EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Quinn Levandoski
previewed on PC
A FL337ing Feeling
Some of my favorite games growing up were side scrolling beat-em-up classics like Streets of Rage, X-Men, and The Simpsons. FL337, a title recently put up on Steam Early Access, is very much in the vein of these games, but is unable to capture what made those games enjoyable.
FL337 doesn’t attempt any kind of a narrative, instead opting to drop you into the action right away and let the swashbuckling begin. I’m totally down with eschewing narrative in favor of unadulterated action, but the game doesn’t deliver on this front either, making the experience devoid of any real redeeming focus. Combat in FL337 is simplistic and occasionally frustrating. There are three attacks, a heavy and a light that do almost the same amount of damage, and a ranged attack on a cooldown. I’d like to see some specials, combos, or something to make it so that I’m not doing the same thing over and over again from start to finish.
The three attacks are also uninteresting not only because of their quick-growing repetitiveness, but because they allow for no depth. When playing, I either felt like an untouchable god, or cheated into a cheap death. Throughout the game you’re given XP to put into one of four stats. I opted to put every single point into my ranged attack, then, when that was full, I stacked my defense, and I was mowing down ninja, Aztecs, and ghouls like there was no tomorrow. This wasn’t helped by the fact that when there’s more than one enemy coming at you from the same side they don’t all attack you at once, but instead patiently wait in line, which means you’re never really fighting more than two foes. This needs to be fixed before release if the developers want there to be a more palpable challenge.
Fast And Forgettable
The game is made up of eight levels, each modeled after a different ship theme. Levels are short, only lasting about five minutes each, meaning that FL337 is a very short game. There appears to be a few incentives to replay in that there are three different playable characters and different stats that can be upped, but the characters all basically play the same. There are no unlocks outside of boosting damage, speed, and defense either. In other words, when I was done, which took me around an hour in total, I didn’t feel any need to even hop back in.
I do appreciate that each of the eight levels attempt a different theme, however any excitement the change in visuals brings is depleted by two things: each map only has one enemy type, and the boss that acts as the period on each chapter are disappointing. The bosses actually bothered me quite a bit. The first boss just ran right at me, and I was able to easily kill it by alternating blocks and shots. The next one actually completely ignored me, letting me sit back and pop shots without them even seeming to register that I was there. The next few just walked in a circle repeatedly, striking me once then moving on, and a few after that sat back and would jump forward for an attack, but if I simply stood on the left hand side of the screen they couldn’t even hit me. As it stands, the bosses are not satisfying to fight.
Right now FL33’’s visuals and audio are hurting it in a few different ways. Most of the character models look very amateurish, which makes the game feel unnecessarily cheap. I could partially forgive that if art assets at least matched each other, but they don’t. Some character sprites are minimally detailed with cartoony, exaggerated proportions. Some are highly detailed, some are made of hodge-podge, realistic looking pieces, and there’s even photo-realistic fire a la the style popularized in the mid-90s. I have no idea if this is the case, but the impression this gives off is that all of the assets we licensed from other artists via the Unity engine’s market, and no work was done to make them mesh.
Particle effects also go overboard on occasion, where the same two second loop of particle movement pulses on the screen. The pulsing is annoying, the repeating loop is annoying, and the fact that there are way too many on screen is very, very annoying. I will say, however, that one of the eight levels, populated with stone men, looks great. I don’t know why, but for some reason the enemies look good, the environments look alright, and the boss looks legitimately cool. It doesn’t plan any better, but the visual quality in this piece of the game is what the rest should look like as well. Last, and perhaps most strange, is that there is a dial-up internet noise during some of the load screens. Why? I have absolutely no idea, but it’s annoying and I wish it would stop. Some things are better left in the past where they belong.
Technically, since FL337 is in Early Access, it’s possible that all my issues with the game will be resolved, and it’ll turn into a nice little arcade-style brawler. However, most of the issues seem to be too deep-seated to change without a total revamp. Changes that need to be made include unified visuals, more than one enemy type per map, differentiated playable characters, something to add replay value, and re-done boss AI, which is basically asking for a whole new game. At this point FL337 is a game I can’t recommend picking up.
It pains us to say this, but we don't see how this game will mesh. At the current stage of development the game should be much farther ahead than it is.