Monday, January 18, 2016

Fall? Ha ha! - Brawlhalla Review

   Brawlhalla is a party fighting game developed by Blue Mammoth Games, published by Xaviant Games, and available on Steam as Early Access. It's essentially a Smash Bros. clone on PC. Pick a "legend", step into a fight with 2-4 players, and duke it out in a two-dimensional arena of cartoony violence.

   One thing is certain, the game is just as addictive as Smash Bros. which is nice considering it's still in beta. Brawlhalla's gameplay is interesting and differentiates itself from other fighters in various ways, especially the game everyone is going to immediately compare it to. In fact, let's just get on with what this game really is and stop mentioning Smash.

   Gameplay: Interesting
   The flow of battle involves hitting people. The more damage they take, indicated by a bar that slowly shifts from white to red, the farther they will fly when they get hit. Eventually, you will be able to hit them far enough that they fall off the screen, which results in their death. Let's just pretend that doesn't sound familiar and continue on.
   Every character shares the exact same moveset if they don't have a weapon equipped. Light attacks are short flurries of punches and kicks, heavy attacks are single moves meant to launch the opponent, but both have a very short range. To better facilitate a smackdown, glowing sword-like items will occasionally drop onto the field.

Occasionally, I said...
   Your character will pick these up and it will morph into the weapon of their choice. Every character has two choice weapons and each pickup will randomly become one of those two. Some characters share certain weapons, and the light attacks for the weapons are also the same for every character that uses them. The only differences between the characters are their base stats, which aren't properly explained nor are the differences particularly noticeable, and their heavy weapon attacks (also called "signature" attacks). Two characters that both have a hammer, for instance, will behave similarly until they use a heavy attack. A straight-forward rush for one character will be an arcing smash for another.
   It may seem a bit simplistic, and it is, but it makes up for it by avoiding some of the more annoying aspects of fighting games. The characters are relatively balanced, there are no infinite combos, there are no instant kills, and every character has good mobility. You can just have fun, and I think that's worth something.

   Modes: Enough
   Brawlhalla's game modes don't have a lot of variety but they cover all of the bases. There's an online 4-player Free-For-All, a Ranked 1-on-1 and 2-on-2, offline multiplayer for up to 4 players with rules you can set yourself, and a single player tournament mode with a scoring system.
   The only issue here is that it's notably missing any other online modes except Free-For-All unless you're playing super competitively. If you just want to have fun with real people, but you also don't have any friends, you're locked to just one game mode.

   Characters: Cool
   If there's an archetype you want to use, it's in the game. Pirates, ninjas, cavemen and catgirls, this game has it all. To top them off, each legend also has their own lore page to explain why they're so great (but not how they died). This may be worth a download just to read the humorous backstories of the game's 19 characters.

Inventor of time travel and the lightbulb.
   Pay-to-Win Status: Negative
   You can use cash to purchase characters and various skins, but nothing that even affects player progression. There are currently no experience or gold boosters, though they would be nice since progression is a bit slow. It's about as far away from pay-to-win as you can get.

   Jumps: Too Many
   If you don't hit someone hard enough to completely clear them from the battlefield, there's a high chance they can get back on the field. Every character has access to four mid-air jumps they can use to get back to dry land, plus wall-jumps. The jumps go high enough and far enough that you can recover from virtually every possible launch distance and trajectory that doesn't kill you, as long as the enemy misses their mid-air attempts to knock you back off the screen. You have two normal mid-air jumps, an air-dodge that goes far enough to count, your upwards heavy-aerial attack which will also propel you upwards, and reaching a wall will recover your normal jumps so you can essentially just stay off the stage permanently.
   The reason this is a negative is because while you're glad you have them when you're on the defensive, they're extremely annoying for the offensive and they drag out the game. Lowering the ease of recovery would make the different colors of your damage bar seem more meaningful, too. Speaking of...

   HUD: Kind of Sparse
   This is all you know about how much damage you or your opponents have taken:

Yellow means... Elevated, right?
   The general strategy is to combo someone until they reach a hotter color, and then hit them with heavy attacks in an attempt to finish them off. The thing is, the indicator only goes up to red despite the fact that a character keeps accruing damage past that. This makes it difficult to know whether an attack will actually finish someone off, especially considering the incredibly high recovery the fighters possess.
   You can go into training mode and turn on the "powers viewer" to see how much damage a move does, but it still doesn't show how much damage the enemy has actually taken.

   Final Score: 4.1 out of 5

   It has some shortcomings, but it's surprisingly fun to play and if you're a fan of Smash-style games you should definitely check it out. It will lack some depth in comparison to what you're used to, but it should show you a good time. Here's hoping the game blossoms into something much greater with time.

Bonus screenshot showing the character menu! I only used Scarlet for most of my matches, so she grew on me.
   Extra Things to Know
   - Gold gains are very slow, so expect to be using free characters for a long time. There is a daily mission and a login bonus for extra gold, but they don't give much either. Character level-ups give gold, too, so using lots of different characters is beneficial to you.
   - You can use a controller, a keyboard, or keyboard+mouse to play this game.
   - According to the wiki, the character stats are "Strength, Dexterity, Defense, and Speed". This isn't really explained in-game. In fact, there's currently no tutorial at all.
   - Every character has 5 "stances", unlocked through leveling up that character. Each stance has different statistics for that character. The feature seems incomplete, and they can't be used online at all.
   - Leveling up characters also unlocks palette swaps for them.
   - Go play Smash Bros.


  1. okay not to be a dick but Smash bros clone? thats like saying that Warcraft 3 is a starcraft clone just cause its a RTS.
    And allso gold gains are not that slow its quite misinformative. Yes you dont get allot per match but considering most matches are 5-10 mins max its pretty fair that if you play for an houor or 2 you can buy a cheap carracter. Right?

    1. Smash Bros is very different from every other fighting game, so if a game comes out with similar gameplay, I feel justified in calling it a Smash clone. They aren't similar because of the genre, they're similar because both games are based around getting someone to a high damage percentage and then knocking them off the stage.

      The gold gains weren't slow enough to devote a whole section to, but they were pretty slow even if you were trying to buy one of the cheaper characters. If I remember correctly, there weren't any other gold sinks at the time, so it wasn't a big deal. The thing is, short fight times makes a few hours feel a lot longer due to the volume of matches you need to fight. If you're fighting a majority of those games with a single character, as I was because Scarlet is legit, it's even slower. But you are correct, if you look purely at the time spent, it's not as bad as I made it seem.

      Thanks for leaving feedback!

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