If I wanted to describe Tetra Cube in a single word, it would be ‘simple’. Those of you looking for a title you can quickly fall in and out of without the need for long tutorials or complicated storylines could definitely do worse than this game. Using only a handful of basic mechanics, the development team have built a fairly solid roguelike real-time strategy game that is easy to sink a few hours into. On the other hand, however, players hoping for a more in-depth, layered experience are probably better off looking elsewhere.
The story, such as it is, follows Nae and Dio as they explore a research facility under attack by a mysterious Cube. As Hunters, their objective is to track down the Cube and gather information on it, rescuing any trapped researchers they find along the way and destroying the facility’s corrupted defense robots. Early on in their journey they come face to face with the Cube, who manages to critically injure Nae, a cybernetic construct known as a Homo deus, before fleeing deeper into the facility. From there, players will need to juggle resource management to ensure Nae has a steady supply of batteries to compensate for her injuries, with health and upgrade demands, all the while exploring new areas and fighting the aggressive robots the pair come across.
The general mechanics of gameplay are not dissimilar to other real-time strategy games like XCOM: each character has a limited speed dictating how far they can move in a turn and can make a single attack or action each round. Within this framework, Tetra Cube does reasonably well, with clear visuals to demonstrate what moves are and are not possible and what the effect of an action will be. This is further simplified by the lack of an accuracy mechanism, meaning that players don’t have to factor in random chance when plotting out their moves; if they make an attack, they will know exactly how much damage it will do to the target.
Given the overall simplicity of Tetra Cube’s core mechanics, combat encounters can become surprisingly thoughtful moments of strategy. Trying to mitigate the threat posed by enemies by breaking sightlines or moving out of range is an excellent way of preserving your oh-so-limited health bar, but it also means that you might be putting yourself in a position where you’re not able to deal damage of your own. Balancing the two, especially when there are multiple enemies and NPCs involved can frequently become an exercise in intense planning. Making this particular nail-biting is the game’s lack of any revival mechanic, wherein if either Nae or Dio drop to zero hitpoints – of which they only have a handful to begin with – it’s an instant game over and players will either need to start again from scratch or load an earlier save.
However, the limited gameplay structure has its drawbacks too. As much as there are complexities to be found in combat if you search for them, the vast majority of your time spent with this game will involve moving through very similar-looking environments, fighting only a handful of different enemies, and using the same collection of attacks over and over again. Combined with the excessively grey colour palette and the tremendously repetitive musical loop, Tetra Cube’s charms can wear thin very quickly.
To some extent, this is a double-edged sword; players who are well versed in the RTS genre are unlikely to find anything here unique enough to draw their attention, while those who have never really been interested in the genre beforehand aren’t likely to have that preconception swayed by the little Tetra Cube has to offer.
It is very important to note, however, that this criticism needs to be taken in context. Tetra Cube isn’t being marketed or sold as an AAA title and players should not judge it as such. While, yes, a lot of the design choices are very simplistic and there isn’t a huge amount of variety to be found in gameplay, for the cost of entry there is more than enough here to keep you entertained for a few hours. Judging this game on a cost-to-value basis, Tetra Cube really hits the mark.
If you’re hoping to find an immersive, extensive RTS experience then you’ll need to look elsewhere, but if you just want to spend a bit of time outsmarting robots and learning about a mysterious Cube, maybe give this game a shot.