Taking inspiration from Dead by Daylight and Friday the 13th, Gold Express features some unique gameplay elements and characters that make it stand out and add to the fun.
Gold Express is a cyberpunk multiplayer survival game developed by Dawn Studio. It released in Early Access on Steam on September 27, 2019. The game takes inspiration from games like Dead by Daylight with a team of four survivors, called extractors, working together to upload mission critical data that’s protected by a watcher. The cat and mouse gameplay keeps you on your toes and knowing the paths and escape points of each map is critical to success on both sides. There are also a couple of unique gameplay elements and characters that make Gold Express stand out and add to the fun.
Transformed humans (extractors) need to extract data assets and upload them to a data warehouse in specific locations in order to free themselves. You have a choice of six extractors, each with unique active and passive skills with their own strengths and weaknesses. Soul, Shadow, GodFather, Dancing Girl and Crow are all selectable as a new player, with the sixth extractor Bard requiring unlocking with in-game currency. Some of the extractors are marked easy, medium or hard to play which is helpful to know who to pick whilst you learn the gameplay mechanics and skills. Both extractors and watchers can add or remove blocks to doors and windows, however the Watcher cannot duck, and the extractors have a slide ability, so it’s evenly balanced in this regard.
The machine elite (watcher) needs to constantly try to predict the extractors’ actions and use their active and passive skills and planting viruses on machines to pinpoint their location and either eliminate or at least slow down the extractors’ efforts to escape. There were three watchers initially at launch, with Warden and Fortress available for new players, and Geisha requiring unlocking. On November 7, a fourth Watcher was added called Scarecrow and this also requires unlocking with in-game currency. The Warden can Dash forward towards an extractor or dash through barriers, Fortress can throw bombs and chase with increased speed the longer the chase, and Geisha is nightmare-inducing by imitating an alive survivor, dropping her mask when she attacks or re-uses an ability. The newly added Scarecrow can set poison gas traps and his attacks have poison-damage for a short time.
When you’ve joined a game, you will need to choose which character you want to play as. Like in Apex Legends, you will be given a pick order amongst the team, so depending on the order may mean you’re not able to play your favoured character. Therefore, it pays to learn at least the basics of all extractors and watchers in case your favourite is chosen already. Once everyone has made their choice, you need to choose your spawning location. The watcher always chooses first, then the extractors need to decide where they want to be. Maps have anywhere between 1 or 3 levels, so it’s a good idea to spread out as extractors so that the watcher doesn’t find you all easily. On the other hand, if you have a squad you regularly play with, you may want to stick together with 2 or more of you working as one as you will be able to extract and upload data cubes faster with multiple people accessing the same port.
As an extractor, you can always see the location of your teammates through walls/floors as green figures running around. You won’t see the watcher at first, but you will hear the breathing, voices and footsteps of watchers as they get close to your position, and it can be quite scary and intense when they’re very close. Sometimes they may be on the floor above or below you, but it sounds like they’re right next to you, so this might be something the developers could look into to try to delineate exactly where the watchers are. Once you’ve been spotted by a watcher, you need to do your best to use the map terrain, blocked doors/windows or your skills to try escape. The warden’s dash ability and the fortress’ speed boost will eventually chase you down, with the camera view blurring when they’re right behind you. As a watcher, when you get close to an extractor player, the music changes and intensifies. If the music starts but you can’t see any players, you know for sure that a player is hiding very close by, so be ready to chase.
Extractors have a green health bar and can generally handle one hit from a watcher. Once you’re hit, you will drop a data cube if you were carrying one and leave behind a digital trail of footsteps. Also, when you vault over or slide under a wall, this will highlight your last position to the watcher. Also, if you try to access a datapoint that has a virus set by the watcher, this will buzz you and set off a beacon. A second hid from a watcher will knock you down. You can try to crawl away but usually they’ll execute you straight away. When you’re killed, you will become a digital ghost and must run back to your teammates to be revived. Once alive again, your hp limit will be reduced (red bar), reducing the total health available. The quicker you can revive, the less red hp limit penalty you’ll get. Eventually once you run out of life, you’ll be eliminated from the game.
Extractors cannot fight back against the watchers, only outrun or outlast them. If the extractors can upload seven data cubes, this will signal to two flying trucks to come rescue the team. When this happens, both sides will see beacons for the flying trucks on the map. Extractors must run to the beam points and after a few seconds, will be beamed to safety. As a watcher, you will want to focus your efforts on these two escape points and try to cut off the paths to extractors, or place blocks up in doorways. There are always two escape points so it will not be possible to block both effectively.
Games usually last around 10-15 minutes, depending on how good the extractors are versus the watcher. I’ve seen some extractors use the terrain and map knowledge so well to escape from watchers. I’ve also seen some devastatingly good watchers who can chase down or trap the extractors. I am getting pretty good at playing as a watcher, however as an extractor, I get the bejeebus scared out of me every time I hear the breathing of the warden or the maniacal laugh of the scarecrow. I end up panicking as I try to escape and make a wrong turn or something silly like that. It can get quite intense if you’re getting constantly chased, so I prefer to play as the watcher. It’s much less anxiety inducing.
In-game currency is present in the form of coins or materials, both of which are earned through gameplay, and can be used to purchase new extractors/watchers, new skins for your characters and convert coins to upgrade points. I couldn’t see a method of buying these with real money, however looking at the development roadmap it looks like in-app purchases are on their way. Each game you play will earn you XP for that character and each new character level will reward you with currency and a supply chip which yields a random chance at upgrade points and rare skins for your characters.
My only complaint about Gold Express so far are the queue times to get into a game but I’d say this is just a population issue as perhaps not many have heard of the game. I usually play around 9pm AWST and have to keep changing server locations to try find a game which can take between 5-15 minutes. Hopefully as the game becomes more widely known, the player population won’t be such an issue. Graphically it runs very smooth and the voices and sounds are great. The breathing and threats from the watchers really gets under my skin when playing as an extractor, so I much prefer playing as the watcher.
I think Gold Express has great potential, especially for those who’ve played similar games in this genre. I haven’t played Dead by Daylight myself as I didn’t think I would like the theme, but I’m having a heap of fun in Gold Express, when I can get into a game. The developers at Dawn Studio have stated on the game’s Steam page that early access will run for 6 months and regular updates have been planned including a new extractor, another new watcher and new maps. That puts the release window around early-mid 2020, and I recommend adding this game to your wishlist. This review utilised the Steam version of the game with a key provided for review purposes. You can read more about the game on their official website.