When I first noticed that Automation was in development, I thought ‘here goes another build-your-own car game where reality and basic engineering principles don’t exist. Oh well, I’ll keep my eye on it.’ I downloaded the demo, and curiosity eventually got the best of me. I contacted the developers who kindly supplied a copy of the full game under the condition that I wouldn’t reveal anything until it went to early release on Steam. As I began exploring the game, my desk became the epicentre of a massive facepalm storm. What is wrong with me? Why did I let other games destroy my faith? Why didn’t I get my hands on this game sooner?
Now that Automation’s Early Access is open on Steam, I’m free to spill the details! Automation is the first game developed by the indie start-up company, Camshaft Software. Based in New Zealand, the company is made up of a few extremely talented petrolheads who had an idea to make a game with way more detail and sense than those other car building games of the past. The result is a highly technical game where the player designs, builds, tests and rebuilds their cars to meet certain criteria.
Automation can be played in four modes:
Sandbox- Build any car from scratch. The only limit is your imagination. No rules here.
Scenarios- Learn from video tutorials or get to work designing engines or entire vehicles to fit certain needs. Stay within the predetermined criteria in weight, top speed, reliability, manufacturing time, material cost and more to earn the highest score. The scenarios vary in difficulty with Easy, Medium, Hard, Brutal and Insane tasks.
Multiplayer- (In Development) Co-op with your mates, using your combined knowledge to build the ultimate dream ride, or start an online challenge with up to seven other players.
Campaign- (In Development) You have from 1946 until 2020 to build a prosperous car company from scratch. This means more than just designing engines and cars. You must protect your good image, run advertising campaigns, perform R&D and manage production.
I highly recommend starting in the Scenarios mode, and trying to meet the various client requests. If you’re over-ambitious, you can always go back to the tutorials, or click above each tuning spec for help understanding its role. You have to understand that this is nothing like tuning in other video games. You’re not going to slide the Power and Torque scale all the way to the highest degree and be on your merry way. No, there are real decisions to make regarding the components. What block configuration? How many cylinders? What material is the block? What are your bore and stroke measurements? Compression…Timing…Fuel Mixture?
By now, only the true petrolheads (or those willing to actually learn a thing or two) have survived the game. After building your creation, you can watch an animated test of the engine running while the data is graphically presented. I admit I failed my first Easy Scenario, spending almost twice as much as I was allowed. I paid no attention to the cost during my first build. It was just too exciting, but it didn’t take long before I figured out how to save manufacturing costs while hitting the requirements.
Right now, the price is £22.99 on Steam, which I feel is a fair tribute to an indie studio trying to survive its first release. The team has been working on this thing for years, and I have seen the huge leaps in progress first hand over the last several months. I have no complaints over the game being limited right now without the campaign mode. It’s important to master the design and build areas first before establishing your place in the industry. I only wish I could time travel and give this game to my younger self before I had my first car, so that I may have opened my eyes to the world of tuning much sooner.
After I got hooked on Automation, I bought a copy for my little sister, who is a pure car idiot but likes to problem-solve. The way I see it is that I’ve spent more than £23 on stupid rubbish for her in the past, and this may just teach her something. Anyone at any skill level can play the game, but it’s definitely more enjoyable when you know what you’re doing. Yes, we all get very excited over free games, and I don’t normally write about paid ones, but seriously, skip one useless purchase this week, and go buy Automation.