Who among us doesn’t love a good skirmish involving giant robots? Maybe it’s just our natural desire to see things play out on an epic, giant scale, but there’s always something satisfying about seeing two colossal machines (or a machine and a giant reptilian monster, of course) duke it out. So when developers Whalebox Studio first announced Goliath, a top-down action RPG involving giant robots that you get to control, fight and go on adventures with, interest was quite high indeed. Sadly, the battleground here is littered with a few rough patches, but the brawl in general is still worth the time.
Goliath has you controlling a young man finding himself stranded in a far-away land, having been seemingly magically transported there from the war he was fighting in. Now, with the help of his partner over the radio and the various indigenous species of this world, he seeks to find his way home by travelling the only way he knows how…via giant robots (that he suddenly learns how to build after being trapped in a plane for a few minutes, somehow). If that sounds a little light, it’s because one issue with Goliath is that it had trouble getting me invested in the story and the game’s world at first. Almost immediately, you’re introduced to a variety of warring factions, whom you can side with in various ways and who you will have to run errands for in order to gain their help in your journey home. Unsurprisingly, said errands will happen to require a rather hefty amount of fetch quests and collections of various objects, not helped by our hero complaining about and lampshading just how many fetch quests they have to run and how the goalposts keep getting moved.
A tip for writers everywhere, in video games and all other forms of entertainment: Never poke fun at cliches in your work if you plan to keep on using those cliches in that work. By the time we get to deliver yet another snarky comment about how you’re basically an errand boy, it begins to feel like that South Park episode where the kids are roped into coming along on a sci-fi adventure involving a talking towel when all they really want is to find their missing video game console. Hey, giant fox guy? I have given up on caring about the weapon I need to retrieve for you, so please just point me in the direction of the next giant robot I get to pilot already.
Speaking of which, let’s head straight into the best part of Goliath, and its big selling point: The titular giant robots that you get to commandeer. Both in maneuverability and combat, they are just damn fun to control, especially in experimenting with how each one handles and being able to customize them to your liking. Not only does each one have their own set of weapons, attacks, and play styles, but they also have several other passive abilities that are affected by the game’s world. Iron Goliaths move slower in water and rain due to rust, while wood Goliaths are actually healed by it. Stone Goliaths move slower in general, but speed up when high temperatures are about, and wild stone golems will leave you alone while piloting it. Figuring out which Goliath works best for each area and your strategy in general is the name of the game, and it is quite enjoyable.
That being said, while the lure of giant robot combat is quite enticing indeed, the actual combat in Goliath could stand to be a bit more polished. There’s nothing particularly wrong with the general mechanics, which focus on having both melee and projectile attacks at the ready along with three special abilities per Goliath that you unlock, but the enemy AI leaves a little bit to be desired. It doesn’t take long for foes to begin swarming you in groups, what with everything out to kill you, and again we see that most of them tend to prefer the tactic of just rushing right you the moment you’re in their radar, desperate to get in your face and hit you at any cost, which runs into the danger of feeling slightly tedious.
The fact that the enemies tend to chase you as far as they can over the current map is also an annoyance, though they tend to stop after a certain distance or obstacle is put between you, which leads to some amusing moments. One moment, I had three enemies on my tail hell-bent on killing me…up until I climbed up a slight hill, which was apparently too much of a challenge for them to overcome.
So all I had to do then was chuck a huge rock at them, wait for them to get bored and retreat a bit, immediately come down from the hill and trigger a Pavlovian response causing them to come running back towards me, climb hill again, repeat until dead. Then there was the first boss, an absolute titan that put up quite a challenge…until I backed up a bit to the point where I could still see its feet, constantly blasting away at it with a cannon while not getting the slightest response from it.
Basically, Goliath is another one of those games where every feature that it does quite well has some sort of slightly annoying flaw holding it back from being truly excellent. For example, the visuals are bright and impressive, perfectly blending together anachronistic scenery plucked from other worlds, displayed over well-made, procedurally generated environments and levels with gorgeous weather effects, but traversing these lands can be a pain at times due to a sub-par guidance system in the map and the occasional awkward camera angle blocking things from view.
In other cases, the crafting system is easy to understand, and harvesting resources is enjoyable, having to be cautious not to wreck anything with your mech or head out on your own in order to deal with more fragile resources, but the numerous objects to interact with in an area make it hard to grab specific items without accidentally hitting something else. Or there’s the concept of having money and items taken from you each time you die and finding yourself having to retrieve them from your grave that makes for a good challenge, but leads to some particularly cheap moments where all of a specific item is taken from you, like the twenty-some healing kits that could have helped you.
As one final note, though, the fact that exploration is highly encouraged in Goliath is a huge positive indeed, encouraging you to check every corner for new treasures and secrets along the way, along with the discovery of several other impressive and intimidating Goliaths to fight. they will no doubt stomp all over you the first time you see them, but they are quite the sight indeed.
At the very least, Goliath is a valiant effort in adapting a series of unique mech battles into a more fantasy-themed action RPG. If it weren’t for a few poor issues with the story and some kinks in some of the gameplay elements, this could have had a chance at bring one of the classics in the genre. As is, though, it’s still a rather nifty adventure with a ton of gorgeous ruins to explore and a wide variety of killing machines to craft. At the very least, it should hopefully tide us over until Pacific Rim 2, which the
kneecappings polite messages I keep delivering in the Warner Bros. parking lot will hopefully still lead to.