by Chris Hedgpeth
This is the first installment in a series of game reviews that will focus on inexpensive (less than $10) and relatively new (released in the past year) PC games. I’m going to pick games that are cross-platform with respect to Windows, MacOS, and Linux. I’ll focus on casual single player games out of necessity because I don’t have a lot of free time, and I’m guessing you don’t either! In the spirit of not wasting money on games, let’s start with a free one!
Mindustry, from independent developer Anuke/Anuken, is an interesting hybrid of resource management and wave tower defense. You start by landing with a “core”, a square entity that stores your building resources, and the ability to create simple mining machines and conveyor belts. Resources are scattered throughout the map, which has one or more entry points where enemies spawn during each wave. The objective in early maps is to survive long enough to launch the core, and all the resources you’ve harvested, out of the hostile environment.
The upgrade system is clever. Between missions, the resources you collect from the launched cores accumulate and you can use them to purchase advanced tech. New maps are unlocked as you research more technology. As you progress through the game, the maps become more difficult but more resource rich. There’s a rewarding back-and-forth between farming and upgrading that keeps the game from becoming too tedious.
Your default player entity is a fast spaceship (a “mech”) that shoots lasers, but you can use player-built “pads” to transform into one of several other mechanical forms. Defensive towers require resources to operate. Some require you to feed chunks of metal to them via conveyor belts, while others require power or fluid input.
Enemies have decent AI. There’s no requirement that you leave an open path for them like in some tower defense games, since they can destroy your structures. Certain enemies target specific parts of your infrastructure instead of blindly marching forward shooting everything they see. For example, Wraith Fighters will fly over your defenses to target your power generators.
The resource management aspect of Mindustry is similar to that of Factorio. Lots of conveyor belts and sorting/routing mechanisms help keep things moving. Resources never run out, so there are no unpleasant situations where you have to completely rebuild a coal processing system in the middle of an enemy attack. Automation becomes a big part of the game as you advance. Bots can be produced that repair, build, and attack automatically.
If you visit anuke.itch.io/mindustry, you can download the game for free for Windows, MacOS, Linux, and Android. If you want access to achievements and user-created content, Mindustry is also available on Steam for $6. I highly recommend this game to anyone who prefers to “turtle” in real time strategy games. If you ever wondered what it’s like to manage a factory while being attacked by robots, Mindustry is the game for you.