Brawlout Early Access Review

by | May 31, 2017

No Tripping Required

So independent Smash games are going to continue to be a thing, eh? I am cool with that. Coming to Early Access seemingly right after Rivals of Aether came out of it, Brawlout is the newest game in that same mold. It is a Smash Bros-type game (aka “platform fighter”) designed to build on the mechanics of Smash into a more competitive game. In Brawlout, you play as one of six characters (more on the way) and try to knock your enemies off of the stage while staying on there yourself. Each character has an array of basic punches and kicks, but they also each have access to special attacks that allow them to throw bombs, grapple enemies, shoot ice, and more

Brawlout

Steam Page

Developer: Angry Mob Games Publisher: Angry Mob Games

Release: April 20th, 2017

Price: $19.99

Rig: Intel i5-4570 @ 3.20GHz 16GB RAM NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780

This is all pretty standard fare, but Brawlout mixes things up by adding a rage meter. You gain rage by hurting enemies and getting hurt, and you spend it on special moves. Every special move in the game uses a bit of the rage meter, and while you can use special moves without any rage meter, moves are often not as powerful without it. Rage is also tied to the recovery. When your rage bar is half full, you can activate burst, an interrupt that gets you out of combos, knocks the enemy back, and eliminates all of your momentum. This also resets your recovery moves which means that you can recover from greater distances if you have it available. To add onto that, if your rage bar is completely full, you can activate rage mode, which drains the bar but increases your attack and defense. The key to the appeal of the rage bar is in its flexibility. Using a lot of rage will give you an edge but also leave you vulnerable to enemy counterattacks, while hoarding it will allow you to escape even the most powerful of attacks. This is a great risk/reward mechanic and managing it over the course of the match adds depth and drama to the matches.
However, the experience of playing Brawlout is frustrating for a new player. Even for an Early Access game, finding out how to even play the game is difficult. For one, information on the mechanics of the game is surprisingly really hard to come by. There are no tutorials, in-game explanations, or even official listings on the game’s website. Even the wikis I could find were shockingly sparse. This is frustrating because a lot of the mechanics are frustratingly unintuitive, especially for Smash veterans. For example, every Smash game since Melee has had characters who each have four different special attacks assigned to the special move button plus a direction, and for the most part, Brawlout follows this tradition… except when it doesn’t. Some characters have fewer special attacks or special attacks that require different input. Then some of the moves feel really off, like their hitboxes are too small or in the wrong places. One character has a down smash attack that propels her forward, which is just weird. Another character has an up smash attack that is a slightly different hitbox than his up-tilt. It is not just the hitbox is larger, but that there are some attacks that the uptilt would hit and the upsmash wouldn’t. These issues probably will not bother people who are completely new to this type of game, but those people probably are not interested in this game in the first place. These design decisions are not necessarily the worst decisions to make, but these, combined with several more, combine to make a game that feels really odd and uncomfortable, especially upon first play. While that feeling lessened after extended play, it never fully went away.
“These issues probably will not bother people who are completely new to this type of game, but hose people probably are not interested in this game in the first place.”

I do have some concerns with balance. One character has a freeze move that is really easy to use and effectively infinite recovery, forcing enemies to come to him to edge guard, while another character’s recovery is based on proximity to the enemy, which means enemies can effectively edge guard against him by just running away. The developers have been updating the game fairly frequently since it went into Early Access but keep in mind that there is a lack of polish here. In terms of features, Brawlout is surprisingly robust for such an early Early Access game. While there is no dedicated single-player mode yet (outside of bot matches), there is a full replay mode that automatically catalogues recent matches, ranked and quickplay modes, and leaderboards for the ranked mode. Brawlout also lets you play offline matches while queued for online ones. This is a brilliant feature that I wish more games had, especially ones with low populations, as you do not have to stare at a search queue in lieu of actually playing the game. Speaking of populations, it is important to note that Brawlout currently is significantly lacking here. Finding games is really difficult, especially with the two queues splitting the playerbase, and if you play non-standard hours, this is a single-player game. While this is an issue that may get solved in time, it is also one that may worsen with time as well. In fact, player counts have been expectedly dropping since it was released into Early Access, and there is no telling if that will change upon the full release. The presentation of the game is not particularly impressive. Characters, while sporting unique designs, do not have a lot of detail to them, especially when it comes to their textures. This, combined with a lot of stiff animations, makes the characters feel almost like playdough characters, especially the ones with more meat on their bones. I will be frank: it is hard for me to recommend a multiplayer-focused Early Access game without reservations. It is hard to tell if the game will be embraced by a community, if updates will keep coming, and if you will have a reason to play this when it gets to a full release. Importantly, Brawlout does have a few problems in terms of presentation and how it feels that make predicting whether or not it will take off tough. Having said that, Brawlout does have a lot of promise to it, especially with regards to some of the changes it makes to the classic Smash Bros formula and for the support it already has for competitive play. If you are a fan of competitive Smash, this is at least one to watch.

Worth Your Money: Wait
[A copy of the game was provided by the developer or publisher for the purpose of this review.]

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