Review: Project Nimbus: Code Mirai

Review: Project Nimbus: Code Mirai

Project Nimbus: Code Mirai is a mech action game developed by GameCrafterTeam and published by KISS ltd. which originally released on Steam on September 26, 2017, after having been in Early Access since 2014. This year, the game made its way to PlayStation 4.

Title: Project Nimbus: Code Mirai
Developer: GameCrafterTeam
Platform: PC, PlayStation 4
Game Version: Final
Review Copy: Provided by Publisher
Interface: Controller or Mouse and Keyboard
Available on Steam, PlayStation Store 

Project Nimbus takes place decades after the third World War, which caused so much environmental destruction it made Earth uninhabitable. As a result, human civilization has moved on to living in flying cities above the Earth’s surface, separating into three factions. Even with World War 3 behind them, conflicts between factions still arise. These conflicts are fought using Battle Frames, giant individually piloted humanoid mechanical weapons.

Project Nimbus features two single player modes, a campaign mode and a survival mode. The campaign mode consists of two eight mission acts  in which you pilot several different frames throughout, in turn allowing you to see the conflict from all sides. The story is relatively standard for a science fiction mech action game, and doesn’t do much to distance itself from similar stories, so skipping it over is recommended if you want to get back to the gameplay as soon as possible.

The campaign mode has three difficulties: Casual Gaming for rookie pilots, Gamer Recommended for experienced pilots, and prepare to die for veteran pilots. Casual Gaming would be best recommended to players new to the genre or having trouble with the Gamer Recommended difficulty, while the higher difficulties are best suggested for those who know their way around the genre as well as those who like a tough challenge. While the controls themselves are passable , they can take some time to adjust to, and can be completely remapped for players seeking a more convenient setup.

Although the easiest difficulty features health regeneration and auto lock on, neither of them make gameplay effortless. Health regeneration is limited and takes some time, so missions can still be failed from lack of attention, while auto lock on makes aiming at targets only slightly easier than it would be on the other difficulty levels, as it just takes the press of a button. The campaign also has a rather short average play time, so those who would prefer to have a lengthier experience may find more enjoyment on higher difficulties, even if it’s more infuriating.

Each battle frame has a different arsenal of weapons at its disposal, ranging from a variety of guns and missiles, to particle cannons and particle shields, and of course energy blades. Guns and missiles are best for long range attacks, while energy blades are best at a close range. The energy blade is also useful when fighting large adjacent groups of weaker enemies, as you can  defeat one after another in a flash. While the blade is simple and more satisfying to use than some of the long range weapons, it can’t always be relied on alone due to the increase in enemy strength and variety, so it’s best to try to get acquainted with all the weapons for easier swapping.  Blade weapon attacks also consist of repeatedly pressing one button, and can become boring at times due to lack of combo variety.

All weapons other than energy blades have limited ammo and have a recharge cooldown before they can be used again. For some weapons this only takes a few seconds, but when using stronger weapons it’s more beneficial to switch to another weapon temporarily as the first recharges. Although weapons can be cycled through quickly, this isn’t instantaneous and feels marginally slower than it should be.  Weapon variety is adequate as well, although it could use a few more diverse weapons besides guns and missiles.

In addition to weapons, all Battle Frames have a bullet time and boost ability. Bullet time temporarily slows down time to assist aiming, and is helpful when dealing with groups of enemies or constantly moving targets. Boost temporarily increases a Battle Frames speed, which is useful when going from one objective to the next, but at times the speed increase doesn’t feel like much, particularly when targets are spread out across the area.

These weapons and abilities stay constant throughout the whole game, and there’s no kind of upgrade system to improve them.  Battle Frames always cause the same amount of damage to enemies, making boss fights drag on for longer than necessary. Different weapons do cause different amounts of damage, but since their damage output never changes, it reduces the sense of progression .

Each mission spans a large area, but they aren’t without some boundaries. You can leave the mission area, but this will result in a failed mission if you don’t return in time. The problem with this is that some enemies will fly  out of the mission area and it won’t have any affect on them. These enemies can still be damaged if they’re in range, but when they’re too far it can risk mission failure if they don’t fly back in. This doesn’t happen often, but happens just enough to become a minor annoyance.

Some multi-part missions later on lack the checkpoints of earlier missions, causing you to start over from the beginning if you fail. With no indication that the checkpoint system will change as the campaign continues, this can be frustrating for first time players. This lack of consistency can be easily overlooked as it isn’t a problem with the majority of missions, but still causes a small dent in overall quality.

While it doesn’t have the high quality graphics of bigger budget games, Project Nimbus does its best to make its environments neatly polished and pleasant to look at. There’s also an appropriate variety of environments, from oceans to outer space to a river filled canyon and more, helping each mission feel distinct despite some similarities. Even though the Earth is uninhabitable, its beauty can still be appreciated from what remains.

 The music featured throughout the campaign is well done, but is overshadowed during gameplay due to everything else going on. I’d recommend either listening to the soundtrack separately or changing the volume settings, as the high quality and appropriately epic tone lends itself to the campaign well, but the best tracks can be buried by voices and sound effects.  Project Nimbus features both English and Japanese audio with subtitles, so players have their choice. I started with English, but switched to Japanese with subtitles after a few missions due to less than desirable voice direction. To my surprise, for the Japanese audio the developers worked with several prolific Japanese voice actors including Hidekatsu Shibata (Mobile Suit Gundam, Naruto) for the role of Professor Iwata, among others.

Besides the voices heard during missions, there are also accessible audio logs between each mission. These audio logs contain important information about the characters and lore of the game for curious players, but offer nothing beyond that, and listening to them is optional. There are a few small but notable grammatical errors in the dialogue throughout most of the game, but most players may not even notice.

In addition to the campaign, Project Nimbus also features a Survival Mode. Survival Mode has its own set difficulty and as a result does not contain the features from the Casual Gaming difficulty level. This mode provides an excellent way for inexperienced players to improve their piloting skills, and features a wider selection of Battle Frames than those used in the Campaign Mode. Unfortunately, problems like the lack of any kind of upgrade or power up system are still present.

One feature Project Nimbus would benefit from is some kind of cooperative or competitive multiplayer mode. This would provide an extra layer to the already enjoyable survival mode and could see players helping each other take down waves of enemies and bosses together.

While there are more notable games in the genre, many aren’t as readily available outside of Japan. Project Nimbus may not be a prime example of what the genre is capable of, but is an entertaining albeit brief experience. Even with its blemishes, Project Nimbus: Code Mirai provides a sufficient experience for players looking to get their mech piloting action fix.

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