I never thought I would enjoy an arena shooter that leaves one side invincible and another invisible. Nor did I picture myself thinking that said invincible side was justified in being the only ones with guns, while my invisible self needed to rely on punching shit as my only means of defense. While enjoyable, after a few hours it’s hard to convince yourself to jump into yet another match of Aftercharge, Chainsawesome Games newest title.
Aftercharge is a (mostly) straight forward 3 on 3 asymmetrical shooter, where one side can freely run around searching for enemies, while the other must strategically sneak towards their objectives in constant fear of drawing attention to themselves. While that might not sound too enjoyable, it actually is. That being said, those looking for an expansive experience probably won’t find what they’re looking for here.
Robots are pit against enforcers, with a singular objective in mind; protect, or destroy, 6 glowing pylon-looking test tubes called extractors. The robots must destroy these extractors to win the match, while enforcers need to protect these structures as this is what makes them invincible. It’s nice to see that level of detail added in, where Chainsawesome easily could’ve just made it black and white, the fact that one side relies on these extractors to survive, I thought, was a nice touch.
The Enforcers’ energy is constantly replenishing thanks to said Extractors, and if the robots want to win, they’ll need to cut off their power supply. While running and gunning your way to victory might be preferable to some, the robots stealth mechanics help carry this game past sterility… to a point. As a robot, you’re completely invisible to the opposing team until you act on something, like trying to destroy an extractor. This allows your team to coordinate attacks on extractors as well as setting up distractions for the enforcers. Personally, I found this aspect of the game to be more enjoyable. Playing as an enforcer can get stale sooner rather than later.
Another nice perk of playing as a robot is the fact that you have endless revives. However, this leads to a common way to play for that side. Basically, you and your team will flood an extractor, pop off a few shots, and be gunned down. Then your teammate rushes in, while shooting the extractor, revives you, and then gets gunned down himself. Upon revival, you’re granted a temporary invincibility period in which case you’ll pop off a few shots and then revive a teammate. This ended up being a common practice within matches and it led to my time with Aftercharge becoming progressively tiresome.
There are some great qualities about this game. Some fun ideas are tossed around, and it can be especially enjoyable when you’re actually able to communicate with your team. However, there is just this one game mode. Sure, you can play across 6 different maps, but with only one way to play, there isn’t a ton of draw to keep players returning for more. Aftercharge has an extremely unique premise, and my time with the game was enjoyable. I just wished there was more content, more types of game modes that further explored this interesting idea of “only one side can do X, while the other can do Y”.
Speaking of the maps, these are beautiful, stylized areas that are fun to explore. From snowy glacial arenas to sand swept oasis’; the art style is spot on. My personal favorite was the rocky, forest-like arena; it had a very black light feel to it with cool trees and other fauna that glow under the moonlight.
Mechanically, this game could use some work. Matchmaking is a drag at times, and matches lack certain HUD elements we’ve grown accustomed to seeing with online multiplayer titles. There are no timers or stat screens, and if someone drops out mid-match there are no bots or other players thrust into the spot to keep teams even. This rapidly puts your team at a disadvantage if you guys are the lucky ones that get a drop out during your match. On top of that, level progression moves at a snail’s pace, which quickly snuffs the desire to want to play more, when there is only one type of mode to play.
Aftercharge has moments that make it truly fun to play. The asymmetrical approach to team design lends itself to a unique spin on online multiplayer shooters. Hopefully, Chainsawesome delivers some new game modes that make the game more desirable to come back to. As it stands, after a few hours you’ll find yourself in a pretty repetitive state, that quickly sours the fun.