Oh look, people made funny things in Beseige. Haha, look, there are dicks in Beseige. If you haven’t actually played the game, all you’d think about Besiege — one of the hottest games on Steam right now — based on what people are posting on the internet is that it’s a joke game. It’s actually anything but.
OK, so yes, there is humour to be found. Any game that gives players the freedom to build whatever they like is going to contain humour, because people are inherently funny when you let them off the leash.
But if you actually play Besiege for a while, after you’ve made your first dick, and your first few attempts at a catapult have ended in flames/debris, some of that humour washes away. And what’s left is one of the smartest video games I’ve played in a long, long time.
As Leo showed in his video on the game, there’s not much to Besiege the first time you sit down with it (at least for now, since it’s an Early Access game). It’s a game about building vehicles (or just big weapons) that can knock stuff down. There’s a sandbox mode, where you’re free to build whatever you want, and there’s a short campaign of sorts, where you’re presented with various challenges that you’ll need to build different types of objects to overcome.
The heart of the game isn’t in overcoming those challenges, it’s in coming to grips with Besiege’s physics engine and opening up your own imagination (and latent high school physics knowledge). Some of the campaign challenges only take a few minutes of building if you do things the direct way, but once you realise you can build almost anything, why do things the easy way?
Like, let’s say one mission asks you to knock down a castle wall. So you use some wheels, wood and steel to build a small battering ram (like my first ever creation, above), send it over and you’re done. Only…once you’re done, you look down at all the tools at your disposal you didn’t use. Wings. Spikes. Steering columns. Suspension. Little helicopter things.
And you realise, my God, I am a boring person. I did simply what was asked of me, not what I could have done. I could have made something way cooler.
So it’s back to the drawing board. You scrap the ram and get thinking. Maybe I can build a tank, because there are wheels and cannons. Maybe I can build a catapult, because there are hinges and boulders. Maybe I can build a ballista, because there are springs and giant steel spikes.
Or maybe you’re a patient, persistent person and can build something truly amazing.
This is why Besiege is such a smart game. Not for the obvious reasons — I can see this being used in schools around the world for its marriage of physics and problem-solving — but because it challenges you so gently, and without reproach, to push yourself and learn its systems, so that you can go from simple box-cars to, well, maybe some of the stuff below.