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 it’s a game with a lot of problems. While I understand that a game costing the price of a sandwich and shake at McDonald’s shouldn’t be expected to be as expansive or in depth as one costing exponentially more, low cost doesn’t excuse a lack of fun, and I can’t say that I really had much fun during my time with the game at hand.
Barbarian Brawl is not a complex game, and that’s 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 I’ve seen too many a game shoehorn in things like CTF or other objective modes that go against their design philosophy. Unfortunately, if you’re 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, I’m still not sure what the point of “kick” (as it’s labeled in the button layout screen, though the animation is an off-hand punch) or “use ham” are. Is it my fault I couldn’t figure it out? Maybe, but if I can’t, other people won’t, and there’s 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. That’s it. In one of the trailers for the game, the narrator even says the game won’t take up your time with things like battle tactics. Joking about it in a light hearted manner is fine, but it doesn’t 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. I’d go to the server browser, and each one would have zero people. This meant I was stuck playing with bots, which isn’t the end of the world, except they aren’t fun to play against at all. They don’t attempt to lure you into danger, use the map to gain advantageous positions, or anything else. They just run at you. They also don’t seem to understand that hazards exist, as all I’d have to do is stand behind one of the traps and they’d run right through it every time. Adding to the “same-ness” 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 wasn’t, there’s nobody online to play the game with.