Model Builder – Review
Follow Genre: Simulator
Developer: Moonlit, Kuba Wójcik
Publisher: Moonlit, Green Man Gaming
Platform: PC
Tested on: PC

Model Builder – Review

Site Score
6.8
Good: Provides a zen-like, relaxing experience
Bad: Awkward controls
User Score
8.0
(2 votes)
Click to vote
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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)

Whether it’s driving a train or mowing the lawn, it seems like there is a sim game for everything these days. The latest addition to these digital recreations of mundane activities is Model Builder, which lets players -you guessed it- build scale models from the comfort of their own computer. Given our own penchant for this decades-old hobby, we were eager to see whether this sim game could live up to the experience of accidentally drinking paint water, cutting one’s own fingers, and sniffing glue fumes.

Story

Although Model Builder is a straight-up sim title first and foremost, developer Kuba Wójcik managed to add a simple story to the game’s career mode. This mode starts with a letter from your grandfather, who was an avid model builder and built up an impressive workspace, which he has left you. His dying wish is that you continue where he left off and become a master model builder in your own right. You start out as a rookie, but soon enough, you’ll be building and painting advanced kits, enter competitions, and even take on commission work. As you do so, you’ll also learn more about your grandfather’s life and the importance of his hobby through emails that you receive from his friends. It’s a simple story but it works well enough and really helps to sell the journey from being an inexperienced novice that works up their way to becoming a modeling expert.

Graphics

In terms of visuals, Model Builder is a bit of a mixed bag. The virtual workspace that you find yourself in certainly looks decent enough as do most of the model kits, but there are some exceptions. It’s not a matter of aesthetics either, it’s simply that some of the kits look oversimplified -just take a look at the model car in the screenshot below. The quality of the models seems dependent on the files provided by the manufacturers of these kits. This actually represents the difference in quality between kits in real life as well, though we did feel like Model Builder could have pushed up the realism a little here. Perhaps if a future update introduces ray tracing, we’ll be telling a different story, but as is, the visuals didn’t quite impress us as much as they should.

Sound

There’s not a whole lot that can be said about Model Builder’s soundscape, but that didn’t bother us as this is one of the few instances where we’d be fine if there wasn’t any sound at all in the game. That isn’t entirely the case here, as relaxing music will still play in the background and there are sound effects present that correspond to the actions that you take. In all honesty though, if you decide to turn off the sound of the game so that you can listen to your own music of choice, then you wouldn’t be missing out on much.

Gameplay

Sim games are often straightforward affairs and Model Builder is no different. The game is all about assembling and painting digital versions of scale models, many of which are direct recreations of kits you can actually buy in real life. The only ‘goal’, if you can call it that, is to finish your model kit of choice and admire the end result. You have a wide array of tools at your disposal, from the essentials, like clippers and a scalpel knife, all the way to an airbrush and decals. While we laud the sheer amount of equipment that is made available to you in virtual form, we still felt that the game oversimplified things. For one, it’s pretty much impossible to “screw up” a model during assembly, as the individual parts that make up a kit snap together in a specific way. Building a kit is also a lot faster than it would be in real life, with an hour’s worth of building time compressed into 10-12 minutes here.

The game’s first few assignments gradually explain the different techniques that are used to bring your creations to life. If the terms “dry brushing” or “washing” sound alien to you, then don’t fret as Model Builder explains these tried and true methods in a clear and concise manner. Even painting your models, which is a scary barrier for novice modelers, is made easy, although the application of base colors feels weird as it simply involves clicking a part of the model to fill it with your choice of paint rather than having to apply two thin coats by hand. Perhaps this is for the best though, as the other techniques that involve a manual application, such as airbrushing or dry brushing, feel somewhat awkward when done with a mouse.

This applies to assembly as well. While we absolutely feel like Model Builder accurately captures the various steps and techniques that are used to assemble a model, the control scheme didn’t really convince us. Rotating a model felt awkward -even while using the preset positions that can be instantly accessed with hotkeys- and simple actions like applying a decal were unnecessarily frustrating as a result. Hopefully, Model Builder’s controls are improved in the future. It’s certainly workable as is, but we do feel like some small adjustments can make for a much smoother experience.

Even though the game doesn’t provide an entirely accurate replica of the handiwork required to put a miniature airplane on your shelf, it’s still a surprisingly relaxing affair. Stripping away the possibility to screw up means that actually assembling a kit becomes a zen-like affair. As you progress through the game, more elaborate models are unlocked. Model builders often refer to something called the “zone”, in which they become entirely focused on whatever miniature model they are working on and time seemingly flies by. This state of mind is something that Model Builder manages to capture, and it’s easy to choose a kit and start working on it, even if it doesn’t quite feel the same as the real deal.

With a plethora of model kits already present in the game, and supposedly more on the way, you’re certainly getting a lot of bang for your buck here -especially compared to giving the modeling hobby a try in real life, which becomes expensive really fast. The majority of the models present in Model Builder hail from real-life ranges as well, so if you want that Titan Forge dwarf model on your desk, you can do so. We assume that future additions to the game will hail from the manufacturers that Model Builder already cooperates with, though we wouldn’t mind seeing the option to import .STL files from around the community, so you can build and paint these virtually instead of having them 3D printed.

Conclusion

As someone who has nearly two decades worth of experience as a model builder in real life, yours truly was skeptical about the idea of a virtual version of the model building hobby. Having spent some time with Model Builder, we have to say that our skepticism hasn’t completely dissipated, but we were still impressed with what’s on offer here, as Model Builder offers a fairly accurate, if simplified, approach to the real-life experience. It’s a great way to introduce newcomers, but in all honesty, if you enjoy spending time with Model Builder, then it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in the local model shop to try things out for real.

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Rating: 8.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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Model Builder - Review, 8.0 out of 10 based on 2 ratings
SebastiaanRaats


3 Comments

  1. […] and developers Moonlit S.A. have announced that the survival title Frostpunk will be joining Model Builder with exclusive models added to the existing roster of creations. The Frostpunk DLC will be […]

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  2. […] Model Builder is the next generation of virtual hobby games that brings the joy of scale model building to enthusiasts and novices alike. Today, Green Man Gaming Publishing and developers Moonlit S.A. are thrilled to announce that the exclusive Model Builder Frostpunk DLC is now available to download for free, adding even more content to the range of vehicles, historical memorabilia, and pop culture icons already available. […]

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  3. […] developer Moonlit S.A. have released a brand-new variety model for their virtual hobby simulator Model Builder. This new pack containing four new models to build is based on suggestions given by the community […]

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