Robot uprisings are a pretty hot topic in the media, especially in the era of ever expanding technology. Movies have portrayed the idea many times, and now it’s starting to become present in other forms of media like video games. Robothorium is all about this idea of a robot uprising, and presents it in a pretty interesting way.

A Robot’s Tale

Robothorium is a turn-based dungeon crawling rpg, with roguelike elements, developed by Goblinz Studios. The story is centered around a conflict between robots and humans. Robots have finally decided they want to have rights as well, and start to protest against humans. Unfortunately, the humans are not keen to allow robots to have their own rights, and suppress them by hunting, and killing them.

Now, you must assemble a robot task force, and work together with different factions to save, to create a safe place for robots. How is this accomplished you might ask? By taking on missions and contribute towards starting a robot uprising, led by your forces. The robots have their own back-stories, which adds more to their character, as well as the game’s narrative.

Through taking on the main storyline missions, you’ll get to meet all the different factions, and see what each one stands for. This will be important for knowing what decisions to make, when trying to increase your relationship with a faction. Robothorium has a decent narrative, and while it’s not overly engrossing, it still does a pretty good job at making you interested in its story

Robot Warfare

Each battle in Robothorium plays out in a lab room with regular turn-based rpg mechanics. Each of your robots, and each of your enemies has a shield, and a health bar. Once a shield is depleted, you can attack an enemy directly, and destroy them. Robots also have their own level and stats, such as defense, critical chance, and speed.

Battles play out well, and it’s nice that you get the option to choose the battle speed. One problem with the battle system, is that there are just too many buffs and de-buffs. The number of buffs and de-buffs is unnecessary, and some of them just don’t feel like they are very useful. Robothorium could have done itself a favor by simplifying things, and having a fewer number. The way it is now, makes the combat feel very congested, and can cause complications, simply because you’re looking at so many different things.

Each robot starts with 3 different abilities, 1 ultimate ability, and 3 additional, unlockable abilities. These additional abilities can be swapped out with one of the other 3 starting abilities. You unlock these abilities by purchasing them with the game’s currency. The abilities work well, and it’s nice to have some variety among them.

When abilities are used, they cause a robot’s overcharge meter to rise by a specific percentage that differs for each ability. If the gauge reaches 100%, the robot will overcharge, causing them to lose their next turn. Fear not, however, you do not have to let their overcharge gauge hit 100%.

Each robot has a basic ability (always ability number 1) that will decreases the overcharge gauge, when it’s used. Overcharge is a unique take on the usual skill cost system. I found it worked very effectively with the flow of the game’s combat.

Items & Leveling

All robots have their own type that includes it’s own unique skills. In addition to unique skills, each robot has their own equipment they can use. Each robot has six slots available for it’s weapon, different armor pieces, and a gadget. These equipable items serve to increase stats, and also give bonus effects. There are multiple tiers of item rarity, from common to mythical. If you want bonus effects, you will have to find a mythical item, because the other rarities only offer stat boosts. The equipment system is nice, but it’s not something to necessarily write home about, either.

When a Robot levels up, they will receive a point to put in their skill tree. These points can be allocated to your active abilities, or to some other passive ones. The skill tree is seperated into tiers, you will have to put a few points in each tier, to unlock the next one. Skill trees are nice, but most of the ability upgrades add extra chances for causing buffs, and debuffs. As I had previously mentioned, there are just way too many and often, these upgrades just didn’t feel very useful.

Another way to receive bonuses is by increasing your relationship with one of the factions. Each faction has 3 bonuses you can receive by getting to a high enough relationship with them. Doing this will give some incentive to make sure you’re careful with your choices, so you don’t upset the wrong faction. Overall, I found the faction system to be well implemented.

What Do Robots Do On the Side?

When you aren’t out on a mission, you will be redirected back to the hangar. This provides a map showing the different procedurally generated missions you can take on. Every mission has a goal such as taking down an enemy, or rescuing a robot (which subsequently adds them to your team.)

These missions play out, dungeon crawling style, with random events placed all over. These random events have options, with a specified percentage chance next to each one. These events can give you bonuses, if you succeed in accomplishing them. If you fail to succeed, they can also harm you. The events are definitely nice to have in each level, although a little more variety would have been nice.

There are also dispatch missions you can send your spare robots on. These missions let these robots go out and earn experience, money, or items, while you do other missions (think Final Fantasy Tactics Advance). It’s great to have these extra missions available, since you can only take 5 robots with you on a mission.

Robot Reinforcements

There’s also the ability to buy new robots to add to your team. The robots you can buy are randomized at the end of each mission. It’s great to have the ability to buy them, but I found I was always rescuing enough robots, and never felt a need to buy them.

Like many RPGs, there’s a shop where you can buy items, or sell those you don’t need. I also never really found myself using the shop, because I was able to find better items just from doing missions.

The last thing that’s available to you is the workshop. In the workshop, you can make special equipment from blueprints you find. You use materials that are either found throughout the levels, or by destroying old items, to make these special equipment sets. This is probably the most useful of the extra options for stuff you can do, and you may spend quite a bit of time here.

Extras

An important extra to mention about Robothorium, are the difficulty options. You have easy, normal, and hard modes, and each one changes the game’s core mechanics a bit. Easy mode will keep the game pretty simple, but normal mode will make you have to pay to fix your robots, if they sustain damage during a mission. Hard mode, on the other hand, adds permadeath, where if a robot falls in battle, it’s gone for good. The varying difficulties are good, and change up the gameplay enough to warrant multiple playthroughs.

Robotic Visuals

Robothorium’s visuals, work well with the game’s design. Each robot’s model looks unique, and fits well with it’s backstory and class. Equipment will even change the look of your robot, which is a really nice touch.

The enemy design also looks nice, but their designs are a little bland, compared to the robots. It would have been nice to see a few more enemies with a design that had as much character as the robot design.

The soundtrack was fine, but it honestly wasn’t anything special. It was pretty average, and I felt like it didn’t really add (or detract) from the game’s presentation. Most of the time it was just kind of there, and I didn’t really notice it after a while.

In Need of a Technical Reboot

When you start looking at the technical parts of Robothorium, you can see where the game starts to really go downhill.

The loading times to get in, and out, of the menus (especially the inventory screen) are quite long. I mean, it won’t take you a full minute or anything, but I had times where it took 8-10 seconds. This is a big problem since you are constantly leveling up and getting new equipment. Both distributing skill points, and equipping new equipment, are done in the inventory. These load times cause a lot of frustration, and have a really negative affect on the game’s flow.

Robothorium is also lacking in optimization. Long load times throughout the game are not its only concerns. I also had a few crashes during my playthrough. I even got to a point, after the third or fourth story mission, where I couldn’t access the black market at all. Each time I tried, my screen would freeze. I would have to exit the game from the Switch’s home screen, where an “error occurred” message would appear. This continued to happen, even after I restarted my Switch. The farther I went into the game, the more I started to experience the occasional crash.

The battles aren’t safe from the optimization problems, either. After defeating enemies, sometimes their graphics will still be there for a few moments after being defeated. Then, they suddenly disappear, with no animation to follow. It doesn’t heavily affect the battle, except causing a bit of a slowdown, but it doesn’t look good. Loading in, and out of the battles, will also frequently cause the screen to just freeze black, for longer than it should.

It’s really unfortunate because Robothorium is a fun game, but in its current state, it’s poorly optimized.

(Editor’s note: I’m hopeful the Developer has a patch planned, that will fix the technical issues.)

Controls

Besides the poor optimization, the menus will definitely be your worst enemy in Robothorium. The interface inside the inventory is very clunky, and doesn’t lend itself well to the Switch, especially in docked mode. The inventory is difficult to navigate through, and I found I had a lot of trouble trying to get where I wanted to.

Fortunately, in handheld mode, there are touchscreen controls, which helps in navigating the menus, since you can do a lot of the actions using the screen.

Conclusion

I really want to tell all turn-based RPG, and dungeon crawler fans, that Robothorium is a perfect game that works well on the Switch. I want to recommend this to people, I really do. However, in its current state, I’m cautious to.

Robothorium has fun gameplay, mixed with a decent narrative, and some great design choices. Sadly, with the amount of optimization issues, I think many would struggle to get through it. Not to mention the overly complicated skill system is already overwhelming enough to turn away some players.

I would say the game is still in a playable state right now. If you’re a patient player, and are willing to suffer through the poor optimization, you will find a solid experience.

Robothorium has character, it drew me in more than most turn-based RPG’s usually do. I think if Goblinz Studios puts in the work to create a patch, that better optimizes the game, then it’ll be a must have game. For now, I recommend this game cautiously, to those who want a fun, but frustrating experience.

6.5/10  Average Turn-Based Dungeon Crawling RPG

A Good RPG That’s Held Back By It’s Technical Issues

Pros

  • Solid Gameplay For Fans of Turn Based Rpg’s
  • Robot Designs Have Character
  • Overcharge System
  • Decent Replayability

Cons

  • Clunky Menus (Hard to navigate)
  • Unnecessary Amount of Buffs, and De-buffs
  • Frequent Crashes
  • Long Load Times in Battles, and in Menus
  • Confusing For Players New to Turn Based RPG’s

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