There are a dozen no name voxel indies on Steam today and it can be hard to parse the wheat from the chaff, so I’m here to tell you about Clone Drone in the Danger Zone. This game pairs a voxel look with roguelike mechanics and subverts the wave based arena battler, turning it into an unexpected dark comedy. It entered Early Access as of January 13th but is definitely worth wishlisting.
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone starts with a basic moveset. You are a warrior robot with a sword, with one button for swiping vertically, a move to swipe horizontally and a dash. With that you are thrown into a combat arena with enemy robots and instructions to fight the incoming wave. With each wave you get an upgrade point that can be used in a growing skill tree that expands to more options as you progress. The upgrades are things like extra lives, weapon upgrades, as well as different weapons and abilities. These start out very limited but as the roguelike elements come in, they expand into further trees.
The story, explained offhandedly, is that you are a human slave that has had their consciousness put into a robot who’s slated to fight to the death in an arena for the amusement of the robot king. This came off to me as a threadbare motivation for a horde mode wave based fighter, so I immediately shrugged it off. Even so, what initially stood out in Clone Drone’s world was the color commentary from its two robot announcers. This comic duo brings the funny in ways reminiscent of Portal 1 and 2. They speak in a comedic, robotic almost Microsoft Sam voice, discussing the proceedings as well as their minimal knowledge of humans as a whole. The commentators are a great reprieve from Clone Drone in the Danger Zone’s somewhat repetitive fights.
After roughly 30 minutes, I felt like I had seen what Clone Drone had to offer–until after easily defeating a hilariously big spider robot, I was thrown into a conversation with a robot revolutionary who had taken the time to set me free. Suddenly a secondary door was opened, I was told to escape, and the story took a turn. Before long I was jumping in a nearby robot bus headed into the robot world, with my savior stating they could free more humans given the opportunity. Then we reset back to the arena, where I was playing as a new robot fighter with a reset skill tree whose skills were now expanded with new weapons and abilities. I did not see this twist coming. With each fighter, you are tasked with harder and harder waves of enemies, with an end goal of reaching a high enough level that your revolutionaries are able to save you.
Given motivation, facing the waves of enemies changed from mundane task to a fight for my life struggle to save another human from these cruel robotic taskmasters. After each wave, I kept hoping now was the time, looking for the signal. Each death felt like a failure but also a chance to start the skill tree over with new unlocks appearing along with new warriors. The commentators continued to bring the comedy gold in a way I appreciated and the story continued to play out with even more details revealed in the background. In one particularly hilarious clip, the king declares that his team is currently invading a neighboring human satellite and enslaving everyone on it, showing off a counter tallying enslaved humans for everyone to see. I really enjoyed the story and thought Clone Drone did a great job of showing, not telling what was happening.
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone is a rogue like that appears as a horde mode wave based fighter. While its voxel look doesn’t help it stand out, Clone Drone in the Danger Zone does stand out in writing and story. The plot surprises you and the comedy hits the right buttons without getting annoying. It is just different enough that its visual style is a transgression that should be overlooked. For those looking for an underdog indie with heart, this is worth a wishlist.
Clone Drone in the Danger Zone is available now in Early Access on Steam.
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