Hey, look at this cool game that I don’t know where it came from! Reassembly, by one Anisoptera Games, bills itself as a spaceship construction and fleet action engine. Crafting complex ships from simple parts and then conquering the universe, yeah! Sounds like a pretty interesting way to burn a lazy week, if nothing else. And it’s not like I’m a stranger to universal domination.
Strange thing, though… I own Reassembly. I’ve owned Reassembly for a while, in fact: its icon has had a set place on my desktop for at least a few weeks now. And… I don’t know why I own it? Or how? As far as I can tell it’s not free-to-play, so I must’ve actively gotten it at some point. But searches through my email inbox for either ‘Reassembly’ or ‘Anisoptera’ come up more or less blank. No Steam or Paypal receipts, no ‘a friend gifted you this game’, no developer emails or press mailing lists, no bundles of any kind. As far as I can tell, it came from… beyond? Either I scored a Reassembly key in the deep darkness of the unlogged web somewhere, or this game has always existed.
Of course, not knowing where my Reassembly came from just makes me more interested. It’s not just a ship builder and a space adventure, now: it’s a mystery! And what good is a fancy mystery without a good cracking?
(Spoiler levels: Narrative, none, as far as I can tell. Mechanical, medium.)
(Game source: ???)
A high-frequency, ethereal keyboard scale accompanies Reassembly‘s opening. Bing bing bíng bing, bing bing bìng bing… At first, there is only space in the background. Then, the Anisoptera Games logo, and a single spaceship. And then…
Wow. This is a violent title screen. Two groups of spaceships — one organic-looking green and yellow, the other angular orange and black — duke it out across the screen, shooting and twirling and ramming into one another. Plasma bolts fly, lasers flare, and explosions abound. Are they even… I think they’re even attacking the title itself! I guess when it comes to the grim darkness of the far future, Warhammer 40K had the right idea after all.
I quickly start skipping through the menu, fearful that the ships will turn on me if I dally. Let’s see… Options? Those look alright enough, if you’re into dithering. Controls? Four categories of those, for extra goodness, oh my.
Mods? Maybe some other time. Sandbox? I don’t even know how to do anything yet. Tournament? That sounds way too multi-player for my tastes. Credits? Oh, come on, now you’re just purposefully wasting time. Hurry up, man! They’re closing in on us!
The Start button hides a selection of save slots. Each save slot hides a selection of factions. Ooh, now you’re speaking my language. Currently, only the Terran faction is unlocked. But from the immediate looks of it, there’s some interesting graphical differences between the groups. Farmers, Reds, Tinkrells, Bees…
Except those graphical differences might not be as set in stone as I think? After I select the Terran faction, a follow-up screen offers me more customization. So I could look like this, and use my current Steam name for my in-game name…
…or I could make like a Skittle and taste the rainbow.
Alright! I’m Jarenth, no additions, the green-yellow Terran space menace. Let’s space it up!
After sitting through this appropriately eye-searing loading screen…
…I finally pop into existence as…
Well. That’s, er. A green ship in green space. How serendipitous. Have I done this to myself as well?
‘Mouse/WASD’, the screen beams at me. So, I try. Mouse moves the cursor, which causes the ship to rotate; plumes of yellow exhaust trail from many of the little trapeziums on its sides as it does. WASD moves my ship more directly: W activates the largest single stack of trapeziums on the rear of the ship, and launches my ship cursor-ward. The other three buttons maneuver around that same orientation, in exactly the way you’d expect.
Interesting. I now understand the trapezium shapes all over my ship to be engines. And as far as I can tell, they all automatically fire in response to my global commands. I want to go forward, so all backwards-pointing engines engage. I want to turn clockwise, so all counterclockwise-facing engines spool up. I press and hold X, the dedicated ‘stop’ button, and all engines that are more or less opposed to my current movement vector conspire to get me to stop. It’s all very clever, and space-realistic. I wonder what would happen to a ship that didn’t have this many thrusters, though?…
A HUD pops into view as I move the way I’m supposed to move. On the top left, an overview of my ship. On the bottom left, a minimap, and a few numeric counters I can’t quite parse. And on the bottom right, objectives. ‘Learn to play the game’, spelled out in an easy-to-follow list.
There’s more to the tutorial than just objectives, though. No sooner do I use the mouse to zoom out — to gain a better overview of my tiny, tiny place in this giant world — than game-pausing banners run roughshod across the screen. ‘Mouse wheel to zoom camera!’ ‘Press ‘m’ to expand the minimap!’
Hostiles, huh? I better make sure I’m prepared for that. Flying my ship around the grey, triangular asteroids, I power up my weapon systems. The left mouse button fires a steady stream of energy projectiles…
…while the right mouse button fires two thrust-powered projectiles I assume to be missiles.
The energy bolts fire non-stop, but the missiles take a little time between shots. And when I zoom in on my ship, I can clearly see why: the little missile projectiles are actually redrawn from scratch right before my eyes.
Yeah, I’m kinda digging this ship so far. Sleek design, lasers and missiles, and enough engines to get wherever I want. It’s a pretty good ship, this one is.
Of course, it could be better.
At any point in time, I can press ‘1’ to get into the ship editing screen. The first time I do so, a quick tutorial gives me the happy haps. The ship is made of modular ‘blocks’, and adding and deleting blocks in and by itself pretty much speaks for itself. See those little transparent grey squares dotted all over the ship? Those are basically universal connector pegs. I can click and drag any new part from the side bar, and then connect it to (almost) any place on the ship. Little squiggly lines indicate how which part will connect to which part. And keyboard shortcuts — that I quickly have to look up — allow me to rotate, mirror, and even sometimes resize the parts I’m holding.
It’s a very neat-looking modular system; I can see where the LEGO comparisons on the official site come from. And, in theory, this would allow you to build any size and type of ship layout. Given that we’re in space, not even the sky is the limit.
Of course, Reassembly‘s a game, not ‘just’ a toybox. So, in practice, the limiting factor here is my ‘P’.
Alright, yeah. We’re done laughing? I get it, I get it. Let’s move on.
The teal ‘P’, which I’m given to understand stands for ‘power’, forms the practical limit on how cool my ship can really be. Almost every ship segment I can add costs some P. Hull parts are apparently free, so I could get as big as I want… but given that engines cost 3, 4, or even 7 P, at some point I don’t know if I’d still be able to even move. And the various weapon systems cost much more than that…
I fiddle around with the system for a little bit. More power, more weapons, more hull?… In the end, I decide to just staple a few more plasma projectors to the ship’s front. By way of experiment, you see.
The plasma guns seem to have a very limited firing arc. This makes me wonder to what degree the targeting cursor will have any effect. Will my shots curve? Or will my guns somehow, nonsensically, rotate in place, so as to point in the right direction?
Okay, well. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, there.
Still, a new ship is a new ship. I decide to take Ol’ Tri-Shot here out on a cruise. I fire the engines, and my ship rocket ahead into space. Past the small asteroids, past the void, past the — hey, is that another ship like mine?
Welp. That impact smashed my sideways cannons straight off. Good thing they’re rebuilding as we speak!
But yeah, that was definitely another ship like mine. A Terran ship, fiercely yellow and green. It spins through the cosmos, and spins, and spins, and spins… everything alright with your engines there, buddy?
I run across more ships of my colour and faction here and there. Some of them are small, like me. Others are large, quite unlike me! And a few of them aren’t ships at all: they’re space stations, proud and immobile. I guess that means we own this sector of space! Which also goes a way to explaining why this area of space is green on the minimap.
But that would mean… there’ll be enemies in other coloured squares on the map! I immediately fly to the nearest one, to test out this theory.
I hit full throttle and chase the other ship down. It doesn’t seem to do much of anything except try to flee from me. And that works about as well as you’d expect: once I get into weapons range, I open up on full blast. And within seconds, the other ship explodes in a shower of sparks and shapes.
In the heart of the ship wreckage, I spot a strange purple whorl of energy. My ship automatically picks it up when I get closer. It’s 20 ‘R’, the purple letter, 20 resources. Reassembly tells me I can trade these resources to any allied space station for yellow ‘C’, credits. And that I can use these credits for upgrades.
But I’m not stopping now! I have the fire in my blood. I chase down another cowardly teal ship, and destroy it. And another. And another! Sure, my sideways-facing guns don’t practically do much of anything. But I’m thinking of them as good-luck charms at this point. Like a fancy spaceship moustache!
Oh, hey, what’s that? Another colour enemy ship. Hey there, red guy! Have I told you about the good news of my lord and saviour laser cannons yet?
Oh. You… you have a friend. A big friend. You know, maybe I should just… get out of here, huh? Live and let live? Whaddaya think?
Well. The good news is, my ship gets regenerated at the last station I visited, for free. The bad news is, that regeneration doesn’t actually include the hard-earned resources I was carrying.
Maybe it’s time to stop screwing around a little. I head into the ship construction engine. This time, though, instead of adapting the ship I already have, I decide to make a new ship from scratch.
It’s a little daunting at first. So many options! I could do this, or I could do that, or I could… But eventually, after a few minutes of click-and-drag, I manage to land on a design that… doesn’t actually look horrible?
Things start moving quickly from that point onward. With a slightly better grasp of what does and does not make ships workable, I find I can actually win a few fights here and there. Not much as first: the controls are tricky to get used to, and I haven’t quite put as many differently-oriented thrusters on this thing as there should be. But slowly, surely, I start getting the hang of it.
It really helps to accidentally discover that the ‘r’ key cycles through movement modes. There’s ‘Cursor Rotates’, which I’ve been using, and ‘Keyboard Rotates’. And then there’s also ‘Absolute Control’: the cursor still rotates the ship, but the WASD keys send my ship in their respective cardinal direction, instead of relying on archaic ‘forward’ notions.
I fly around space, shooting enemies — occasionally — and getting shot myself — also occasionally. With the resources I bring in, I unlock more and more cool blocks, and also upgrade my Power to interesting levels. It’s still not really enough to take on the big enemy ships by myself…
Luckily, I find I can trick some of them into chasing me into allied territory. And while I can’t take on a big red capital ship by myself, it turns out that four or five Terran ships stand a much better chance.
Blowing up the large red ship actually unlocks their faction for use! I jump back to the main menu, select a new save slot, and go to work. The Red faction is apparently ‘hard mode’? Well I’ll just be the judge of that.
This faction looks like it does really cool things with diamond shapes and overlapping colour patterns. So, of course, I set their colours to pure black and white immediately.
But after flying around as these guys for a few minutes, I realize: what am I even doing? I haven’t even figured out my starting faction yet. And their colours were so cool! Maybe I ought to learn how the game works with the starting factions, really learn how it works, before I dip my toe into what feels like ill-gotten expanded modes.
Check back in with you guys once I’ve conquered the known galaxy.