Nimbatus – The Space Drone Constructor is a game we probably all know from their self-advertising campaign on popular image-sharing website and giraffe-worshiping cult Imgur.com, even if the name does not immediately bring to mind images of the game. It’s one of those quirky ‘build-your-own-solution’ games not unlike Besiege. Nimbatus, as the full name would suggest, says, “what if those games, but in space?” Fuel, variable gravity, and giant space bugs are thus the name of the game for Nimbatus, as all games that go “what if those games, but in space?” seem to fall back on.
Still in Early Access, Nimbatus currently relies heavily on the player’s ingenuity and personality to get them to play more than a few hours. When I first looked at the game, I thought it was only going to be a game for the type who knows they would enjoy spending hours building and fine tuning ships. These are the same people who religiously play Minecraft or any of its various clones. However, another more recent look has shown a lot of promise and potential that either was not present previously and was recently added, or was always there and I didn’t notice. For example, the arsenal available to you is not limited to a blaster, a rocket launcher, and various sorts of beam weapons. By clicking on the (somewhat hidden) Weapon Workshop button, you can choose from a variety of weapon types and put on those weapons (of which you can make any number of copies) different upgrades that you can purchase as well as use different elements that each interact with the environment and enemies differently. Although the weaponry is very diverse and customizable, the rest of your shipbuilding blocks are about what you’d expect. Thrusters, basic blocks, fuel and ammo holds, and various tools like drills or saws make up the rest of your ship, although there are logic and sensor blocks that more advanced and dedicated users can employ.
After building your ship, and realizing that it turns as fast as a turtle and rebuild it, you can go around various planets to do repetitive missions. Strangely, the ship builder is only accessible after picking a mission to do, though you’re not locked into doing the mission, which leaves the UI messy and unintuitive. In each galaxy, missions will be repeats of the same few objectives on different maps. Completing them gives you nothing but the ability to move onto the next solar system, and eventually onto the next galaxy with new enemies, new missions, and a new theme. Most missions are relatively easy to complete once you have the right ship for the job, but finding one that has a good balance of speed, maneuverability, and power can be a challenge. Starting off, you might think that a small ship will serve your needs since it’s the start of the game, but this is a trap I fell for. Parts during drone construction don’t actually cost anything and the only detriment is that your ship weighs more and is a bit bigger. Destroying even the smallest of enemies can take a ridiculous amount of time with a small arsenal, so having a massive weapons system is advised. You need large ammo reserves to power your weapons and the same goes for fuel and thrusters respectively (thankfully fuel and ammo regenerate at a generous pace). The lack of limits on your drone introduces the issue where the player is incentivized to make a drone so big that it can obliterate any enemy in an instant while also having so many thrusters it can outmaneuver a giant snake.
Currently there is no story to Nimbatus, aside from a few pieces of inconsequential lore that you can pick up from loading screen tips. The sound and art are both serviceable, but nothing fantastic. Sounds are distinct enough so that you know what’s happening, and the art is similarly clear about what is in the background and what is in the foreground. Unfortunately, as with all games that allow you to destroy the environment pixel by pixel, you’ll often get stuck on invisible pieces of platform that are a pain to try and destroy. Your weapons can shoot through your ship without issue, so this alleviates this issue a little.
Nimbatus, while still being developed, is worth picking up. Especially if you know this is the type of game for you, it can give a good amount of fun. It will get repetitive in its mission structure, so you’re going to have to make your own fun if you want more than a few hours of play time. Hopefully in time we will see a more guided structure and something to give us a more of a reason to play.