The Epic Games Store is continuing its expensive free games strategy into September 2021. The store has been exceedingly generous with its free games this year, including some massive titles like Alien Isolation, Control, and A Plague Tale: Innocence for no cost in the last couple of months. August has seen a huge range of free titles, with many of these games focused on science fiction, vehicular travel, and the automation of game elements. While Yooka-Laylee (which is free until August 26) bucks this trend, the other currently free game Void Bastards fits the theme perfectly.
Following in the thematic footsteps of August’s science-fiction titles is the free Epic Games Store product for August 26, Automachef. While some of the free games at the start of the month like Train Sim World 2 focused on the more realistic aspects of automation, Automachef asks players with engineering “tomorrow’s kitchens, today!” What is of particular note with Automachef is how it sticks closer to the puzzler formula than automation. It delivers these puzzles with wit, as players are accompanied by the game’s (definitely not a robot) protagonist, Robert Person.
Automachef and Sci Fi Puzzling
Automachef takes the indie automation genre and recenters it around puzzles. The central conceit is all about automating, figuring out the best way to fix any number of terrible problems befalling a wide array of restaurants. As a savvy human, it is the player’s job to guide the automation process, making sure all of the intricate machinery functions correctly. There are dozens of machines in the base game to choose from, but Automachef is not content with just that. Players are also able and actively encouraged to create their own machines with code. As one of a few games with coding included, Automachef really sets itself apart from other puzzler-automation games.
The Puzzling Reviews of Automachef
Automachef’s devilish puzzles are not the only confusing thing about the game. Despite a mostly positive reception on Steam, several notable reviews show public opinion on the game is split. The game is more of a puzzler than a strict automation title like Atrio: The Dark Wild. Unfortunately for Automachef, this has worked somewhat against the game in terms of its public perception. Many of the user reviews on the store page reflect this, as the game sits at a 76 percent positive review score on Steam.
A lot of reviewers took umbrage with the game’s lack of flexibility. The best automation games tend to flourish in giving players a range of choice. For a game like Automachef, which prioritizes puzzling, this is not always the case. When a resource management puzzle is presented to the player, there is more often than not an optimal solution. These can sometimes be reached in multiple ways, but the same set of solutions become the more obvious choices. As such, the game is not nearly as open as some fans of the genre would expect. So, in a way, Automachef’s flirting with other genres benefits it in terms of gameplay variety, but perhaps sours some expectant fans.
Many negative reviews focus on the coding feature in the game. People either feel it’s far too complicated for a game of its nature, or argue the coding mechanics are not granular and customizable enough. That is the unfortunate reality of adding difficult game mechanics; often they can be divisive. Quite a few of these reviews do appreciate the customizability offered in Automachef, however, and it seems like as a feature it benefits the game overall.
Team17 on the Epic Games Store
Automachef‘s publisher, Team17, has been very active on the Epic Games Store front throughout the last few months. Team17 published both Yooka-Laylee and Overcooked 2, which have been free on the Epic Games Store. Team17 has an interesting history, as it went from just publishing Worms to releasing loads of modern indie titles. Notably, the publisher will be releasing Thymesia, a plague-based Souls-like, alongside many other upcoming titles.
Not only content with releasing free games on Epic, Team17 also offered up Project Alpha as a free title on August 2021’s Prime Gaming loot. Why Team17 has pivoted to giving away so many free games is up for debate, but it’s certainly good for getting players into the publisher’s huge selection of quality indie games.
Automachef will be free on the Epic Games Store from August 26 to September 2.
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