Today I want to tell you about Nuclear Throne!
Nuclear Throne is a fast-paced top-down pixel shooter made by Vlambeer. It’s available on Steam, which is where I randomly stumbled across it. I bought it because it looked fun and creative and (most importantly) had roguelike qualities to it, and boy, does it ever. All the levels, enemies, and drops are randomly generated, and every time you level up you’re presented with randomized upgrades from which to choose. A round of Nuclear Throne generally doesn’t take much longer than 15 minutes, especially if you’re new to it, because it is extremely difficult and death is cheap.
The general goal presented by this game is to get to the Nuclear Throne, but you’re not given any more information than that, other than a hint screen that confirms that the Throne does indeed exist. It’s very much a gameplay-focused game, there’s no story outside the loading screen tips and there’s no cutscenes. All the “lore” we get is generally very silly, to fit the setting of this goofy apocalyptic wasteland. Normally I like a good story in a game, but if a developer ever decides to abandon plot entirely and go for pure action, I’m always excited to play it because I don’t have any down time and I don’t need to think about anything other than the current struggle to stay alive.
I love the combat in this game; it’s a bullet hell where everything dies very quickly, including yourself. There’s a lot of different types of monsters to face, mostly along the themes of mutated animals, humanoid robots, and bandits. You have to learn how to approach the different groups of enemies with the weapons you’re carrying, and you have to learn the behavior of each monster. For instance, scorpions will shoot tons of slow-moving shots at you, but they will also straight-up one-shot you if you get too close. Assassin robots will play dead until you get close, and then they will try to crack your skull with a pipe. Some enemies explode when they die, and so on.
Death in cheap in the wasteland, and all you have to defend yourself are the two weapons you’re carrying and your particular character’s special abilities. Each of the 12 playable mutants can do something special on the battlefield, my favorite is the muscle-covered Steroids, who can use both his weapons at once. Personal preference aside though, each character encourages a different sort of playstyle, I just happen to prefer the extremely reckless and aggressive one. The game also has co-op in a limited fashion right now, and finding effective combinations of mutant powers can also be fun, if you have a friend close at hand.
Weapon choice in this game is almost as important as mutation upgrade choice; the right set of weapons decides whether you live or die. If you choose an explosive weapon, be sure you don’t catch yourself or your buddy in the blast. If you choose melee weapons, you can deflect bullets, at the cost of limited range. Energy weapons are powerful, but they run out of ammo quickly. Experience is the only real way to learn what you prefer and what is appropriate for the current situation. Sometimes you don’t get any good weapon drops at all, and then you have to adapt your playstyle. The wasteland has no mercy, so you’ll have to find your own way with what you’ve got.
Currently Nuclear Throne is still early access, but I’ve already had so much fun with it that I’m sure it will be great when it comes out. It’s constantly updating, but is still a little content-low, so anything else I have to say about it would be too specific to really interest someone who hasn’t tried it yet. If you can try it with a friend, definitely get on that. Thanks for reading.