Besiege: Engineering madness

Besiege is a physics puzzle game about medieval engineering. Half the fun comes from building ingenious mechanical contraptions to solve problems; the other half comes from watching your contraptions go catastrophically wrong.

Did you know that I once studied Mechanical Engineering? True story! However, instead of reading textbooks on how to build machines that don’t fall apart or accidentally blow up, I spent most of my time playing videogames.

It’s a funny thing then that I came across Besiege, a videogame that’s all about engineering devious machines. True enough though, I couldn’t build a darn thing that didn’t fall apart and accidentally blow up, but this time the mishaps were pretty awesome and hilarious.

MAPPING YOUR DESTRUCTION: Besiege likes to put you into pretty diorama-like maps and then ask you to annihilate it.

Explosive engineering

Besiege is a physics-based puzzle game that’s one-part medieval engineering and one-part accidental explosion simulator. You build machines filled with questionable engineering principles and gunpowder, then unleash them on a sandbox world that’s barely held together by duct tape and wishful thinking. Safe to say, it’s glorious.

Here’s how it works: in a typical level, you’re given a simple objective, like, say, “destroy this windmill”. How you actually do this, however, is entirely up to you. You’re given an extensive toolbox of mechanical parts — from springs to gears to powered wheels — which you can then combine, Lego-style, to create whatever machine you can dream of.

You could start with something easy: line up some solid wood blocks in a row, add some wheels to the side and bam, you have a drivable, motorised battering ram. Simple but effective.

Or, you could be more ingenious, applying principles of physics to a hinged lever, a flaming boulder and some springs to create a siege catapult. Or strap a hundred cannons onto every surface of a rotating base, creating a destructive artillery platform.

Besiege adheres to the basic rules of physics — so that 100-cannon artillery platform is probably going to shatter from the recoil of firing even once — but asides from this restriction, it lets you build anything. As long as your contraption someway, somehow completes the goals of the level, really.

Take my 103rd attempt at the windmill destruction level: I crafted a wooden rocket that would launch into the sky and deploy a satellite armed with an orbital cannon. It, uh… failed miserably, falling apart catastrophically approximately 1.5 seconds into launch, but hey! The resulting explosion was so massive that the flaming debris accidentally demolished the windmill anyway. Success!

ADD MORE GUNS: The simplest solution is often just adding a whole lot more firepower.

Ignite your imagination

As of the time of writing, Besiege is only up to version 0.03 and has 15 open-ended puzzle levels and one sandbox map. The puzzle levels range from straightforward “destroy that target” maps to cartoonishly bloody “destroy a hundred soldier” areas to devious “get item A to point B” challenges. (Fetch quests take on a whole new light when you need to invent the fetching mechanism.)

That may sound like a very small selection of maps to play on, and to put it as bluntly as a boulder launched from a trebuchet, it sure is. But that’s okay. You can technically finish all the levels in Besiege in under an hour if you design practical machines, but practicality isn’t really why I play Besiege.

No, what Besiege really appeals to is my imagination. I have successfully smashed castles and squished armies a dozen times, but every time I do, I ask myself: “Now how can I do this differently? And more ridiculously, if possible?”

I would spend hours replaying the same levels, taking my time refining the designs of different medieval tanks, spring-powered mechas and Leonardo-esque aircraft. (Although good luck with the aerodynamic components in the game, because the aircraft controls were apparently designed by the Wrong brothers.) All in all, I felt like a kid playing with Lego again, except this time watching things come apart is half the fun.

Besiege is one of those games that just draws out your inner inventor. (Or inner mad scientist, really.) Sure, it’s in the very early stages, but the last time I saw an open-ended game with this much promise in its alpha, it was a then-unknown little game called Minecraft.

Camera shy

I only have two gripes with Besiege. First, the camera controls are predisposed for a “spectator’s view”. This means that while you can easily view what’s happening around the map, you can’t “snap” the camera to a first person or third person view, so driving your machine can be tricky. Did you build a Batmobile that you wanted to race around the map? Hope it has a built-in emergency-escape Batcycle because you’re inevitably going to blindly drive the car off a cliff!

Second, you’re probably going to need a bit more processing power than you first imagine. Besiege actually does an amazing job simulating the physics of stress, strain, torque and what have you on each individual mechanical part, so once you get a little too ambitious and create machines with a hundred moving parts, you’ll notice your computer chug.

Heaven help you if that hundred-part machine falls apart and forces the game to simulate a hundred different explosions, because the destruction across the map will only be matched by the destruction of your frame rate.

Other than those two things, though? I can’t wait to see what future updates to Besiege will bring to the table. More puzzle maps to solve? More mechanical parts to play with? Will Spiderling Studios create a multiplayer mode so I can pit my ridiculous creation against friends? Probably not, but I have my fingers crossed!

There’s so much possibility here that Besiege feels like a rocket to the stars. And not the kind of rocket that I would build either; I am talking about a rocket that actually takes you to the heavens, not prematurely send you to heaven.

End game

I highly recommend Besiege, even if it’s technically early in its development. It’s a mere RM17.00 on the Malaysian Steam store yet it has all the fun and imagination of building things with Lego.

Sure, your inventions probably won’t work the way you expect them, but you know what? Seeing the things that you build accidentally collapse and/or explode in a cloud of comical debris is pretty hilarious all the same.

Actually, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t end up as a mechanical engineer after all.

Pros: Creative physics sandbox for the medieval mad engineer in you.

Cons: A lot of puzzle levels are incomplete, as the game is still in development.


(Spiderling Studios)

Puzzle game for PC (via Steam)


Price: RM17.00 (Steam)

RATING: ★★★★✩

Science Technology , Besiege , Steam