Boundary Preview – Thrillingly Deep and Fun

Breaking up with my previous publisher specific coverage, Boundary is one of those curious little indie games I checked out as well. Developed by chinese studio Surgical Scalpels, who were a pleasure to talk to, it’s basically a multiplayer shooter in space with a whole lot of custimization as a focus.

So the obvious thing many, myself included, will be curious about is how a shooter in space plays like. Well, to be honest, not a whole lot different to what you may imagine. If you’ve ever played a game or section set in space, you’ll know what Boundary feels like, at least for the general feel. So, there’s not a whole lot of simulation going on, instead the game opted for a more arcade-y but easy to handle and pick up approach, which allowed me to get into the whole control scheme in no time. Speaking of controls, since you’ll control an astronaut in space, there are quite a lot more navigation options. For one, it’s possible to rotate to the left or right, allowing for a quick and effective way to calibrate where’s up and bottom or evade some bullets aimed at your head. On the other hand, there’s the ability to boost and of course ascend and descend in height, since the whole thing takes place in a three dimensional map you can freely navigate. Additionally, it’s also possible to hook onto walls and propel yourself forward like that which is a bit clunky but really damn fun.

One question that came to my mind when I heard about Boundary’s concept though, was how Surgical Salpels would highlight the white astronaut players from the white stations/structures in most maps and the dark/white background, especially since the example map was pretty damn big as well. The solution is the quite bright boosters and general clunky feel of every player, as well as really clear indicators of where you got damage from. With those three things, it’s always super intuitive to first find the direction where the enemy is located and then pinpoint the exact location through their tiny boosters and unaligned lines to the rest of the geometry.

Another reason why this all works so well is the truly astonishing presentation. A photorealistic style is hard to nail, especially in space but Boundary manages to deliver a truly brilliant representation of the endless nothing, both visually and acustically. The space stations look amazing and a huge part is played by the great lighting. Naturally, explosions and gun fire look surprisingly great too, despite them being in space and hence toned down and not as “oomphy” as in something like Battlefield.

Honestly, combined with the comparably high health and intentionally slow but responsive movement, Boundary nailed a really good sweetspot with these core choices to ensure the whole shooter experience feels alien enough for its premise but still familiar while also ensuring a clear communication between player and game. To change things up though, Boundary also features six distinct classes with their own set of abilities, weapons and armor, like the light sniper or heavy assaulter. These are mainly lose choices to allow for some general customization of your playstyle though and don’t restrict your actually useable weapon in any way.

After all, the weapon customization system is one of the core pillars. In the final game it will be possible to customize pretty much every weapon into every other weapon, to showcase this, I got shown how a typical assault rifle could be customized into a P90 or even sniper, that all looked like their respective types and worked just like them. Naturally they had some drawbacks inherited from the base frame (bringing us back to the general playstyle influence of each class and its weapons) but combined with the ability to even change ammunition types, Surgical Scalpels wants to provide a system that allows each player to truly experiment with everything and I’m loving it.

At the same time there are also siderarms specific to each class with their own specific ammunitions too, meaning you can further customize the specialization as well, like firing EMP rounds with the quite forgiving side rifle and stun enemies when they’re out of energy, or simply kill them with high explosive rounds. Boundary sounds simple enough on first glance but is full of tiny systems, ideas and offers a very unique mix between strategic thinking and your typical 5v5 shooter experience. As a result, I found myself in the middle of one of the most unique, fun and special shooters I’ve played in the past years and I’m immensely looking forward to the full version.

Boundary will release Early 2020 on PS4 and Steam