by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Barbarian Brawl is an excellent game on paper. On paper, the idea of grabbing your barbarian and weapon of choice and jumping into an arena of up to twenty other people is cool. On paper, the idea of a map filled with deadly traps and obstacles you can try to lead other players through mid fight is very cool. On paper, wrapping the whole project up with cell-shaded visuals and a goofy sense of humor seems like the coolest. Unfortunately for developer Thrillion, Barbarian Brawl is not a piece of paper, it is a video game, and itís a game with a lot of problems. While I understand that a game costing the price of a sandwich and shake at McDonaldís shouldnít be expected to be as expansive or in depth as one costing exponentially more, low cost doesnít excuse a lack of fun, and I canít say that I really had much fun during my time with the game at hand.
Barbarian Brawl is not a complex game, and thatís perfectly fine to a point, but the package is, in my opinion, just too bare bones to hold interest longer than a few games. I actually like that game modes are limited to your standard deathmatch and team deathmatch. The game is clearly designed for all-out assault, and Iíve seen too many a game shoehorn in things like CTF or other objective modes that go against their design philosophy. Unfortunately, if youíre going to completely devote your game to deathmatches, you need ample gameplay and strategic options to keep sessions fresh and gameplay strategies open. This is where the lack of real meat punctures through and becomes problematic.
Not Much to Do
When in combat there are only a few maneuvers to worry about. Jump, hit, kick, block, and use ham. To be honest, even after a number of hours playing the game, Iím still not sure what the point of ďkickĒ (as itís labeled in the button layout screen, though the animation is an off-hand punch) or ďuse hamĒ are. Is it my fault I couldnít figure it out? Maybe, but if I canít, other people wonít, and thereís no explanation anywhere to be found. Each confrontation consisted of me holding down attack to charge my swing, then running around until I saw anyone. Swing, jump, repeat. Thatís it. In one of the trailers for the game, the narrator even says the game wonít take up your time with things like battle tactics. Joking about it in a light hearted manner is fine, but it doesnít change the fact that having a brawl game where every brawl is homogeneous with every other one makes things get very boring, very quickly.
I suppose the idea is that since people are human, and act differently, different tactics and play styles would develop in different matches. Unfortunately at no point in my play time did I ever find even one other person online. Iíd go to the server browser, and each one would have zero people. This meant I was stuck playing with bots, which isnít the end of the world, except they arenít fun to play against at all. They donít attempt to lure you into danger, use the map to gain advantageous positions, or anything else. They just run at you. They also donít seem to understand that hazards exist, as all Iíd have to do is stand behind one of the traps and theyíd run right through it every time. Adding to the ďsame-nessĒ of every game is the fact that the different characters and weapons really amount to jack squat. There are a number of different barbarians that look like something out of How to Train Your Dragon and a number of weapons from clubs to knives to a scythe, and while there are some differences in how they play none of them had much of an effect in practice.
The concept is cool, the price is low, and the physics make for some funny moments.
The game is largely lacking, boring and repetitive, and, even if it wasnít, thereís nobody online to play the game with.