The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW]

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Post by The_gh0stm4n on Mon 07 Jan 2019, 21:57

So since I was - and still am - interested in the various management/general simulation subtype of Indie games, I noticed "The Admin", from publisher/developer Willpowaproject...which I admit I first found on ThePiratebay. After playing a little bit I decided to give the game a real shot, and bought it during a summer sale on Steam. Just from the title of the game I assumed this was another management/simulation game, but very soon found out this was not (really) case, though the main menu screen shows The Admin in the background, apparently monitoring...various stuff and locations around his base, I guess.

The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190110



What's it about?


In "The Admin" you play the role of a cyborg with the same name as the game title, and as far as the general in-game "storyline" goes your objective throughout all missions is to fend off various types of intruders, who want to take over your planet/base. I deliberately put quotation marks under storyline before, because the information about the story primarily comes from two- or three-liner sentences, under the thumbnail in the mission selection. It is not stated what exactly the intruders may want to do, but it's OK. Some players prefer having a good story alongside good gameplay, others (like me) care less about that.


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190111


In The Admin the primary means of combat is a huge sword, so it's mostly about melee combat. In addition, you have a pistol plus a number of special abilities...each of which has a cooldown period before they can be used again. After you pass a mission, you get a number of experience-points, which in turn level your character up. And for every level-up you get skill points which can be traded in (at the main menu) for upgrades on the sword/pistol/special ability. Some special abilities have subtypes; the example screenshot below shows the upgrade screen for the "turret" special ability. You have the choice basically between a mobile turret which flies near you and attacks enemies, and a stationary turret/cannon. The mobile turret has less health and does less damage, but in turn accompanies you almost everywhere. The stationary turret can't be moved anymore once it's placed down, but does more damage and can also take quite a beating before being destroyed. 


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190112


Looking more closely at the available upgrades, it seems it was planned to provide upgrades that benefit different playing styles, so either more defensively-oriented upgrades, or damage-increasing upgrades. 

The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190114


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190115



Opponents in the game


Enemies encountered throughout the game vary in terms of their abilities/intelligence/skill, at least it appears to. You'll fight worms, insects, human soldiers, dinosaurs, other cyborgs, etc. One thing I found nice about the game is that in consequence of it being mostly about melee combat, you have to adopt some kind of strategy on how to take on enemies. This can include approach & evasion patterns during combat, being selective about who you target first, and so forth. The Admin has a shield (blue bar in the top left corner of the screen), which can recover over time. Once the shield depletes and you take more damage, your health bar (in red) diminishes. And if that red bar goes to zero, you lose and have to start over the mission. The yellow bar shows the ammo for your pistol; while defeated enemies sometimes drop ammo, the pistol is really just a sidearm and it's unwise - or even impossible - to rely on it alone to fight all enemies in a map. Again, the central aspect of this game is to make use of your sword, and defeat most enemies in melee combat. Make no mistake: enemies, especially in later stages of the game, have guns, and can therefore attack you from longer ranges.


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20170810


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20180111


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20180110



Anything wrong with the game?


That may sound surprising now, but the attentive ones of you may have noticed some doubts in my undertone. And you wouldn't be wrong.

Right when I started the game the first time, I remember how painful and long it took me to finish the very first mission. As I just started with the game, I had no upgrades available. So I tried something that I tried the first time I played the game Borderlands: what happens if you keep "spamming" missions that you already passed? Will you still get XP points for that? And the answer is: YES! (sadly?). Sure, there are variables depending on how many enemies you killed and whether you completed various side-tasks. But you roughly get the same amount of XP. In Borderlands (I am mentioning that game for illustrative purposes), you cannot "spam" missions over and over, since you won't get much XP for doing so. 

I'm not sure if Willpowaprojects intended to have this side-effect in the game, but you can keep spamming missions that you have already done, and farm XP, which you then can exchange for upgrades, more quickly than would be possible if you went straight to the next level after completing the previous one. If you do it often enough, the later missions become easy as pie. 

As far as missions go they are fairly linear, so the replay-value of the game (unless you intend to grind XP as mentioned before) is practically zero. Usually it's about killing enemies, activating certain devices, blasting tunnel entrances, and so forth. Sometimes familiar features from other video games can also be found: such as a large number of ammo/health-pickups lying around somewhere; indicating that some trouble is coming up (and the player is likely going to need these pickups).


The Admin. [Willpowaproject - REVIEW] 20190113


There isn't really much point in exploring the maps further, beyond what your mission objectives are. Since there simply isn't really that much else, except maybe a few more enemies. 

Also interesting is that anytime you get close to an enemy in the game, even if there is no line of sight (yet), there is some "serious" music playing. And it's almost always the same tune. Well, if I counted correctly, there are exactly two different "danger coming up"-tunes in The Admin. While the idea is nice and interesting, it's not well-implemented in my opinion. 

When I think about Indie Games in general, I often have in mind thematically "narrow"/"specialized" games, or whatever adjectives you want to use here. But very often I encounter a surprising depth of detail in these games. To give one example, in The Long Dark, danger is sometimes indicated by birds in the sky flying away in what seems to be a panic-ridden movement. Novice players may not notice it right away, but it's a very nice detail that is not just based on (at least a certain degree of) realism, but it is also subtle. But the same tune playing over and over in The Admin when danger comes, this is too dull.

The physics and animations also seem weird at times. Like, there is a special ability in which The Admin uses his sword like a sledgehammer, to damage enemies right in front of him...though the hitbox seems out of whack. And enemies mostly don't even flinch if you pound on them with the sword, which I also find strange.

Apart from killing enemies, there are also various side-tasks like blowing up tunnel entrances or repairing stuff, in preparation and/or response to the activities of enemies. But this is also very linear in nature, as you only need to approach these items that need to be interacted with, and press Enter. A cooler idea would have been some form of open-world scenario with (unlockable?) fast-travel abilities, where you have the ability to monitor the various parts of your base, and where you need to "fix" and prioritize things dynamically.


Verdict

At this point I probably have unrealistic expectations of a game that only cost me around 3-4 Euros. When you start the game freshly, it does provide a decent challenge in that you need to move around strategically. I myself moved around in zig-zag patterns for example, when evading enemies and trying to recover the shield. There is some limited level of tactical decision-making involved overall, also with regards to which loadouts you choose/their synergies, and how you use these turret abilities.

Overall though: a flawed ranking/upgrade system (whether intended or not by the developer, doesn't matter), too-linear gameplay, too-little creativity in general plus strange animations...make me conclude this game is in my opinion an "Alpha"-grade game, at best. Although the game is a full release, according to the developer. The possible intention (?) of the developer to introduce upgrades that benefit different playing styles, does not come to full effect either, as in practical combat it almost doesn't matter what subtypes of upgrades you choose: differences are often negligible. In some missions it is better to choose one subtype (as the enemies of a particular mission are more vulnerable to it). Then again this is also indicative of the very limited variety in the game. So you are new to the game and pick an upgrade. You play a mission and find out that enemies don't take much damage from whatever current loadout you have. You restart the mission with a different loadout, roll out again, and likely defeating enemies (too) easily. They could have made more of a serious attempt at weapon/upgrade-balancing as well, to make every single item have both advantages and disadvantages, and in turn make the items be truly usable in any situation...again, truly benefiting particular playstyles.

I was considering this game for a potential G4TW release, but found it would be just a waste of bandwidth. If anyone of you is crazy enough to give this game a try, here you can do so:
https://store.steampowered.com/app/420300/

The game has lots of good ideas, but the implementation in this instance didn't work out. It's a fate that many games in the Indie-scene experience: a good vision or idea, but lack of knowledge and/or other resources to put these ideas into practice. The Admin did give me a couple of hours of strategic-movement-gameplay, and I suppose for the price I paid this is all to be expected.

If you like, feel free to check out the video illustration below, showing me play the last mission in The Admin (with a fully-upgraded character).



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Post by Nina on Tue 08 Jan 2019, 16:00

I downloaded the game on Piratebay, but found it too difficult to play Razz
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Post by The_gh0stm4n on Wed 09 Jan 2019, 23:19

@Nina wrote:I downloaded the game on Piratebay, but found it too difficult to play Razz


I think you have to manage your resources better, and be more patient in the game.  Good job!  Like, if your shield is down to 10-20%, then you should dash away to cover already, instead of keep fighting. Because if you get hit after the shield is depleted, you will lose health (red bar), and you can only recover that through pick-ups.

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Post by Nina on Sat 12 Jan 2019, 23:51

Cool, will try that. Razz
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Post by Rudi50 on Thu 17 Jan 2019, 18:00

I played the free beta back then, but couldn't get above 40FPS in-game. WhatDidUJustCallMe?

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