EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Nathan Rowland
previewed on PC
Full Steam (Early Access) Ahead
Team arena brawlers prove to be a good space to express the design and ambition of game developers. Worlds and universes, light on lore but imbued with atmosphere and depth can provide great experiences of escapism for their players Ė but it has nevertheless become a crowded space in recent years (as most popular genres do), which demands greater ingenuity from its creators. Brimstone Brawlers is one such game.
Gameplay is akin to many other battle-arena titles, with the easiest comparison being drawn to Stunlock Studiosí Battlerite. The player-controlled brawlers have a pleasing scaling difficulty from easy to intermediate to very technically challenging and involved. It is a tried and tested formula, which accommodates newer players to hardened veterans who appreciate a high skill ceiling to strive towards. Beginner brawlers include the Engineer and Vampire, strong melee-focused fighters who cause high damage from a simple toolset of charges and area-of-effect abilities. More complex brawlers include the Alchemist and Traveller, the former combing potions with various on-hit effects to create cooky variations to combat each game. The latter being an unassuming woman carrying an eldritch monster in her briefcase who can tag-team style switch in and out with her in combat, providing a complex toolset for encounters.
Does Ategig dream of eldritch sheep?
Battle Brawlers also has a good sense of verticality from its 3rd-person perspective, with an adaptive camera that lets you change between a character-lock and a more general action camera. This is an appreciated asset once youíve experienced its lack of presence in other similar titles.
Additionally, the varied maps have a range of dynamic, interactable environments to interact with (passing trains, moving elevators, falling terrain). Brawlers are often able to take advantage of this layer of environmental activity by having character abilities not only hit hard but cause some amount of movement displacement Ė and nothing can be more satisfying than a tactical environmental kill. The Engineer and Vampire make excellent use of these features, meaning no player is left out of the opportunity to hurl opponents from rooftops or toss them beneath trains, just like Neo, only itís a steam locomotive this time.
Now seems like a good point to mention its theme - Victorian steampunk meshed with Lovecraftian campness. Itís not original, but nor is it intrusive, providing enough background to get on with the action. Brimstone Brawlers doesnít seem too pre-occupied with the setting, preferring to focus on the extent of its gameplay, exemplified in its most recent addition, bamball! A fun and dynamic mode where humans and monsters can dish out pain in the beautiful game of football. Here you can see how eldritch tentacles fare when it comes to dribbling in mid-field. Itís silly, itís fun and endlessly replayable, what more is needed?
Patreon or passer-by?
As you may have sensed from my review so far, many systems are in-place to make a great game out of Brimstone Brawlers, but it still has a way to go yet before itís full release. This, however, is something the developer is keenly aware of, as thereís some nice tongue and cheek humour in the early access Ė a self-aware commentary of the gameís ongoing development.
First on the list of improvements, the game has no in-built matchmaking system and requires you to join servers that cannot be found unless searching for them by other means. Ategig, the developer, uses Discord almost as a companion platform for this functionality and it is admittedly well designed for facilitating communication and organization alongside the game. It only took me twenty minutes before I was accompanied by three equally eager brawlers in my first bout and it seems that many other regions outside of my own (EU) have an active and avid player base to connect with.
Unfortunately, there is no opportunity for solo-play beyond testing the abilities of each brawler in a training arena. So, the only chance for real action is by finding or recruiting some other gamers at opportune times of day. Yet, unlike other MOBA titles, only one opponent is required to get in and play. If youíre able to pair your purchase with a friend, youíll be having more fun from the start. That being said, waiting times can vary, especially if you happen to be in a lower populated region.
To conclude, my review for Brimstone Brawlers is at something of a crossroads. Primarily because I am a bit unsure about the Early Access model for supporting videogames. Itís a space somewhere between Kickstarter blackholes in which money vanishes and nothing re-appears *cough cough* Star Citizen and the fully-budgeted release of publisher backed developments. But then, Iím not all convinced that the traditional model of game creation is any better, when highly budgeted games fail short of expectations during crunch-time, create promises too optimistic and grande to deliver upon and prove diminishing for gamers and developers alike. As such I would say - Brimstone Brawlers is a wonderful game, mechanically, but at present, it doesnít support value for money. It shows the potential to be greater than the sum of its parts, especially with an enthusiastic developer is at its helm. I encourage anyone who has the patience to try this title out whilst it develops, just not to expect everything to be in place day one Ė itís got heart behind it and that counts for a lot.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.