How The Endless Mission Blurs the Boundaries of Game Genres
There’s a hidden part in all of us that yearns to make our own game. We can hardly deny it either, as our world-building fantasies continue to fuel the countless sandboxes and level design systems that are increasingly implemented into our favourite franchises. With such a popular trend, it’s almost as if the real developers want gamers to not only understand, but to experience just how systematically intricate their task of designing a game actually is.
But while iconic gems such as Super Mario Maker, Little Big Planet and Media Molecule’s next upcoming game-builder, Dreams, provide a ton of opportunities for players to experiment within different genres, an enormous possibility of existing level-building games still remains unaddressed. That is, what if we could play around with the conventions of the genres themselves, combining them and altering them to create something new entirely?
This is a concept E-Line Media loves to toy with in their Early Access title, The Endless Mission, teasing innovative possibilities of gameplay which transcend what a typical sandbox game is capable of offering. With so many features jam-packed into its seemingly minimal gameplay, players will struggle to define what genre this deceptively simple platformer/RPG/racer/narrative belongs to altogether.
When you first boot up The Endless Mission, you’ll find yourself in the centre of a void with nothing but a mysterious terminal waiting before you. This is pretty much symbolic of the power this game-builder is about to bestow upon you, the programmer, eventually equipping you with the tools and assets needed to harness the void as your canvas.
Pretty soon, you will also come across Ada, a (supposedly) fellow human programmer whose voice guides you on your way to becoming an expert hacker. She’ll show you how to make use of the three lenses—global, spatial and physics—to actively manipulate selected aspects of the world around you, transforming the size of platforms as you come across them or even tactfully adjusting the health values of enemies to zero.
True to its name, the opportunities for you to hack, alter and entirely recreate pre-set levels in The Endless Mission is, well, endless. While the concept of creating a world entirely from scratch is definitely intimidating at first, the actual developers at E-Line Media do a fantastic job of ushering you into the basics of game design. I was astonished by how much freedom I was permitted in building a level of my own, with hundreds of possible assets, objects, effects and conditions at my disposal.
As I adjusted my avatar and tweaked the requirements of my platformer’s end goal to instead be achieved upon the defeat of every enemy, I felt like a fully-fledged programmer without having to bang my head on the keyboard from an inability to comprehend code.
But for players craving a real challenge, the ability to code is actually provided when constructing a game within a game. Although the full potential of this ability is yet to be reached, and some additional in-game tutorials might be beneficial in encouraging beginners (me) to even consider tackling the complicated processes, its inclusion in the game-builder is an impressive addition to the scope of possibilities that The Endless Mission offers its players.
The most intriguing aspect of The Endless Mission, however, is in how it beautifully incorporates a narrative within the game-building features it is centred around. Remember Ada? Someone or something seems to be nabbing the A.I she has programmed, and it’s up to you to help her discover why.
With her advice and your newly-equipped hacking abilities, you will move between the world of platformers, real-time strategy and later even track-racing games, witnessing the tropes of these genres as they become intriguingly merged together. It’s an extremely engaging way to introduce newcomers to game design, as ‘meta-gaming’ features of hacking and programming become learned and practised through a gradually progressing plot.
There are dozens of other unexpected features that continued to take me by surprise, but listing them all here would only dampen the experience that E-Line Media has so thoughtfully crafted for their players. Experimenting with the physics and messing with the rules of the world is what makes The Endless Mission endless after all, as the real liberation of game design arises when you discover at your own pace the many ways you are free to challenge the established system.
With more genres on the horizon and pending chapters of story I cannot wait to see through to the end, it’s safe to assume that the completed product of The Endless Mission will be brimming with features and mechanics previously unexplored by any other game-builder. E-Line Media’s project is therefore a hugely ambitious one, but from the impressive capabilities it boasts so far, there’s no doubt it will deliver in making players feel like the true masters of their own created worlds. So, when you see this subtle new arrival while scrolling through the Steam store, give it a chance to show you what it is really capable of, and, with its remarkable game design system, what you are also capable of too.
A preview code for the Steam Early Access version of The Endless Mission was provided by PR for the purposes of this article.
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