The Mechanical Madness of Meet Your Maker
The term “came out of nowhere” is overused but one of the cases where this term feels appropriate is Meet Your Maker. The first time I heard about his game was during the Steam Next Fest as the developers made a sizeable demo available to play. I never played the demo but I heard Jeff Gerstmann discussing it on his podcast and it intrigued me. It's a game with two different main mechanics. It is a first person shooter where you are invading bases in order to secure materials to take back to your base and upgrade your equipment. It is simultaneously a base building game. You build a base with all sorts of traps and enemies inside in an attempt to stop other players from stealing your genetic materials. It’s a cool concept that I wanted to see more of so I picked it up on Xbox. I was initially turned off by the visual style. It is set post apocalypse and the visual style is exactly what comes to mind when you envision a desert wasteland. Think Mad Max Fury Road without any of the silver spray paint and color flashes. Browns, muted reds, grays, everything is very drab. The enemies look like they were lifted straight from id’s apocalyptic romp from 2011, Rage. Fleshy humanoids with vaguely mechanical attachments shooting red projectiles at you. There are some variations, a flying enemy, a brute, etc, but they are very nondescript. The game doesn’t look bad but it looks like a remaster of an Xbox 360 shooter. However, like most games that I end up enjoying, the visuals quickly took a backseat to the gameplay. The game has an effective tutorial that quickly onboards the player. You have to invade bases for genmats (the aforementioned genetic materials) to bring back to your Chimera overlord. Why? Because it wants them, that’s why. The game basically says, “stop asking questions and play it, we promise you will understand it.” I was treated to a series of levels where enemies and traps increased in complexity, teaching me what types of obstacles I may find when playing user created levels. I learned the basic mechanics and then, bam, I am set off to go raid until my heart is content. And this is where the magic is. You go to a world map terminal and there are a list of bases you can raid. As far as I can tell, all of these bases are user created experiences. The game has crossplay so every map made by every player is potentially available to you. They are sorted by complexity, from basic to brutal, and the more difficult of a base you raid, the more materials you get. I fired up the first one in the most basic playlist and got playing. I walked into a base and quickly spotted a spike trap on the floor and destroyed it, took out a couple of enemies, and made my way to the genmats stored inside. I grabbed them and instantly thought, “well this game is kind of one note.” This thought lasted approximately 12 nanoseconds until I was greeted by a volley of crossbow bolts that struck me right in the face and killed my character. Where did that come from? I go back in, take out the same traps and enemies, and get to the genmats. This time I’m looking around more. I don’t see any traps, I don’t hear any footsteps. I’m good. I grab the materials and look around quickly to see that as soon as I secured the objective a bunch more traps appeared out of nowhere and started activating. I was hit in the face by crossbow bolts again, only this time I laughed out loud. It took me about 4 more attempts to successfully complete that base and it was exhilarating. The builder of that base had constructed a series of traps and pitfalls that I wasn’t expecting. There were disappearing blocks with traps behind them. There were corrosive blocks in the floor that I could fall into. There was a grappling hook trap that dragged me onto a floor panel that erupted with spikes. Some traps I spotted, some I didn’t. I found myself looking for traps that weren’t there. I found myself forgetting about traps I had seen before. I found myself thinking about the possibilities of how to build these spaces. I found myself excited. After you do a few bases and get enough materials, the game gives you another tutorial on how to build your own deathtrap. My eyes were opened to the endless possibilities of what I could achieve. Building these bases is crazy easy. The toolset is intuitive. It is simple to erase past work and reshape things on the fly. The camera is reminiscent of Minecraft’s creator mode where you can fly around and see things from every angle. You can test levels before you make them playable, ensuring that your devious traps and enemy placements are suitable for your diabolical plans. I can see myself spending dozens of hours attempting to build the perfect death contraption as I’ve already sunk a fair bit of time into it. I popped back out of creator mode and decided to go attempt the highest difficulty of bases that other people have created. I was instantly both amazed by their creations and ashamed of my own. Combat arenas, intricate mazes, mystery tunnels, obstacle based puzzles to solve, the amount of ingenuity already available was overwhelming. Sure, things look a little drab and same-y, but the gameplay experience is always unique. I came across a few maps that were underwhelming but the majority of the ones I played made me equal parts frustrated and giddy, the perfect combination of emotions for a game like this. I could go into detail about the progression, the combat, or the leveling up but this isn’t the place for that. The purpose of this blog is to relish in the surprise this game provided. I went in with interest in the concept but what I found was much more than the sales pitch. A creative community of murderous puzzleboxes that seemingly goes on without end. Each raid I go on gives me new ideas for what I may be able to accomplish with my own creation. Each upgrade, each new trap providing a wealth of options at my disposal. If any of these aspects sound even remotely interesting to you, I suggest you check it out. This game is infinitely better in practice than it is on paper. If you do end up getting this game, I hope you enjoy your first 10 hours with it as much as I have. And, if you ever play one of my levels, know that I have done everything in my power to try to kill you. And I hope you laugh when you die.