The Story So Far: Brawlout

Developer: Angry Mob Games
Publisher: Angry Mob Games
Played on: PC
Estimated Release Date: Late 2017
Time Played (Steam Total): 1.5 hours
Played with: Xbox 360 Controller & Steam Controller
Paid: $0 (Key provided for coverage)
Version Played: 0.79

Synopsis

In closed beta since late 2016, Brawlout released in Early Access on April 20, 2017.  It wears its influences on its sleeve, sporting visuals and mechanics clearly inspired by Super Smash Bros.  However, Brawlout is no copycat, with unique fighters, more “competitive” maps, and a greater emphasis on combos and control.

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High Points

No question about it, Brawlout expertly captures the spirit of Nintendo’s venerated fighting game franchise.  From its visuals to its gameplay, everything that’s currently in the game feels incredibly polished.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the cast was ripped right out of Smash; they all look like they would fit perfectly into the roster.  Each of the characters boasts unique movesets, from Paco’s up close and personal luchador moves to Chief Feathers’ rapid-fire aerial combat.  Plus, new fighters are still being added, with the latest one being The Drifter from Hyper Light Drifter.  If this turns into an indie game version of Smash, I’d be totally down.  Let me have a throw-down between Meat Boy and the Spelunky explorer!  Please?

Regardless of who you pick, the gameplay is fast and furious, while also feeling quite balanced.  Button-mashing can certainly give you an edge, but a player who’s paying attention can quickly find the holes in your assault and stop you in your tracks.  I’m quite proud to say that I did this a couple of times while playing with friends; this is because I’m a fighting game master, and nobody can tell me otherwise.

The emphasis on fast-paced fighting also plays into the game’s lack of shields; there’s only a dodge mechanic.  While this could make things feel shallow, it ensures that the match keeps moving.  It’s far more difficult for players with projectile attacks to camp on the edge of the map when literally everyone can jump over their blasts, dash forward, and dive-bomb them.  Likewise, the lack of shields means that you must rely on clever manoeuvres and “Rage Bursts”, the latter being a combo-breaking move that can be activated when a player’s Rage Meter fills enough.  Plus, if all of this sounds like a lot, there’s a robust training mode available where you can practice characters, view hitboxes and stun frames, and more.

Like any other party game, friends add a lot to the experience.  Thankfully, they’re not totally necessary, as I had a ton of fun just playing practice matches against the AI.  However, with a couple more people in the room, things quickly became chaotic and thoroughly enjoyable.  There are no item pickups in the game (at least, not at this time), so it all comes down to the wits, skill, and crazed controller-flailing of each of the players.  Honestly, I thought that this would bother me, as I’ve always been a fan of the casual, unpredictable matches in Smash instead of the “3-stock, no items, Final Destination” crap.  Somehow, though, not having the option for items and wacky stages just made me appreciate the skill level of each player even more.

Lastly, the options for online play are quite robust, allowing players to spectate matches live, view replays later, and more.  You can even play practice games and watch replays while waiting for a match!

Screenshot_Volt_Electricity

Plot Holes

It’s a good thing that there are distractions while waiting for a match, though, as getting into a game can sometimes be the greatest fight of all.  Currently, there’s a lack of people playing, at least outside of scheduled times.  According to SteamSpy, the peak player count on September 2, 2017 was 19; not great for useful matchmaking, that’s for sure.  There were also some minor latency issues; nothing game-breaking, but worth mentioning nonetheless.

Brawlout also feels a bit lacking when it comes to content.  With only seven fighters and a handful of stages, it only took about an hour before my multiplayer party started to die down a bit.  We were still having fun, don’t get me wrong, but a bit of déjà vu started to set in for some of the players.  Likewise, matches on my own started to feel a little bit dry after a time.  The good news is that a single-player campaign is reportedly in the works, and there are more fighters on their way.  Hopefully things will expand out as the game nears its release, as it would be a shame for people to miss out just because “there’s not enough to do”.

It’s also worth mentioning that I ran into a couple of bugs.  Nothing too severe; one crash to desktop, and one instance of a player’s controls getting reset between matches.  A bit annoying, but something that will hopefully be fixed in no time.

Brawlout_Volt_KingApu_ChiefFeathers

Epilogue

Brawlout is really bloody fun.  It’s obvious that the developers have significant love for the games their title is based off, and they’re doing an excellent job of adapting it while adding their own twists to the formula.  They also seem to be quite active with their community, responding regularly to bug reports on their Discord channel and making their progress publicly viewable on a Trello board.  With the recent announcement that Brawlout will be making its way to Nintendo Switch, I’m hopeful that it’ll be able to find a loyal audience.  It could use a bit more meat to really get me hooked, but I’m still more than happy to throw it on for a quick match, by myself, or with some friends.

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