Conglomerate 451 by RuneHeads
When I first played an early version of Conglomerate 451 from 1C Entertainment and developer RuneHeads, it seemed very rough and empty. Rather than take it down in a review, I decided to give it a few more months to develop.
I’m glad I did, but also a little disappointed it didn’t go much further, even with the huge update the devs pushed before going into 1.0 commercial release and saying they needed to take a break before the next update.
Of course, I sympathize that they need time off with their families. It’s more that the game feels like an interactive mod that is figuring out what it is as it goes along, so for all the good bits, it is very uneven in others.
According to their press release, since Early Access, they’ve added four new areas, story mode, 25 new enemies, 10 new NPCs, corporation bosses and a redesigned UI. There is an endless mode (which I suspect was the original and only mode) but I can’t imagine enjoying that very much for reasons I will explain in this review.
The game has found some traction with a gamer community, and there is a lot of back and forth that is certainly helping the title improve.
The new update I’m playing – version 1.0.3 – seems to have been fleshed out and smoothed over a little, with some tutorials and cut-scenes added, and generally feels better to play.
I’m playing this on an Nvidia GTX 2070, and sure, it’s pretty, especially on maximum graphics settings, but it’s not exactly a Belgian box of chocolates.
A lot of it feels a little bit off-the-shelf and the characters repeat far too often, feeling like a random grab bag of asset store rejects and breaking the immersion. In the end, though, I won’t fault it for that. Indie games are allowed to be homemade, modded, repurposed or kit-bashed if they do something interesting with what they have got.
I Think We’re a Clone Now
In Conglomerate 451, there are many ways to expand and enhance your characters. You will continually create clones of your soldiers, which you can develop and retire any time, Blade Runner style, which places them in a graveyard gallery that you can revisit at your leisure. A huge talent tree with a variety of upgrade paths is almost overwhelming in its scope.
Also, soldiers can be wounded in a variety of ways, and the wounds have long-term and lasting effects. You have to resource-manage and decide whether to put a wounded clone into one of the scarce medi-bays to repair for a week or more or just sacrifice them and make room for a new clone.
This sort of moral/management quandary certainly made for some tense decisions as I evaluated my sunk costs into a particular soldier vs. the time lost in mending them. They may have a lot of experience under their belts – plus mods, upgrades and the like – so tossing them because of a critical leg wound becomes harder to justify.
The problem is that the world just tends to feel generic. Some of the world-building has a glimmer of inspiration, but again, it too often feels like an afterthought. Also, there is an imbalance between interactable objects, settings and wallpaper. What is the good of a ladder if you can’t climb it?
The game’s language sometimes suffers from poor translation; similarly, the voice performances are just OK, like most things in Conglomerate 451.
Just Another Reflection in the Mirrorshades
Moreover, for all to which it pays tribute, it fails to introduce new aesthetic or cultural ideas.
Shadowrun derivatives like this will be completely power-hosed off the sidewalk once CD Projekt Red plays its Cyberpunk 2077 card. It’s the last of the middling cyberpunk games before the wave comes over and washes everything else away, the same way that Half-Life: Alyx did for anything else in VR.
That said, I absolutely love grid-based dungeon crawlers, and there are too few set in this theme. I am happy that Conglomerate 451 is here, much as I do wish that it offered a richer society story and characters to sink into.
As it stands, it feels like a homespun arcade game made up of a lot of things that I tend to enjoy.
I do enjoy Conglomerate 451’s dirty Shadowrun-cum-Judge Dredd feel, and if you’re a fan of the genre, it could be enough to keep you up too late one night, cloning up just one more squad to iterate on the strange anti-corporate story unfolding in the cyber underground.
Conglomerate 451 is available via Steam.
Watch the official Conglomerate 451 trailer below: