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Meet Your Maker review: a great hook with greater frustrations

Meet Your Maker aims to be the next Mario Maker, but fails to capture the magic

When Mario Maker arrived on the scene in 2015, it showed the world that user-created content in games was a goldmine waiting to be plundered. We’ve seen a few games try and capture that magic, but few have lived up to the promise. Meet Your Maker is the closest anyone’s ever been to hitting the sweet spot, but it still falls a little bit short.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Meet Your Maker has you raiding bases and settlements from other humans to collect genetic material, or GenMat, which is desperately needed to keep the human race alive. While there’s certainly a lot of dialogue here, very little of it amounts to much of a story. There’s a weird guy in a liquid-filled tank telling you what to do, and it’s your job to do it.

Every now and then you get hints that there might be something more at play behind the scenes, but I never found it to be all that interesting or appealing. It’s exactly what you’d expect from this kind of game, a light bit of story that gives you a reason to do things, but it’s been done a thousand times before and doesn’t tread any new ground. It doesn’t really need to be good, though. I’m here to raid bases and build bases, and everything else is set dressing — gorgeous set dressing that does a fantastic job of setting up the vibe, but set dressing nonetheless.

Meet Your Maker is light on story, but it does a good job of setting the tone for the experience nonetheless

Meet Your Maker is light on story, but it does a good job of setting the tone for the experience nonetheless

As for what, exactly, that vibe is, it’s definitely your standard post-apocalyptic horror-ish scenario. Your assistants are patched up with electronic bits and pieces, the world is in a grimey state of disarray and disrepair. Everything is dark and desolate, much of the planet has been turned to dust, and there are few, if any, comforts to be found.

So you find small things to bring you joy while you play. There’s a little guy with a box on his back that travels back and forth between the entrance and the goal of a base, and while he’s a messed up body horror of a creature, he’s also not hostile, and he is somewhat helpful. He’s a friend in a world with very few friends, and I felt awful every time I turned a corner and immediately hacked at him because I thought he was an enemy.

Meet Your Maker is split up into two separate, but equally important aspects from a gameplay perspective. There’s the base raiding, where you explore a user-created structure filled with traps and ghouls to bring back resources, and the base building, where you create a structure for others to explore. I’m not sure which was more frustrating for me, but both were, in their own ways.

Raiding is the bulk of the experience, and will take up about 75% of your time. There’s a certain charm to delving into player-created dungeons, not knowing exactly what’s going to be behind each corner. Every player takes a different approach to building; some are needlessly cruel, with traps and tricks from start to finish, while others lean into making complex labyrinths, or works of art.

The movement tech in Meet Your Maker is incredible. Actually playing it is a joy, and it’s genuinely one of the best feeling-FPS games I think I’ve ever played. It’s helped a lot by a grappling hook that lets you quickly zipline to just about anything you can see, but the gunplay is impactful and sensible, the combat feels fair and satisfying, everything about it is great.

Meet Your Maker's grappling hook might be the most satisfying zipline feature in gaming

Meet Your Maker's grappling hook might be the most satisfying zipline feature in gaming

Not knowing exactly what you’re going to get when you walk into a dungeon is a great feeling, and it very much channels Mario Maker in that aspect. Much like Mario Maker though, a lot of player-created content is quite cruel and not particularly enjoyable. It’s not exactly fun to walk into a room filled with five enemies and packed wall-to-wall with arrow traps, but the game lets you do it, so players are going to do it.

With that in mind, there is something to be said for the gameplay loop of dying and retrying. It’s a format that’s spawned a whole subgenre of games thanks to fantastic experiences like Dark Souls, Hollow Knight, and Celeste. You try, you learn, you die, and you retry.

For me, that’s not such a great experience. I can’t really enjoy Soulslike games because my brain just doesn’t retain enough information over time for me to learn what I need to learn to get by. Because of that, dying and retrying in Meet Your Maker is often more frustrating than it is fun, as I’ll finally remember that spike trap in the ceiling, only to have forgotten about the arrow trap just before it.

Turns out not everyone is great at level design, and frustrating layouts and enemy placement is common

Turns out not everyone is great at level design, and frustrating layouts and enemy placement is common

Building a base for others to raid is a lot more enjoyable, but it comes with its own problems. It’s a bit like Minecraft’s creative mode, you have access to a big menu with a lot of different objects and block styles, and you can place them however you like. As long as your little helper guy can get to the goal, and you’ve got enough defenses, you can make your dungeon however you like.

Well, almost. There is a resource limit for bases, presumably to prevent people from lining every single wall and floor with traps or spawning hundreds of enemies to take down. In the early game that limit feels very restrictive, as you don’t really have much opportunity to flex your creative muscles, but later builds can be quite complex.

The main issue with building is how opaque the restrictions are to the player. You know your block limit, and that’s fine, but you also need to meet a minimum amount of traps and enemies too. How many? It’s hard to say, the game doesn’t really tell you. If you don’t have enough, it will prevent you from making your dungeon active for other players to play, but it won’t tell you how many you need.

At one point, I’d just spent hours building a work of art. I’d built a fantastic little labyrinth, with perfectly placed traps and a few enemies roaming around in opportune places. I’d spent a stupid amount of time making it pretty with decals and lamps and wall coverings, and I even had a few hundred resource points left over.

Then the game told me I didn’t have enough defenses. Okay, sure, easy fix, I’ll add a few extra traps, another enemy near the entrance. Hmm. Still not enough, but now I’m at my resource limit. I spent a while removing blocks, ruining my masterpiece, and then placing more traps, but nothing seemed to work. In the end, I cleared the whole map, made a boring tunnel filled with traps, and called it a day once the game said I had enough.

There's plenty of tools on offer, but you never really know how many you're supposed to have

There's plenty of tools on offer, but you never really know how many you're supposed to have

It was a deeply unsatisfying experience, because I needed to have a base active for the extra passive resources, but I couldn’t really create what I wanted, and I didn’t really know why. Having a clear indicator of how many traps and enemies are required would be such a simple thing to do, and I sincerely hope there’s an update down the line that does just that.

It’s a shame, really, because there’s a wonderful synergy between raiding and building. You’ll be walking through a player-created dungeon and discover a devious, clever setup, and because the building is so simple and straightforward mechanically, recreating that setup is quick and easy.

Meet Your Maker’s gameplay loop of raiding and building is an absolute winner. Just like with Mario Maker, user-created content keeps the experience feeling fresh and exciting the whole way through. Unfortunately, there are just too many small frustrations for me to say I’ve had a great time. It’s a better concept than it is a game, and unfortunately doesn’t live up to the magic of the games that came before it.

Score: 6/10

Version tested: Xbox Series S