Indie Game Spotlight: Nuclear Throne

From time to time I pick up an indie game, usually from a friend’s recommendation or gift on Steam, and if I really like it a lot I think I’ll be writing an Indie Spotlight on it. Today’s game is Nuclear ThroneI’ve mentioned it a couple of times on our Nerd Swole weeklies, and now I wanted to talk a little bit more in depth about the game.

Firstly I wanted to say that this game is about as unforgiving as any game I’ve played, and even more so than a game that I already thought was quite cruel and challenging in Ramapge KnightsThrone is a top down, 8-bit looking, third person shooter, dungeon crawler, that will make you want to punch holes in walls with how much you can get absolutely WRECKED when you thought you were having a pretty solid run. The dungeons are random, the weapon drops and power ups from leveling are all random as well, so you may have a good run where you get great weapons but terrible power ups and vice versa. So if you dislike games involving some luck this game may not be for you.

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One of the random power ups you can get called “Back Muscles”

Don’t get me wrong though, this game does take a fair amount of skill and isn’t a bunch of random generator luck. You skillfully navigate through dungeons, conserve, and use of special skills depending on your character. You make decisions like skipping chests and items now hoping for a big payoff later or you get completely screwed because you hoped for a shovel and got a screwdriver (this makes complete sense if you play the game I promise).

On top of that, characters are unique and different, and none of them seem particularly overpowered and ridiculous, each has a pretty useful special ability/mechanic. I really commend the developers on this part as each character really is different from the others and there is a very good variety of characters to find a really good fit for your style (you do have to unlock characters though).

Throne Characters

There is a lot to be said about synergy as well, because certain characters definitely work better together, so you and your teammate don’t have to be on the same page with character selection, but it helps if you are. Oh right, a teammate, the main reason that I even picked up this game is the co-op (usually a driving factor with a lot of indies I play).

I’ve mentioned many times how much I enjoy co-op because of the memories that are made in local co-op games when your friend/teammate makes a big play to save the day, and as much heartbreak as there is in Nuclear Throne, there will also be plenty of great memories forged by all of the possible clutch moments you come across. Whether it’s finding a med kit so you get above 1 hp to revive your teammate, or blocking for a teammate, or just skillfully dodging the bullet hell, there are a lot of opportunities for skilled plays.

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More likely than not you will die. A lot. However, it’s more often than not it’s because you positioned yourself poorly or didn’t prepare for an oncoming level properly, which with a game like this is quite important. It’s important not to feel like you’re fighting poor design, because that just causes frustration to a point where you likely won’t want to play the game anymore.

Nuclear Throne has enough depth and skill involved with it’s randomness that it makes players feel in control and that the reason they didn’t beat the game is because players made a wrong move. In my opinion, there is nothing more frustrating in gaming than feeling like you played perfectly and getting owned because you’re fighting the design of the game, and not the game.

In addition to navigating random dungeons, bullet hells, and random luck of the draw, you’ll also have to fight bosses. The bosses in the game aren’t just clones of the last boss with more projectiles, they’re each unique from each other and really challenge you to use a strategy to beat them. Whether it’s having a melee weapon to reflect their projectiles, or making sure you’re in a smaller corner to control their mobility, there is a fair amount of strategy and skill going into fighting these bosses, and don’t even get me started on the final boss. I’ll avoid spoilers, but let’s just say the final boss has a couple of tricks up their sleeve.

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I found Nuclear Throne a fun challenge, and would recommend it to people who enjoy a good co-op game. It currently retails on Steam at $11.99.

If you’ve got a suggestion for a game you’d like me to play, let me know! I’d love to hear it and will definitely consider it.

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