REVIEW: DownGate Deathmatch

One of the better games to come out of the last Indie Uprising was XenoMiner. Undoubtedly, new takes on Minecraft have been done to death, but in giving the game an extraterrestrial base and a heavy survival aspect, it managed to eek out a niche. Though it was successful on its own, and plenty of updates / add-ons have been released, developer Gristmill Studios is taking a stab at something different for its latest, DownGate Deathmatch ($1.00).

DownGate Deathmatch - Screen

And what better way to broaden your audience (and earn a little extra revenue) than with a first-person shooter set in that same universe, right? Right? Well, that is the plan. You see, combining FPS and Crafting is old hat, too, leaving DownGate Deathmatch in the precarious position of having to prove itself equal to (or better than) existing examples, or risk looking like a cheap, me-too knock-off.

Taking stylistic inspiration from classic run-and-gun types like Unreal and Quake, the game certainly doesn’t want for options, granting you complete customization over your choice of ExoDrone (that’s fancyspeak for ‘Space Marine’). You really can be a beautiful, unique snowflake in space. From class designation to outer appearance, to weapons, equipment, perks, and even ammo type, the total number of possible outfit combinations is impressive.

Ditto for the traversal options once you’re in-game. DGD supports up to sixteen players online, and the maps are at once intimidatingly-large and expansive enough to accommodate the number of players. You can remove and / or add blocks to create defenses. Jet-packs can get you both vertical and around the level in a hurry, while gravity boots can literally change your perspective of the world on the fly, with the floor becoming the ceiling and vice-versa. All of which introduces several different ways to play.

DownGate Deathmatch - Screen2

…but not the first-person shooter you need.

Unfortunately, all the front-end work and thrilling bits sound better on paper. In practice, it plays average at best, with the crafting and gravity features reduced to novelty tricks. Combat lacks oomph!, and hit detection is non-existent, making it impossible to tell if you’re doing damage to other players. When you can find them, that is. The transient nature of online lobbies means you likely won’t find more than two or three players at a time (thus making the maps too big), while the terrible single-player AI guarantees you won’t have much fun solo either.

If you could judge a game purely by its possibilities and eagerness to please, DownGate Deathmatch would rank highly. To do so would be ignoring some pretty serious faults, though, and the fact that the game simply pales in comparison to other titles like it. It looks the part, but feels like a clunky, bland-playing FPS that does little to help or expand the universe it is set in.

8 thoughts on “REVIEW: DownGate Deathmatch”

  1. The idea for the game is great! But… In reality… Not every well… However get 3 friends to play with you and it becomes a lot funner! Especially on the smaller maps. And with 2different game times so far. (Team deathmatch and a mineing game) I would like for them to add CTF!
    I think its a better game then most other inde games. I’m just waiting for the update (I’ve been waiting for about a year now, and there’s still no update)
    Games pretty OK. Even though it could be lots better. Friends is something you need to make this game fun!
    You can add me on Xbox if you’d like. (My name is my gamer tag)
    I give it 6.8 out of 10

    1. Oh yeah, it IS a great idea by itself, but the execution was really what sank this game for me. Putting it on XBLIG is partially to blame, since there’s never anyone online playing it more than a month after release. I personally don’t see myself ever going back to it.

      You likely won’t get any new updates, either, as the team has moved on. Actually, if you and your friends are looking for another game like this, they changed it over to a co-op experience and tweaked some of the mechanics a bit. It’s called XenoMiner Swarm. Here’s the review, if you’re curious:

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  2. This one looked promising from the screenies and it’s fairly fun once you spend some time with it; but man, the basic shooting needs *so* much work. A kindergarten playground battle with cap guns and water pistols is more viscerally satisfying. You’d be better off building a homemade toy bazooka from several cardboard tubes and making explosion sounds with your mouth as you play the game.

    Having a jetpack to conveniently cruise around a map is truly wonderful, though.

    1. Ha, I like that analogy! 🙂 Fits perfectly well, too. I agree, when you’re forced to start making the ‘pew pew’ noises on your own to improve the combat, it does need extra work. Gristmill has laid most of the groundwork here, but they’ve got an uphill climb to make it fun.

  3. And, XNA should have been continued on the XBOX ONE. But, now it will be a complete system written in C++ even if you cave in and use Unity Pro……you will still be writing in C++ ( if you do decide to bow down and use/license someone’s game engine because you are too lazy/hurried to write your own) But heck, since when does anyone take XNA Developers seriously….didn’t they let an indie game reviewer become an honorary developer even though they can’t write code ?

  4. The problem is most indie developers cannot write a smooth game engine in XNA. Most of these games suffer the same woes of bad hit detection, lag, stuttering etc…which comes from a lack of understanding with the GC (garbage collector) and that most developers are deviating from the proper XNA game model. They need to read the white papers and the hardware specs on the xbox360, and will have to rewrite some of the most notorious library methods in c#. Example, strings (text), random numbers, matrix multiplication, rendertargets, threads, and content manager. Oh, but that would be hard work 🙂

    1. Though I know nothing about coding, I have heard of developers having issues with the ‘garbage collector’. I also wouldn’t presume to know the difficulties in altering the XNA code or writing your own engine. My guess on that would be that there’s a skill gap between developers, with some being more adept at things like that, while others (maybe part-time / hobbyist-types) wouldn’t even know where to begin. To be fair, I’ve heard time and time again that XBLIG / XNA isn’t worth the effort to make larger / more unique games, and some could just be looking for shortcuts around it, thus avoiding the harder work loads.

      Gristmill seems like a good bunch of people (they did well with XenoMiner; a lot of post-release patches and updates), and they didn’t do too bad here. It’s probably less a coding thing, and more a lack of experience with first-person shooters. They seem to have all the important parts, but are just missing the little things (like proper hit markers,), and, well…. fun. …It’s not very fun. It feels like an honest effort, though.

      XNA’s days were numbered a long time ago, so no surprise they made the move they did for Xbox One. My lack of programming knowledge prevents me from giving a more detailed reply. We’ll probably see some of the same problems on that platform as on the 360, so yeah, once again it will be who takes the time to put out a quality product, and who puts out the point-and-click boob games. As always, it should be interesting.

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