Tunnelers is a new multiplayer online tank shooter from indie developer Floating Minds. Players in the game can pilot powerful tanks of three sizes, take on enemies (group) in three game modes (for now), dig out tunnels with drills in the front of the tank in search of boosters and for cover, and play with up to 32 players competing in fast-paced matches for rewards and achievements. The game has been in development since early 2009 and then entered the local beta (in Slovakia) in May of 2011. About one year later, Tunnelers started the global beta in April of 2012. Now players who love a digging tank shooter can register, download and play.
A handful of stylish maps rendered in 3D graphics, fast-paced gameplay with emphasis on team coordination, tanks with frontal drills that can burrow through lands, and action-driving back music with beating rhythm – if any or all of them appeal to you, you will find a lot to like in Tunnelers, a new tank shooter for multi-player.
Gameplay in Tunnelers is quite straight to point. No story, no plot. You just start out with a basic light tank and jump into one of three game modes, Free for All, Team Showdown and Capture the Flag. Abiding by the specific rules of each mode, you control the tank, fight alone or with teammates, and achieve the pre-set goal winning rewards and points to level up. As you meet the specs in terms of rank and points, etc., you can unlock more tanks of three sizes (light, medium and heavy) and make different combinations of tank type with secondary weapons such as land mine, electric blot and siege armor.
As mentioned, only three modes are available now, but more are promised to come (Dominion seems to be the next). Being team-oriented, the game provides more maps for team play than free-for-all. And coordination inside a team is more reliant on each member’s personal judgment of the current situation, since the game doesn’t support audio chat while it’s simply difficult to take on enemies and type messages at the same time.
Seven maps (for now) varied from swamp to inferno are accessible for both TS and CTF. And each map is designed with two opposing bases (blue vs. red) facing off against each other diagonally on the map and many structures, paths and objects in the terrain in-between. Also, different power-ups, passive or active, are scattered around, which allows player to recharge energy or shield bar, or acquire temporary bonuses in marching speed, weapon damage, repair tools and even Kamikaze – an explosive that sacrifices your own tank to destroy enemies’ within the large scope in three seconds. You have only two slots for such power-up, Q and E in default to use them.
Tanks can only proceed in eight directions, with default keys pre-set but changeable to personal habit. It takes practice to gradually master the skillful operation. Apart from instant action, you can also create matches by setting up game mode, player slots, time limit as well as details like auto-balance or friendly fire, etc.. There is matchmaking in instant action, which is replaced by the option of only-players-with-similar-skill during creation. It’s better for newbies to start playing around players at similar levels and learn fast, for there is the risk of being kicked out of a match by voting or inactivity.
The basics of gameplay that revolves chasing, firing off, picking up power-ups and co-op among teammates is not much different. And the catch lies in the ability of the tank drilling though dirt to creature tunnels. Yet, not all maps or everywhere in the map is able to dig through. In some maps, the majority of the battleground is set as in most shooters where you can only run and gun; while in others, you can even find a whole map almost covered with dirt that must be dug to find your way out to meet enemies, discover power-ups and create shortcuts strategically to take enemies by surprise. It’s really cool to see the drill rapidly rotate, pushing dirt aside and a way out. And different tanks vary in the digging power, since drilling is even one of the five attributes of tanks.
Tunnelers adopts the freemium model and supports the premium option. Everyone can access to full contents by sheer playing, and paid players enjoy the exclusive service from the cosmetic like colored nickname and specially crafted avatars to the practical such as premium tanks with unique weapon and abilities and extra points earned after every match.
Not that the game is without its own issues to address, among which the lack of variety seems the most acute. Whether it’s the tank type, game modes (though more are coming), power-up or the map, you may notice the numbered choices which signal out a message of contents in shortage. Second to that is the heavy reliance on the necessity of other players around. Since the game doesn’t offer many bots for you to take down, at least not in the beginning, solo is out of the question. But I’m told while playing by a friendly expert player that bots are part of the gameplay at certain level; of that, I’m not sure yet. It is great to see that the game is increasingly populated, which makes it much more engaging; yet it certainly needs to call in more blood.
Tunnelers features simple yet solid shooter fun, with drills in the tank blazing a trail in the genre. It lays a good framework in terms of game mechanics, but really needs more players to get it activated, if it’s not overhauled in the multiplayer-based core. Being in beta and online, the game is promising in continuous growth with variety and features. Hopefully, it’s enriched quickly and breathed life into with more players.