Somewhere deep under the earth is the key to survival. A glowing element called lumen may be the answer to humanity’s continued existence after we rendered the surface of the Earth uninhabitable, but as it turns out life exists everywhere on the planet and that includes its most remote depths. Which, of course, is exactly where the lumen is. Extraction is as simple as pulling out a drill and mining through a vein of ore, but surviving to do anything with the haul is more complicated. Lumencraft fuses mining, action, base building and tower defense into a subterranean adventure, and while very clearly an Early Access release, the systems are already working together to build a strong foundation for the updates to come.
In its current state Lumencraft is divided up into three game types, two maps each, plus a tutorial. The primary mode is sandbox, where your miner is dumped into a section of the map and quickly discovers the reactor around which he’ll need to build the base. There’s a timer at the bottom of the screen counting down the minutes until the first enemy wave arrives, and while on both sandbox maps that earliest attack gives plenty of time to prepare, once they start it’s going to be a frequent activity. There’s a balance between exploration, mining and spending resources on all the needed elements for survival, but the tools are there to create an impregnable mining fortress with just a little bit of efficiency in base development.
Walls are relatively cheap, only requiring a bit of metal ore to construct, while gates are much pricier and weaker but also necessary if you want t0 explore the caverns beyond the base. Walls are only necessary to fortify the direction the monstrous waves come from, and a line of turrets set up behind them does good work in keeping the base infestation-free. A good defense with a bit of maintenance between one swarm and the next will see the base taking care of itself, for the most part, leaving the miner free to do the work of actual mining.
There are two resources to search for, and at least in the current maps, they’re plentiful for an exploratory worker. The pink glowing lumen is hard to miss, and metal ore is found in a few types of rock that you’ll learn to identify on sight before the first game is done. Lumen is mostly used for research, while ore is for building, and between the two you can create a base with work stations for a good-sized number of weapons and tools. Even though the miner starts with a drill, for example, it’s necessary to build a drilling station to research its speed, and that quickly becomes an early-game priority. Faster drilling means more ore means stronger upgraded walls and the turrets to defend them, which in turn means the miner can wander through the tunnels far away from the base feeling reasonably secure that it’s going to be OK. The spear station lets you build a weapon that’s effective against the small-fry and only consumes stamina rather than ammo, while the pistol, shotgun, rifle and rocket launcher are good alternatives for the more dangerous beasts. The research station lets you buy random upgrades, including access to the more powerful weapons, faster production, tougher walls and gates, and any number of other useful bits and pieces. Finally, the scout station provides upgrades specific to the player, such as more health, stamina, inventory, etc. The underground mines may be full of ore and lumen but there’s a lot to spend it on, and at no point before completing a map’s objectives are you likely to think you’ve got enough.
While the heart of Lumencraft is the sandbox levels, it’s got a big toy box so other map types strip away elements for a different type of gameplay. The Challenge levels are straight-up combat arenas trying to survive against the swarm, while Adventure puts the miner at one side of a maze of twisty tunnels with the exit at the other. Both modes remove the base building and defense, but still end up playing completely different from each other. Challenge is almost pure action, requiring players to scout the arena to find all the upgrades before the swarm gets too much for the starting build, and this includes digging through rock to pick up health or ammo that might be buried within. Adventure, on the other hand, is more slow-paced exploration trying to hold on with just the starting drill and it’s tiny little one point of damage per strike until finally turning up a weapon that’s a bit more useful. While Challenge is meant to be survived in a single run, the Sandbox and Adventure modes are best approached with the occasional save. Lumencraft has no auto-saves, though, so it’s a good idea to remember to manually pause for the second it takes to save when things seem to be going well.
While the three modes seem like they’ll provide a good amount of content, Lumencraft‘s only major weakness right now is that, as mentioned earlier, it’s got a total of six maps, two per mode, and that’s all there is so far unless you’re into creating levels with the versatile map editor. What’s there so far, though, is promising, with the Sandbox maps in particular providing several good hours of entertainment. The development roadmap for Lumencraft‘s Early Access period mentions that more maps is one of the first items being worked on, and eventually there will be a campaign mode with linked missions through multiple biomes. Other plans include robot pets, water to help balance out the already-working lava, different character classes, more weapons and enemies, and the usual bug-fixes and other changes based on community feedback. In its current state, though, Lumencraft is a fantastic base to build a great mining adventure from, and should be honestly exciting to watch develop into the game it wants to become.