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Kill to Collect - Deep Look

Wanted Very Much Dead
by Alex Fuller

Kill to Collect
Platform: PC
Developer: Pieces Interactive
Publisher: Pieces Interactive
Release Date: 04.06.2016
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"Entertaining evenings can be spent with the challenge it provides, particularly if one has friends to do it with."
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   Since the emergence of Steam, roguelike aspects have been a source of inspiration for many titles, with the storefront full of options for players in various styles. Pieces Interactive, developer of Magicka 2, has another recent entry in that space with Kill to Collect. Sporting solid gameplay that rewards skill and recognition, it's another solid title that offers enjoyable bursts without ever doing anything hugely noteworthy.

   Kill to Collect takes place in Geoshelter Alpha, the last known city in the neon future of Earth. The lower reaches of the city are the prerequisite hives of scum and villainy, with order only provided by bounty hunters. That's really as far as the narrative appears to get, though, as any further scenes are simply a few sentences of characters saying why the players have to go and kill things this time out. Not that that's a bad thing, as it lets the game focus more on quick, enjoyable run-throughs, but those searching for any semblance of a plot should look elsewhere.

   There are three game types. The linear "story" campaign is divided into seven chapters, all but one featuring two hunting missions, with each new chapter adding in a couple more enemy types. There are also free hunts, where players get an open choice of various locations and set out to kill one of a selection of random enemies at the end. Finally, there is a daily repeatable and a daily one-shot challenge complete with leaderboards. The story and free hunts feature three to four procedurally generated floors of rooms containing sets of enemies, with the last floor being a boss or wave-based encounter. The challenges, meanwhile, feature eight floors interspersed with boss-type encounters. The path to the next floor is always linear, but there will always be one or two bonus challenge rooms on each floor that reward players with item chests and currency to spend on randomised upgrade options at the lift to the next floor.

   Combat itself is well executed. With the exception of one or two enemy types, patience is important and rushing in blindly will simply see players quickly surrounded and overwhelmed. There are appreciable differences in enemy types, both in the immediate type of danger they pose and how players best go about killing them. The four playable characters also have significant differences in strength and speed that are readily apparent and require different tactics to be at their most effective. Controls are simple and effective with a fairly standard combination of dodging, regular and special attacks, and limited-time power-ups that make it easy to just pick up and start playing.


   Unfortunately, at the time of writing finding others from the general population to play with is difficult. The matchmaking and lobby system is so rudimentary that it's impossible to tell whether the lack of available games is due to matching issues or there simply not being any available. I was never able to join another game through the game finding option, though did at least have the pleasure of being joined by one or two others in some sessions I hosted. This is a shame as the game, much like many others of its ilk, is at its most enjoyable when being played with others. At least inviting others to join from the friend list is a trivial matter, so those that have ready partners are catered for.

   Even with the help of others, Kill to Collect is tough. Fortunately, the game illustrates that failure is to be expected so is easily met with a shrug before diving into a fresh attempt. The usual caveats with roguelike-inspired titles apply here, with frustrations at getting particularly tough combinations of enemies and zones leaving players little chance (smaller zones are almost always the killers). Of course, players might also get encounters more in their favour, and it's always pleasurable when a run goes nice and smoothly. There are three difficulty settings that can be chosen before each hunt, though enemy numbers and their strength remain the same. Instead, lower difficulty offers players more health and extra healing kits from chests. Players should appreciably notice their skills progressing as they go through missions; ones that previously caused trouble become much smoother as players rinse and repeat and learn from the challenge.

   The game's neon aesthetic works pretty well, but it's a bit disappointing that there isn't more visual distinction with the locations outside of what appears to just be a different colour palette and new enemies. The various effects and animations are also effective, with enemies exploding in a very satisfactory manner and giving helpful signals of when an attack is coming and needs to be avoided. Its synth-heavy electronic soundtrack, sourced from a selection of artists, matches up very well with the cyberpunk theme, providing an engaging audio backing.

   Kill to Collect should satisfy those wanting a straightforward romp against floors of enemies, with its cyberpunk flair adding a bit of character. Entertaining evenings can be spent with the challenge it provides, particularly if one has friends to do it with. However, there's not much else to set it apart from other roguelike-inspired titles, and its relative lack of features and a not particularly interesting set of unlockables means it probably won't hold players for too long.


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