Published on July 10th, 2017 | by Drake1
Early Access First Look – Brawlout
Brawlout is a fighting game currently in early access being developed by publisher Angry Mob Games for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and most importantly, PC. Many people within the community know of my fondness for platform fighting games, so it should be a no-brainer why this game caught my eye, especially touting the “party game” tag as the Smash Brothers series so famously has. Excited at the prospect of picking up another competitively-charged platform fighting game, I decided to dive right in.
The one major aspect that drives any game’s competitive scene is its community. Not interested in playing by myself or simply using matchmaking to play random opponents, I noticed the developers advertising their title’s discord server, decided to drop by, and was completely blown away. While relatively small at the moment (as is the case for many early access titles), the Brawlout discord server is exceptionally active at all hours, more so than any of the servers I usually frequent.
The developers have a role-based system in place in which players can be assigned both region and character-based roles. This enables anyone in the server to easily find someone to play with within their region for better connections, or to seek out a certain character main to gain some matchup knowledge/experience. With many driven individuals in various regions of Europe and the US, players are constantly using the discord to find ranked or private matches in addition to discussing the game’s existing matchups. While not very active in the actual chat, the developers are definitely keeping track of their community, as some of the released patches during my time playing seemed to be directly influenced by feedback from their discord.
Gameplay & Mechanics
The overall gameplay of Brawlout is very…well…brawl-esque. The meaty sound the game makes when you smack another player with one of your moves is very satisfying, which is a big plus when coupled with the smooth flow the combat seems to take on. Someone with rudimentary knowledge of some other platform fighters might ask: “But what about tech skill? Is there wavedashing?”
There is wavedashing (and wavelanding, for that matter), though that’s about it for any tech the game has to offer. Much of what makes the current top players great at the title is proper spacing of their moves and matchup knowledge and experience. While character balance is still an issue to be addressed, there are no truly “broken” characters ruining the game for everyone else, so you can really pick any of them up and have a good time.
What sets Brawlout apart from other platform fighters is its rage mechanic. Each character has a bisected power bar that fills up as you receive or dish out damage, which can then be activated to do one of two different abilities. Once you’ve filled one of the two bars, you can activate rage to make your character invulnerable and immune to knockbacks for a brief second. This is mostly used to break yourself out of a combo string, or to prevent a major hit that would’ve killed you. Using a full rage meter will still perform the above, but then place you into a rage-state that persists until your bar has fully depleted. While enraged, your character has an increased resistance to knockback and vastly increased knockback toward enemies. While extremely deadly to your opponent, the increased knockback resistance opens you up to get juggled by moves as your character gets much “heavier”.
As for general movesets, characters have a regular assortment of grounded and aerial abilities. There isn’t a difference between everyone’s “smash” and “tilt” moves as in Smash, but coupled with their special moves (such as Olaf’s freezing projectile) make for a calculated combat style where each character has a different and unique approach. Being able to air-dash aids many in recovery, as a seasoned player will aggressively guard the stage against your recovery abilities once you’ve been knocked off, but the recent addition of ledge grabs (thanks Angry Mob!) has helped add to the mixups available to players when recovering.
As for how the game runs and looks, I currently have nothing but praise. The game itself is visually pleasing while avoiding on-screen clutter, and I rarely experienced drops in FPS that were not netplay-related. Though I currently play on an Xbox 360 controller, the game has GameCube controller and keyboard support to accommodate anyone’s preferences.
One major aspect that I applaud the devs for is the inclusion of ranked match spectating and match recording. One can view ongoing ranked matches and drop in to watch, as well as download the matches for viewing after they’ve concluded. Each player also has a match history where they can go to view and download their own previous games. In addition, netplay is region-based with unranked/ranked matchmaking and a leaderboard to show off on. Individual connections aside, I don’t believe I lagged a single time when playing within my own region, and was even able to match up with some European players with minimal connection issues. Those in the discord looking to play ranked against specific players will even coordinate with them and both queue for the Africa region, which works hilariously well.
All in all, Brawlout looks to be a well-made up-and-coming early access title. Its small but thriving community is helping to shape the game as it progresses through development, and its overall playability and polish make for an enjoyable first-time experience with the title. I’m very much so looking forward to seeing where Brawlout’s future takes it as it nears completion and expands to its other platforms.