The problem with making a game that relies on a multiplayer community, is that as soon as people stop playing it, it basically becomes redundant. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case with the otherwise fun Cobalt WASD, developed by Oxeye Game Studio and published by Mojang of Minecraft fame.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Cobalt, also developed by Oxeye, was released about 18 months earlier.
Cobalt WASD starts off promisingly enough, with two teams of cute little avatars rushing around a multitude of arena maps trying to plant bombs in each other’s territory. If you’re imagining a hybrid of Counter-Strike and Worms, you’re not far from reality.
There are a few different items on sale; ranged and melee weapons, and different suits of armour that endow different abilities, like a stealth suit that allows your avatar to turn invisible. You start off with an initial amount of currency, and after victorious rounds, you earn more cash (and less after defeats) to change your arsenal.
After a few rounds playing with bots, it slowly dawns on you that it’s such a shame that the online community for Cobalt WASD doesn’t seem to have taken off. It’s like wandering alone around a deserted amusement park; lots of the rides look like great fun, but the total lack of people makes it a bit of a soulless experience.
The other strange thing about Cobalt WASD is the decision to release it as a separate game. It would seem like a much better idea to introduce it as a game mode to its parent game, Cobalt, rather than fragmenting the player base into two different games.
Admittedly the game mechanics for each are totally different, and this perhaps has led to the introduction of the separate title; there was feedback about Cobalt that players missed the “mouse+WASD” method of other titles.
That said, there is some mileage playing with the bots in single player, which have a satisfying amount of range in difficulty settings. And there are a variety of different maps to play on, each of which looks stunning in the retro, pixelated graphics style.
I especially enjoyed how each of them tells a story about why each side is trying to blow it up; for example, “Boulevard”, which depicts a feud between rival hipster bars; and “Hotel”, where both sides are disgruntled guests leaving pseudo-Trip Adviser reviews about their poor stay.
It’s a good title to have a quick blast of, put down and then come back to later; there’s enough variety to engage for a few rounds and provide a bit of diversion. But unfortunately, it does all come back around to the fact that, at its core, Cobalt WASD is a multiplayer game that apparently doesn’t have any players.
Of course, you can host private matches and play with friends. But as of writing, I waited for over 10 minutes to find a public match with no joy; browsing the hosted servers reveal player counts of zero. Silence has fallen on what could be a fun title, if only there was a community there to support it.