Eden Star drops you into the spaceboots of a pioneer at the height of a cosmic gold rush. In this vision of the future, Earth is barren and dying, forcing humanity to look for life-sustaining resources on other planets. It's a curious mix of tower defence, real-time strategy and Minecraft, and although it's early in development, I was able to play a promising preview build made available to Kickstarter backers.
Key to your survival is an arm-mounted tool called a Remote Manipulation Device, which functions like a futuristic Swiss Army knife. You can use it as a weapon, grabbing enemies with a fluorescent tendril and throwing them into walls, or you can use it to break down space-rocks and harvest the minerals hidden inside, which can then be used to build basic structures out of square blocks.
The Unreal-powered physics make the world feel impressively dynamic: rocks crumble realistically as you cut through them and scenery falls apart with the passage of time.
At the heart of each map is the Eden Kit, a terraformer that's perpetually under attack from waves of increasingly angry enemies – which in my demo were flying squid-bots. You'll respawn if you're killed, but if the Kit is destroyed, it's game over. As the enemies flood in, you can use harvested minerals to build a protective shell around it while using the RMD's weapons to fight them off. But even if you completely cover it in blocks, the squids can smash through them, meaning you have to devote some time between waves to collecting minerals and repairing your fortifications.
It feels a little twitchy in this early demo, but using what I've christened the 'physics tentacle' to fling robo-squids around is really fun. Yank the mouse down and you slam them into the ground. Flick it towards a wall and they crash into it, bringing physics rubble down with them. Jerk one enemy towards another and they smash into each other with a satisfying crunch. If this doesn't kill them, you can fire a laser beam from your palm like Iron Man, cutting through what's left of their health.(opens in new tab)
There's some Mirror's Edge-style freerunning in there too, and even at this early stage it feels nicely responsive. Sprint towards a vertical surface at an angle and you'll perform a wall-run. Any object you can reach can be climbed on – including the ones you've built yourself with the RMD. Get used to the controls and you can use the build tool to navigate around the map, quickly dropping blocks to break your fall and create on-the-fly bridges between structures.
I've only tasted a tiny fraction of what developers Flix say the final game will offer. My demo took place in a relatively small arena, with only one Eden Kit to protect, and only a single enemy type. They're promising large levels, multiple points to defend, a variety of enemy types with different behaviours, and co-op multiplayer. If it's this enjoyable at prealpha, they're doing something right.