If you were to take Dead by Daylight, toss in The Hunger Games, and shave off the supernatural horror theme in favor of cyberpunk, you’d end up with Gold Express.
Developer: DAWN STUDIO
Publisher: DAWN STUDIO
Release date: 27 Sept, 2019
Gold Express stood out to me as an asymmetrical neon-cyberpunk game with a lot of potential. Four extractors compete against a watcher as they attempt to upload data from servers scattered across the map and then escape one flying trucks before they are brutally murdered. It sounds like fun, and when you can get a game, it is. Unfortunately, finding games has been a chore every time that I’ve played.
Colosseum of the Future
The gameplay of Gold Express is fairly straightforward and can be picked up after only a few games, maybe even less if you’ve put some time into the strikingly similar Dead by Daylight. The four extractors, each with their own unique capabilities, sneak around the arena collecting data cubes from data miners and uploading them via a data warehouse. Meanwhile, the watcher, each of which also has its own abilities, hunts them down and eliminates them before they are able to perform seven uploads and escape.
Both collecting and uploading data cubes take a significant amount of time (think generators in Dead by Daylight), but extractors have a number of ways to secure some advantages for themselves. For one, by working together they can not only transfer data cubes more quickly, but they can also care for each other’s wounds and even revive allies who have been defeated (though this is limited by decreasing maximum health). Additionally, they are able to construct and deconstruct barriers at many predetermined locations that populate the seven currently available maps. These barricades are one again familiar as they hinder the mobility of the watcher while offering extractors valuable avenues of escape from an enemy that had as advantage over them when it comes to raw speed.
When a match is finished, all players involved receive experience and currency. New skins and rarer currencies can be acquired in this way as well as supply chips (read: loot boxes) that grant rewards when opened. Currently there are no pay-to-win mechanics involved, as a matter of fact, you can’t purchase anything with real money at all. It would certainly be a breath of fresh air if it stayed this way as I wouldn’t mind being able to play the game without being bombarded with in-game ads asking me to purchase new content.
Thieves and Sentries
Even in its Early Access state, Gold Express has a number of characters to choose from and each is a unique experience. I mostly played Soul when I was an extractor as she not only had a higher capacity for energy charges (used for special abilities and minor buffs), but also uses magnetic traps that slow watchers down and cause them to drop data cubes that they had recovered. Other extractors are capable of throwing smoke bombs, dodge rolling, and setting up teleporters, among other less dramatic, but equally as useful abilities. All of them come with an extra helping of over-the-top cyberpunk style.
Watchers, on the other hand, are built to kill. I spent most of my watcher time playing as the Warden, who is capable of smashing through barricades with ease as long as he has the energy reserves for it. The other watchers have their own toys to play with and include Fortress, the bomb-throwing lunatic who gains speed as he chases extractors, Geisha, the murder bot capable of appearing as an extractor who climbs over barriers with ease, and Scarecrow, the lanky cyborg with a fondness for poison.
The Big Catch
There’s a rather significant complication to playing Gold Express currently and it isn’t quite as simple as just being in a rough state due to Early Access. The most challenging and time-consuming aspect of the game currently is that it takes a significant amount of devotion to find a match. I had nearly given up on the matchmaking when a free weekend was announced and I managed to put together a group of my own to play with during it. With the current population, you tend to wait a significant amount of time for a match if you can find one at all; I would estimate that my usual wait time for queuing solo was a minimum of fifteen minutes, a couple of times that I tried to play I gave up after about a half-hour without a single game. The free weekend helped slightly with this experience, but even then, if I wasn’t showing up with friends it was a time investment.
Gold Express is a promising asymmetrical Dead by Daylight-like game with a few new ideas that it brings to the table. It’s also an online multiplayer only game, which is a significant issue when matching with other players is a constant struggle. If the concept of the game interests you, I would recommend keeping tabs on it; the developers are active and new content is steadily being added to the game, but it’s a struggle to recommend it currently unless you want to get in at the ground level and support its development.