture things in my minds eye. So, I’m firmly outside the target demographic for creative sandboxes. I wasn’t sure if I was the right person to preview the title. Regardless, I embraced the challenge, jumped into the game and hoped the tutorial would guide me.
Premise & Story
As mentioned, this is a creation sandbox. The scope and goal of The Endless Mission, though, is unlike no other. It presents itself as a full development tool, where you can alter existing games, create your own and even tweak the code. It’s a game with a far-reaching vision.
The game starts out in a cliché, but engaging manner. You appear outside a futuristic building before entering and being introduced to a glib, flaky AI. The amusing, and well-voiced, AI is as dumbfounded by my presence as I am, but happy all the same because I can test all the games it’s made.
As you enter the first game, you’re taught how to resize assets, delete them and change their properties from decorative to collectible. The AI is embarrassed, because you have to fix the asset properties as you progress through the short, barebones platformer. You’re given ‘tweaks’, which feel like macros, allowing you to bypass the complex menu and alter the properties of assets in-game.
This theme runs throughout the story. Essentially, you are quality assurance for the AI’s games; identifying and fixing issues as you encounter them. Perhaps someone should introduce this novel concept to Todd Howard…
The aim here is to give you the experience and tools needed for when you eventually get to your blank canvas. The problem is that the story doesn’t do a particularly great job of this. The scope of the creation suite – a full on development tool – far exceeds that which you’re taught during the game. This is apparent in the community creations, which unfortunately, feel like Steam’s selection of asset flips.
If you have spent any time with the industry leading creation games, such as Mario Maker and Little Big Planet, you know that community creativity is not in short supply. So, despite my inherent lack of creativity, I felt assured that I would find hours of fun in the community creations. The fun, however, was not to be found.
All racers I played have the same bike assets, also sharing the same weapons and animations. There were a couple of games that I felt were different, such as in the video below. The goal of that game is to find and collect 40 coins, while also avoiding the projectiles of enemies. I genuinely don’t feel like this would be so jarring, if the core gameplay was tight enough to remain fun.
As part of the story, you pass through a Minecraft-like minigame. It contains a medieval story, in which the locals are being subjugated and you’re their omnipotent liberator. While the story is a little cliché with failed attempts at fantasy genre meta humour, it’s the combat that presents the biggest issue. It’s weightless, and has so little visual feedback that I had to move backwards to check the enemy’s health to make sure my hits were registering. This issue pervades the game.
I think this is reflected in the platformer and racing options. The former feels like there is no physics, meaning that I found it difficult to predict where my avatar would land. Likewise, there isn’t really a landing animation, so I found myself spamming the jump key. I tried most of the racing options, with several different vehicles, and didn’t feel like I was going any faster or slower, despite there being stats for acceleration and max speed, finding it impossible to discern the differences between acceleration and full speed.
When I tried using the creation suite, I immediately understood the pervasiveness of asset flips in the community hub. The creation suite is an incredibly powerful tool with such depth that it provides a challenge that is, to me, insurmountable. I couldn’t get to grips with sheer depth and breadth of this mode.
I’m aware this is a PEBCAC issue. However, I think I could be given 20h tutorage in this engine and still not be able to create anything more than a few side-by-side blocks. It feels like a complete game creation tool and I am nowhere near being a developer. Much less a competent one.
I tried and I failed. Kudos to those who succeeded where I could not.
Played on a 6800k, 1070, 16GB DDR4 RAM on M.2 NVME
I need to be honest here. Performance is woeful. Even at 1080p. From the initial scene showcasing the futuristic building, I was seeing drops to around 35FPS.
Worse still during the racing games – which, by the way, present little-to-no complexity – texture popping was so prominent that it was actually distracting. The Endless Mission is in early access, but seems to be close to a realised vision. This is concerning, because the game does not run well at all.
I’m keen to impress that the scope and ambition of The Endless Mission is admirable. I’ve played games like Little Big Planet and Garry’s Mod before. I haven’t seen another game trying to give the user this degree of control over their playbox before. However, in giving players this much scope, the tutorial needs to be far more in-depth. I think this might be key to expansion of the community, whereupon the game will truly shine as a sandbox of fun. In order for the community to grow though, I feel like there needs to be more done to support the inexperienced user.
As a user with no development experience, the tools seem daunting and aimed at those with a foundational knowledge; or at least some form of design experience. What I would say though, is that the game has the potential to be a source of endless fun should the community grow. The game is in early access, so it’s too early to tell whether this will happen.
Because of this, I don’t feel like I can personally recommend this game too anyone without rudimentary knowledge of game design. The game has a grand vision – and one I wholly support – but I feel like the tutorial falls short of preparing players for the endgame. Which, in a game like this, is paramount.
It is in early access, so perhaps when I revisit the game at full release, this may change.
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