This is a game that absolutely gets the most out of procedural generation and random loot generation, and when combined with simple but nice graphics and style, and throw-back hacker feel, you get one hell of a game. The fun in this game comes from slowly progressing and increasing your character as you hack new servers and find ever better ways to combine your abilities, minions and damage.
Black Ice is a simple game at heart which means it doesn't suffer from many of the annoying problems seen in mechanically similar games. In The Binding of Isaac, Ziggurat and Paranautical Activity, for example, you'll often find yourself tracking through multiple rooms to find something you forgot about, or travel back to get access to a new area. In Black Ice, the radiating positioning of terminals eliminates backtracking, and the jetpack later reduces travel time further. In Borderlands you're often becomes a pain in the butt not being able to hold everything in your inventory and figuring out what you want to throw away, and to then cart it all back to a shop and sell it all, whereas in Black Ice there are actually more drops, but they never get annoying, and are a small reward after each server because after slotting in what you want, you can completely forget about them until you find a shop and one-click to sell all.
These simple but effective gameplay designs solve small annoyances seen in other titles and really add to the quick pace and play.
The other half of what makes this title so enjoyable is the fantastic atmosphere and feel. Any fan of Johnny Mneumonic or Hackers who loved that 90s unbreached and new world of computer technology feel will know what I'm talking about and feel subtle instances of connection and nostalgia here.
* There's great mod support and open settings and configuration in general, which is a delight. There is mod functionality and great technical customization out of the box.
* The progressive, customizable and balanced level up system is done very well and combines with weapons and abilities to make for a depth of strategy in combat approach.
* The music is wide and plentiful and while it's mostly mild or bland, none of it is bad and some tracks do stand out.
* While it's hardly worth mentioning, it's so rare that I have to commend the On/Off Switch buttons on the UI showing which state they're currently in, and switching to. For whatever reason this annoys me when it's missing and I click Yes and end up with No.
Early Access Specific
Most of my Early Access Specific sections in reviews come with warnings and reasons to be careful, but with Black Ice the developer constantly surpasses expectations and obligations and is clearly comited to making the game better and more immersive in any way he can find. The main planned features which don't exist at the time of review are quests and some level of plot, melee weapons and multiplayer item trading. None of these can reasonably be expected to negatively impact the game, especially in the hands of clearly intelligent and intent developer and other than the ♥♥♥♥ling possibility of multiplayer introducing a shallow trade-to-win feel, there shouldn't be anything to make you think twice here.
You can currently pick up Black Ice for £6.99/9.99€/$9.99 and the developer has stated “The game will slowly increase in price up to the full version price of $20 as I add more features. This way, the game will always be a good deal and I'm not punishing people for buying early.”
This provides an incentive to buy earlier if you trust in the developer and as a result, the only comment I can pass is that if you were on the fence because of Early Access on this title, you really shouldn't be and now is a great time to buy an already fairly complete game.
Despite the fantastic user rating on Steam and the developers dedication to community feedback improvement, there are still issues and problems worth pointing out here, and they're mostly down to the same thing that makes it great; the simplicity. It helps keep many problems at bay but also results in a lack of variety and it's very easy to get bored with the world as a whole and to become mindlessly numb after repeatedly churning the process of fighting enemies, cycling through loot, bumping up stats, repeat ad infinitum. However, the developer seems to be open to the idea of mini-bosses and side objectives and this may very well be implemented at some later stage which would add some level of variety.
* The difficulty curve is perhaps far too shallow at first and doesn't pick up for a while. It's easy to go 30 or 40 levels without running into many difficult situations if you spend time customizing yourself in the right ways.
* Multiplayer is likely to change a lot over Early Access, but it's currently very basic and doesn't add much over single player other than being able to approach some enemies slightly differently and trade items.
Currently priced at £6.99/9.99€/$9.99 make this cheaper than The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, but more expensive than The Binding of Isaac Collection or Dungeons of Dredmor Complete, and price matches it with Paranautical Activity, all of which are similar in terms of play time value. So overall the price feels fair just now. There's also a 4-Pack option which brings down the price by somewhere around 25% if you have friends to group buy with.
Since the price is set to eventually double the current price and arrive at $19.99, albeit with a plot, more enemies, abilities, weapons, trading and functionality, it's worth mentioning that I feel it may well be overpriced at that stage, and that waiting for a sale after then may very well be a better choice.
* There's a list of retailers included on the bottom of the website
and shopping around is advised since the single and 4-Pack options were both slightly cheaper for me from Humble Bundle.
* There's a free demo available on the website and Steam store page.http://store.steampowered.com/app/311800