Back when it was first announced Timemelters (previously known as Wicca) came over as a seriously ambitious and fun game. Developed by Autoexec Games, founded by the co-creator of Sang-Froid: Tales of the Werewolf, Vincent Blanchard, this title puts players in the shoes of the witch, Teagan, as she looks to defend her village from a mysterious uprising of the undead. Using various magical powers to chew through hordes of zombies, Timemelters is an RTS that plays from a third-person perspective and even uses a degree of tower defence systems - so essentially, there's a lot going on.
I've had the chance to play a preview build of the game, which let me muck about in its world, getting to grips with the mechanics and what is on offer, and while I can see that there is a lot of potential for Timemelters, I'm not quite convinced yet.
Set in 16th century Scotland, the story is loosely based on real events that happened at the time. It's far from a historically-accurate perception of these very roughly documented tales, as the land is riddled with hordes of the undead; mythical beasts make up some of your closest allies; and you play as a witch. The point of the game is to basically use your mystical powers to defend specific locations and people from waves of zombies, all while the plot explores a narrative trying to unwind why the dead are rising.
Before I dive into the mechanical intricacies, it's worth noting that Timemelters doesn't have a release date or window yet, so plenty is subject to change ahead of launch.
Anyway, as you play as Teagan, you'll have a series of magical abilities at your disposal. These include firing ranged attacks that deal damage, summoning mystical entities that will aid in the fight, animating trees (think of the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter), and even using time loops to evade the clutches of death. The abilities you are provided with give multiple options to how you approach combat, which plays like an RTS, meaning there's a lot of planning involved if you intend to survive a mission.
The hordes of undead hobble in packs towards the objective you are protecting, and it's your duty as Teagan to stop them in their tracks by exploiting the battlefield. You can't just run up to zombies and gun them down with abilities as they'll very quickly overwhelm you, and frankly the majority of your abilities are pretty useless when it comes to close combat. Understanding the map and placing summoned creatures, awakening trees, and using your time loop effectively is crucial to success.
While this design makes sense on the surface, in practice it feels overbearing. Teagen, despite being a magical witch, is not very effective in combat, in fact, if you're using your close range abilities, you're probably already dead. It's because of this design that the combat isn't all that pleasing to play. You never really feel in control, and because the battlefields, which are pretty big, are generally quite empty, you'll find yourself scarce of options to how you approach fights.
This is my biggest issue with Timemelters right now, in that, it still feels very rudimentary in design. I can see the potential, and what this game can be down the line, but right now, this feels like a technical demo displaying how magical abilities can work in video games. The world feels sparse, the controls rugged, and on top of this, it was quite heavy on my PC's hardware - I was getting significant frame rate drops very frequently, despite being beyond the current system requirements.
Considering Autoexec hasn't attached a release window of any kind, I'm not too concerned about the future of Timemelters right now. But, I do think that despite its strengths and potential, there's still a while to go with this ambitious, genre-mashing title.