Copper Dreams, a “cyberpunk, cybertactical party-based cRPG,” was initially revealed in early 2016. A few months later, it successfully finished a $40,000 Kickstarter campaign. The project appeared to be extremely promising, but the Kickstarter’s predicted release date of May 2017 proved to be far too optimistic, and it dropped off our radar at that time. However, development continues, including a name change to Mechajammer in mid-2020, and we witnessed how far it’s gone today at the PC Gaming Show thanks to a world-exclusive debut of a fresh new video.
Mechajammer appears to share a superficial similarity to the classic Fallout games at first sight. However, Hannah Williams, co-founder of developer Whalenough Studios, claims that it is more influenced by the classic action/sci-fi films of the 1980s, such as Escape From New York, Robocop, and The Terminator.
“There’s something gloriously gritty, dark, and campy about how the future is shown in these films that really connects with us,” Williams said. “These low-tech settings are both horrifying and sympathetic, and though Mechajammer is set in a sci-fi premise, the planet itself is analogue and familiar. We enjoy generating complex, abstract visual atmospheres in our games, and we wanted to capture the absence of CGI employed in these types of science fiction films. The settings are a solid wall of dirty, sticky pixels that we believe reflects the gritty vibe of films like this.”
While Mechajammer shares many similarities with “tabletop-rooted CRPGs” like Fallout, Williams claims that its core is more of an immersive sim, “like an isometric Deus Ex.” That approach to game design prompted Whalenough to experiment with making combat more simulation-like, with events taking place concurrently across numerous rounds.
“Because actions are nuanced across numerous rounds and lose the standard turn-based abstraction,” Williams stated, “the outcome has more real-time tactics, but with the control of typical turn-based fighting.” “You notice an adversary emerge from cover and point a pistol at you, but they haven’t fired yet, so you may presume they are in an aiming turn for the time being. You have the option of ducking behind your own cover and waiting, running for alternative cover to flank, taking a shot yourself if you think you’ll be faster, or throwing up your shield to deflect.”
“It makes fighting suspenseful and allows for a variety of techniques such as side-stepping a thrown knife (which takes turns to reach to you) or stopping someone mid-attack that would not be feasible if everyone performed their turns one at a time or all at the same time.”
If combat isn’t your thing, Mechajammer also enables covert play through adversary sight cones, audio detection, cover, and non-lethal takedowns, making conflict avoidance a fully feasible alternative.
In Mechajammer, your ultimate aim is not to save the world or the people, but to just live and escape, which Williams described as another part of the game that borrows from those ’80s action masterpieces.
“There aren’t any hero subquests in Mechajammer that include saving pets in a well or helping people,” Williams explained. “You, like Snake Plissken, just want to break free from your own bonds and claw your way out of the hellhole you’ve found yourself in, even if that means leaving the city in worse condition than you found it. Despite this, the campiness and satire in these films provide them a lighter tone, with chandeliers strapped to vehicles, single-handed battle with a giant wielding a spiked club, and so on, and we enjoy the juxtaposition between the bleakness of ordinary life and the silliness of the camp.”