Gaming - MAIA


The Defective Inspector heads back to base-ics and investigates his latest Case file, MAIA...

After a long and horrific time battling with the realities of reality I have returned like a glorious phoenix burning bright and new. So I decided to dive back into the spirit of things with a good ol’ case file to get my taste for typing again. Today I have been blessed with a copy of MAIA, a strategy based simulation developed by Simon Roth in the UK. So let us sit back, sip some tea and appreciate that ginger nuts are more than red headed maniacs.

The concept is fairly familiar in some ways, and pretty new in others. Base simulators have been a gold standard for the gaming world and ever since Bullfrog saturated the theme market. Since then we have been hooked on the idea of making them bigger, better and more interesting. MAIA seems to be following that path by making a game which feels a little like a somewhat serious futuristic Dungeon Keeper. I mean the “I.M.P.” robots immediately hint towards inspiration from the horned one himself but there is more to this game than that. In this game the wildlife is rich and flourishing, the needs of the people are complex while still being logical and the creative measures taken to survive are a tad fanciful.

dwellings

The extraordinary requirements of your little base babies (i.e. the population) really relate to the environment they are forced into tolerating. MAIA is not so much set on a traditional M-class planet but a place which turns the danger dial up to 11. Radiation, giant animals, unusual food supplies and unexpectedly realistic demand for oxygen ensures you are relentless in your desire to survive. Much to that point you cannot really play this game casually, it must be an investment of your time as there will be more than your fair share of dangers lurking around every corner… Which is actually rather good. While I do love an occasional causal game it’s always appreciated when a game demands my attention rather than requests it. On the very same train of thought I do find it occasionally overwhelming. I am unsure if this is due to MAIA's desire to see me cry in my cereal or simply my inability to grasp some of the most basic ideas but there is a clearly learning curve which requires a level of dedication.

Now I said earlier the game was SOMEWHAT serious, in the traditional British manner there is a consistent and entertaining undertone of comedy. It’s actually rather hard to be precise in this as the comedy is very…. well, British. The mixture of utter lunacy and straight faced sarcasm is the backbone of our society and thus to simply point and yell “It’s right there” doesn’t seem appropriate. I can tell you that digestive biscuits were described in a delightfully colourful way and furthermore excessively sized animals seem to take great pleasure is scratching their rear ends like a dog with worms. It’s very tempting to get bogged down into what bits were funny for me and which bits were not but it’s a matter of taking the whole thing in. One thing you can be sure of is there is a giggle or two in the foundation of this game and that is appreciated, it truly is. In a world where Blizzard are disastrously serious with a movie franchise I appreciate good natured comedy seeping into my games again.

Progress report

So what’s the problem? I mean if you plodded over to Steam when this article was posted you’ll see the reviews are “mixed”. Well the game is far from perfect, which should be expected for any game sitting in the Early Access bubble and even more so when you it’s an alpha and not beta. But these imperfections seem to resonate around the somewhat sluggish interface and occasionally buggy AI which can get frustrating from time to time, but these glitches should be expected from a game technically still being developed. I think the greatest upset from the people has been the delay in the development. Initially the game was kick-started in 2012 and there was a dangerous amount of radio silence with updates coming every 6 months on said Kickstarter page. However since mid-2015 the update schedule has changed to 2-3 months and while that’s not an initially encouraging timeframe I was able to find out that Simon Roth has a very regular Twitch account which keep you appraised of everything. So you can literally see the bugs being bombed on a very consistent and reliable rate which is precisely what we want to see from a developing concept.

screenshot

My overall impression of MAIA? It’s rough around the edges, but a diamond is forming. The concept is solid, the gameplay is dynamic and the tone is both entertaining and challenging. While I may find myself questioning the AI’s decision to walk into a room with no oxygen or my giant finger for being so god damned giant I can see where the game is going and I am being guided accordingly. When it finally reaches its apex I shall be thankful for everyone who supported it, giant finger ‘n’ all.

Images - Steam

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