The clock read 1 a.m. for the third night in a row when I blearily admitted to myself that “Scrap Mechanic” might be something really special ... or at the very least deeply addictive.
Not since the early days of “Minecraft” have I been so completely captured by a freeform building and exploration game like I’ve been with less than a week of “Scrap Mechanic,” which brings to the table an impressive system for creating all sorts of contraptions including but not limited to cars, bases and cars that serve as bases.
“Scrap Mechanic” has been on my radar for years but I finally gave it a shot when last week it launched a survival mode that drops you in a world with a sledgehammer, a lift that serves as your go-to platform for creating and endless possibilities. The world is filled with resources for crafting, places to explore and farm-hating robots who’ll mess up your creations if given the chance.
You have a hunger and thirst meter that can be sated with fruits and veggies you can harvest from farm plots. Eventually, you can trade in crates of those fruits and veggies to traders who’ll reward you with additional recipes and, most importantly, potato-powered guns.
Those guns are important because they’re needed to go toe-to-toe with the robots that protect derelict buildings that contain the game’s best loot. Those robots aren’t too keen on humans farming, either, and will seek out and destroy unauthorized farms every in-game night.
Like “Minecraft,” it’s a big and mysterious world — complete with atmospheric music that hits at just the right time when out exploring — without a goal other than the ones you set for yourself. I’ve been playing with my brother, who’s handled much of the farming and mining, while I’ve spent many, many hours puzzling together vehicles with the game’s impressive construction system.
It’s in that construction system where the game really shines. You’ll start out with the most basic of systems with lumpy wheels and weak engines that make it difficult to even climb a hill before the possibilities quickly unfold.
There’s a pistons, speedy engines, switches and circuits that make things like a car with grappler arms that can harvest, lift, load and process wood, stone and metal with a few button presses. Each new item unlocks a ton of possibilities.
The options are limited only by your own creativity, which offers endless hours of experimentation to get everything just right before watching it succeed or fail miserably in the field. Every failure teaches you something about the game’s systems, giving you new opportunities for revisions or new ideas.
Take a quick peak at YouTube, and you’ll find so many unique and creative ideas from cars, Star Wars-esque pod racers, walking mechs, automated watering systems and complicated bases.
I’ve been finding myself often thinking about new creations or building methods while not even playing, and I can’t wait to jump back in and make even more changes to my all-in-one mining car.
“Scrap Mechanic” is still in early access, which means that it’s still in development with the potential for big changes, much-needed polish, new content and handy extra features, so I don’t want to give it a star rating quite yet. I’d really like to see a better in-game tutorial (YouTube, Reddit and other player-made guides are a must right now), a streamlining to the more tedious elements of the game like collecting gasoline (again, the Internet has some good advice on how to make this easier) and just more content like planes, boats and submarines.
Still, I whole-heartedly recommend “Scrap Mechanic” as a charming sandbox with amazing potential.
Matt Buxton is a freelance writer and gamer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.