Volta-X from GungHo Online Entertainment America is a lot of things. It’s a power fantasy about customizing a giant robot and building a team of pilots to command it. It’s an extremely intense and deeply strategic one-on-one battle experience, whether against competent AI or online opponents. It’s even a base management simulation, where building out your base supports research to unlock and upgrade more gear for your robots.
In turn, it’s a lot to take in, and it’s not without its rough edges or questionable decisions. But ultimately, Volta-X’s deep mechanics and balls-to-the-wall thrilling combat make this a satisfying and unique addition to the Nintendo Switch library.
A colorful cast in brief
Volta-X is relatively story-driven, even though it’s a simple story and leaves numerous unanswered questions that will hopefully be addressed in future content updates. The game begins with selecting and naming a protagonist pilot, followed by selecting from one of four giant robots — called Voltas — to pilot. The protagonist and a growing collection of teammates essentially compete in a 1v1 giant robot battle league, where each robot always has three pilots. However, the world is also facing an alien kaiju threat, and you will eventually be roped into that too, albeit only a little.
To Volta-X’s credit, each unlockable crew member gets their own mini story arc with monetary rewards and a new outfit to be earned for seeing them through. These stories too are simple, but each character has a distinct personality and it’s easy to appreciate their perspective on things.
Basically, the game’s narrative won’t blow your mind, but it sets the stage well with its colorful, expressive characters and cutesy television broadcasts that keep you abreast of what’s going on in its world. Likewise, the art is fun and attractive throughout, with a strong aesthetic. It’s kind of a bummer that you can’t replay any story content after you’ve finished it though.
Volta-X combat is thrilling strategic madness
The combat is far and away the high point of Volta-X. There are just so many simultaneous variables to juggle at any given moment, and it’s nearly impossible to win without a strategy. However, none of its complexity feels contrived. It all makes logical sense, which makes the thrill of victory and also even the taste of defeat feel earned.
It also makes early-game struggles more tolerable; in my first couple hours of Volta-X, I lost something like six-seven consecutive battles in a row at one point. (Maybe I just sucked.) But once everything finally clicked through tutorials and trial and error, I experienced a satisfying sense of “combat clarity.”
Volta-X isn’t just about two robots fighting. It’s about commanding the three pilots inside your Volta. Pilots can boost the strength of the body part they’re in, or they can fix up and restore damaged body parts. They can also level up and have unique abilities, like having high proficiency with swords. If you knock out the enemy team’s pilots, you win automatically, so it’s important to keep pilots on the move to avoid damage. Other ways to win include destroying the enemy Volta’s core or having the most points (by eliminating enemy pilots or destroying enemy Volta body parts) when time expires.
Strategy begins with your particular Volta and its loadout. Each Volta type has a unique special ability, but it also has a unique body composition, such as an octopus-like Volta with four arms or a stocky Volta with a third “shoulder” section. Some even transform! Different weapons and gear can only be equipped to certain body parts, which can create new opportunities or challenges for certain Voltas.
And there is so much unique gear to consider for your loadout. Physical shields can protect the body from attacks, while force fields can occasionally stop a projectile attack regardless of its power. Traditional laser attacks can do quick, reliable damage. Drone bots do small chip damage that can add up scarily fast. Drills are slow but can bypass armor to do high direct damage. Heat rays and fire swords can set a body part ablaze, which does extra damage and can spread to other body parts if pilots don’t put it out.
Alternatively, you can equip a water sprinkler system to a body part to put out fires right away. Or you can install a helper robot to a body part that will auto-repair your Volta (or heal your team!) for you. And electric attacks can stun a body part and any pilot who may be inside it, leaving that pilot vulnerable to weapons specifically designed to do big damage to pilots.
Most gear works on a cooldown, meaning you have to wait a set period to use it again, and powerful gear necessarily has a longer cooldown. It seems really well balanced overall, or at the least, I never ran into anything that felt game-breaking.
Equally important, experimenting in Volta-X with different loadouts that target different strategies is just a lot of fun. There was a time I put together what I thought was a really goofy loadout, just to see what would happen, and it ended up being devastatingly effective against the AI, helping me finish the campaign. I then took what I learned from that loadout to improve my other, more human-centric loadouts. Experimentation and iteration is a big and satisfying part of the gameplay experience, even after many hours of play.
Simulation and interface head-scratchers
Volta-X includes a base management simulation aspect, where all unlocked crew members must be assigned places to eat, sleep, work, and relax or socialize. Crew whose basic needs are met work harder, and crew who interact with each other frequently build relationships that allow them to work more effectively together. Performing research at base is how you expand your knowledge of different technologies, which in turn allows you to unlock and further level up your gear.
Building and placing rooms for your base is kind of fun for its own sake, but overall, the base management in Volta-X feels under-baked. Crew kind of manages itself, but it also kind of doesn’t, so on occasion you will want to just force crew to go to sleep or eat, etc. However, whether or not you manage the crew well manually, it doesn’t seem to make a huge difference on how fast you unlock more technology. And managing the crew in general isn’t that fun, as you can only give a character a command when they stop moving around — which is surprisingly not often.
Volta-X struggles with its interface in general at times. It feels cluttered a good amount of the time, be it in the base management, the campaign mission selection, or the actual battles themselves. Incidentally, battle is where things are most cluttered, but I was also more forgiving of it there since there really is so much important information it has to convey constantly.
Still, sometimes I thought pilot health was difficult to discern amid electricity and explosions, which is a problem. Also, unless I was misreading something, it seemed like there were occasional times that my movement commands for pilots were just ignored.
I felt pretty comfortable with the controls overall, but others may need to adjust. To attack, you select a Volta body part, hold down A, and then pick a body part on the enemy Volta to attack. To send a pilot to another body part, you select the pilot, hold down Y, and select the destination. If two (or more) pilots are already in the same body part though, it seems like the game just decides which one will actually obey the movement command, which isn’t ideal. For me, attacking felt easier with the left thumbstick, whereas pilot movement felt easier with the D-pad for whatever reason. There are also touchscreen controls, but there isn’t much reason to use them, as your fingers can easily obstruct the action.
PvP, online connections, and unlock rates
Volta-X offers PvP as a major feature, though since the game’s in its early days, it can sometimes take a little bit to find a match. However, when there’s a match to be had, you hop into it practically immediately, and online play is immaculate — no hiccups whatsoever amid the madness. (I did run into one dude whose internet connection seemed to keep dying though.) If you can rope in a like-minded friend to buy this game with you and join a “clan” together, you can engage in countless hours of fun online battles with each other.
Additionally, Volta-X records your battles, and you can replay them start to finish, toggling between your and the enemy’s perspective. It’s a fantastic and educational feature.
The flip side of this is that the game requires a persistent online connection, which may be a nuisance to some. In fact, even putting your Nintendo Switch to sleep for too long will cause the game to reset, but you won’t actually lose any game progress as a result.
Lastly, one thing I really hope gets patched in Volta-X is the rate of major unlocks. New Volta robot types are unlocked via collections of blueprints that seem to spawn at random after winning a battle, and new crew members are unlocked similarly. The problem is that the necessary items spawn too infrequently. By the time I’d finished the campaign after 15 hours, I still hadn’t unlocked a third Volta. I had six pilots at that time too. I got a third Volta and seventh pilot not long after, but it was several hours later that I finally unlocked a fourth Volta and another pilot or two.
Frankly, I don’t actually mind the slow unlock of pilots, as it’s nice to have something major to still unlock after many hours of play. But I really wanted to get those Voltas a lot faster. They’re the main draw, and having to grind and wait for so long to unlock them just seems counterintuitive.
Volta-X is an addicting strategic experience
The base management is a little inconsequential, the interface has some clutter, and the persistent online connection requirement will be a wall for some, but none of that changes the fact that Volta-X is an outstanding strategic combat experience. Building new loadouts and testing new strategies is addicting and delightful, and a perfect online experience means there is tremendous replay value if you have a friend with the game or if the PvP scene continues to grow. GungHo has produced a quirky little gem here for Switch.
A review code was provided by the publisher.