Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor, is a lot more fun that the title may suggest. Instead of building space drones for menial tasks around the solar system, you’re actively building and editing drones to help you complete missions on planets in a procedurally generated universe.
Each drone is critical to your survival in the campaign, but there’s so much more on offer than the story. You can create a monstrous drone with as many parts as you can handle in sandbox mode, race drones around tracks and pray that they don’t fall apart, or just create a ridiculous contraption that obliterates worlds.
Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor
Developer: Stray Fawn
Publisher: Stray Fawn, WhisperGames
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: October 3, 2018
Building space drones is a complicated business, as it should be, but Nimbatus manages to simplify it enough so that it becomes easy to understand and, over time, master. The construction interface can be explored freely at your own pace, but there are a set of concise tutorials that get you up to speed within 15 minutes.
Nimbatus’ campaign, or Survival Mode, is a great way to ease yourself into the game. You start out as the pilot of a space drone constructor ship on its way to a new part of the universe. You’re exploring unknown territory, and drones are of course the best way to do that, since they’re expendable.
Having been accosted by The Corp, an unscrupulous intergalactic tech company, who have stolen your ship’s warp drive, you now need to navigate wormholes through various procedurally generated systems in order to get it back.
Each system has a huge variety of worlds. While small, these worlds are built to be explored by the drones you’re able to build with the parts you have available. In this way, the game keeps its pacing at a level where you feel like you’re improving with each wormhole jump.
Indeed, as you traverse more and more wormholes, you’ll be adding increasingly complex parts to your drones, allowing them to perform a plethora of actions. This is important, because each world in every system has an objective.
Your objectives vary from world to world, and some are a lot more dangerous than others. The easier objectives see you simply explore a world in order to map it out, while the tougher ones force you into a planet’s core to gather vital resources.
The campaign mode is brutal, and it’s worth bearing that in mind. If your ship runs out of armor, after being attacked by the various threats this section of the universe hosts, then you’re dead. If you think you’ve then got to start from scratch, you’re absolutely correct, unless you saved recently.
If the main campaign feels too intense, then sandbox mode is where you’ll have the most fun. Here there are no limits on the parts you can construct with, which is both a blessing and a curse. Suddenly you have parts that you don’t understand, but the best way to learn is to just try them out.
Building drones is the meat of the game, and it’s where you’ll have the most fun. Initially you’ll be building drones that you’ll direct yourself using thrusters, but soon you’ll be adding buttons and logic parts that see it drive itself.
There are parts for collecting resources, breaking rocks, shooting enemies or objects on any given world, shielding your drone, cooling it, and so much more. The game could feel overwhelming, but its pacing does a great job of exposing you to a few new parts at a time.
Once you’ve learned how to construct a drone, you really won’t be spending too long doing so. You’ll be able to whack one together to complete the current objective in under 2 minutes, and that’s how you can start to get hooked on this game.
The thought that there’s an entire universe of planets to explore out there, and you can purposely build a specific drone for each one, is too tempting to resist. It’s also great to see your awful first drone evolve over time to become an absolute unit of a machine.
Sandbox mode plonks you into a new universe, one that you’re free to explore without a story. The dangers are all still very present, but you don’t have that pressure of working with a limited number of parts.
I didn’t pay too much attention to the objective, or geology, of my first world, and jumped straight into the constructor. I quickly found a part called the Giga Drill, and decided to make a lethal ball of them which I named Christmas Come Early (because it’s red and green).
Christmas Come Early was a terrible drone. I put too many parts on it, and not enough connectors. Whenever I used a thruster the parts would jiggle violently. If this happens for too long and gains velocity, then the drone falls apart. It’s worth noting that this can happen to any drone.
After a couple of adjustments, mainly making the drone more compact and removing the thrusters, Christmas Come Early was ready. I used gravity as my only source of movement, allowing the drone to fall into the world.
This took a while, and the drone still shook like a two-year-old riding a sugar rush, but soon it made contact with the planet’s surface. When I started up the Giga Drills, the drone went wild. Gravity kept pulling it downwards, and the Giga Drills kept destroying anything in its path.
Things were going really well until I entered the planet’s core, and was consumed by molten lava. Christmas Come Early battled on for a while, but soon succumbed to the heat, and began to explode.
The only real issue I had with Sandbox Mode was the lack of tutorials for more complex parts. These tutorials must be present as you work your way through the campaign, but I would say that most people will jump straight in with this mode.
The only improvement I could ask for is that each part has its own tutorial, or that more tutorials are added to the main menu for those who want to explore what these parts do and then just go crazy with them.
While I definitely had the most fun in Sandbox Mode, I can definitely see the appeal in racing your own drone creations. The game has a number of logic parts that will make your drone follow a waypoint around a track, meaning you don’t need to drive if you don’t want to. It is really bloody difficult.
If you love the idea of racing your own drone though, you can even do this against your friends or random players in multiplayer. I’m definitely not capable of building a fast drone that won’t crash, but I’m sure someone else could.
Overall, Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor is a pleasant surprise. I went into it thinking that it really wasn’t for me. I’m not into Kerbal Space Program or building much of anything in games, but I’m totally hooked on this.
This game has a fantastic visual style. It’s clear that a lot of work has gone into the presentation of each drone part, your ship, and even the worlds. This gives the game’s universe a sense of self, one that you’re eager to learn more about.
This does mean that most drones all share a similar look, but that really isn’t a problem. Unless you’re outright copying someone else’s design, you’ll never make a drone that someone else has made, at least not in the exact same way.
The style is extended into the soundtrack. It brings a deep sci-fi vibe to the game, with both tracks for calm exploration missions, and intense combat scenarios. It does feel a bit silly when the soundtrack ramps up when you’re building a drone, but it does serve to make the building process feel more epic.
You might find that the controls are a downside, but I’d say that they can’t be. A drone will fly as well as you build it to. There are enough stats on offer that you can tweak everything to make a drone run smoothly, all it takes is time.
I would definitely recommend giving this game a try if you’re a fan of space exploration in general as well. The procedural universe feels alive, even though you spend most of your time controlling a mad-looking drone that you built yourself.
For those who enjoy the intricate process of making something that they actually get to use in a world once it’s finished, this game is a dream. There’s enough here to keep you busy for dozens, if not one hundred, hours easily.
Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor was reviewed on Windows PC using a review copy provided by Stray Fawn. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.