This is DOGOS. It's a brand new shoot-em-up hitting the PlayStation 4 on September 6 and both Steam and Xbox One on September 7. Although it's still a few weeks out, we're taking a look at the beta build that includes three stages and a boss. I know you have a few questions, so let's crib this.
Hey, this looks a lot like Project Root!
That's not really a question, but yes, it does look like Project Root. Actually, there's a good reason for that, and it's because both games are from the same Argentinian developer -- OPQAM. Although it doesn't appear to be a direct sequel, DOGOS does use a lot of the mechanics found in Project Root.
This is still a mix of Xevious and Electronic Arts' classic Strike series, where players race through wide-open levels filled with aliens on both the ground and in the air. We're able to explore the stages at our own pace; flying and rotating our little craft in any direction. This frees you up to finding the right path and completing the various objectives. If you can do all that, you'll fly off to the next stage and complete a new set of missions.
Project Root was a flawed game, is this any better?
Based on the three stages I played, the answer is a resounding 'yes.' For one thing, DOGOS isn't as punishing as Project Root. A lot of people complained about Project Root's lengthy stages, normally without any checkpoints. The stages I played in this game are much shorter and appear to have convenient checkpoints. Whereas a stage took 20 to 30 minutes before, now I am zipping through the stages in less than ten minutes.
I also found the stages themselves were more forgiving than what we saw in Project Root. It was common to fly into an unexplored area only to be swarmed by bad guys and quickly killed. That didn't happen to me in DOGOS, as it always felt like I had a way out of any ambush. Perhaps this has something to do with the lack of a leveling-up system. Project Root had you putting experience points into ship and armor upgrades, making your craft more capable of taking on swarms of enemies. But I didn't see any of that in this beta. My ship was as strong as it needed to be to take out the enemies the game threw at me. I still unlocked additional weapons and skins, but the whole grinding for levels loop seems to be excised from this follow-up.
What does DOGOS mean, anyway?
It's Spanish for "bulldogs," but that's not really all that important. Let's talk about how the game shifts from standard exploration to these exciting shoot-em-up stages where we're pushed through valleys and caves. These bits push the camera in and change the perspective enough to make it feel like a different game. This happened in two of the three stages I played, so I'm hoping the developers find creative uses for this mechanic.
Thanks to my experience with Project Root, I went into this concerned it would be more of the same. And while it does feature a lot of the same ideas, this beta build of DOGOS is an improvement in almost every way. It not only looks better, but the levels are shorter and it's easier to navigate. OPQAM has clearly taken the criticism to heart and it seems to have benefited their newest shooter. I'm eager to see what they've come up with and will have a full review up in early September.