Fast-paced, brawler style Fighting games used to be a dime a dozen, but Brawlhalla’s path ahead is a daunting one. The break-out hit has enjoyed extraordinary popularity on Steam since releasing on PC, but this new port over to PS4 means that the title will have to compete with scores of other Fighting style titles that offer lots of action, Multiplayer adventure, and a cash mall for cosmetics. Does the F2P magic that Brawlhalla created on the PC carry over into the console world?
While it’s not Super Smash Bros., Brawlhalla has its charm and lore, which create a theme that lends well to the combat arena style gameplay present here. Inspired by Valhalla, and complete with a Viking-style character among 30-something other characters – called Legends, here – Brawlhalla has surprisingly rich, elaborate graphics that support its aesthetic without detracting from its efficiency. The variety of the characters as well as the ability to unlock them with in-game currency you generate without buying it was one of the first selling points for me; it seems rare that an F2P title allows you a considerable amount of in-game assets without locking them behind a paywall. Of course, there’s plenty of stuff in the store for you to spend your hard earned cash on, but Brawlhalla can be enjoyed without paying a penny for those bonus features. There doesn’t seem to be any Pay-2-Win going on here, which is primarily critical since Brawlhalla offers ranked combat ladders.
Players can choose to play in single-player mode, which is excellent for honing your skills and getting an edge in Offline play, or you can sample a casual mode with a theme such as Brawlball. Regarding ranked play, there are 1v1 and 2v2 matches, which are not surprisingly very competitive and incredibly addictive if you enjoy that sort of interaction. You earn gold and glory just by playing, the latter being a direct result of ranked gameplay and success. Mammoth coins are reserved for cosmetic items, but those are outside the F2P content and hidden behind a real-world paywall.
Players begin by being dropped into an arena, with only their bare hands and wits to help them against their opponent(s). Eventually, items fall out of the sky which serves as power-ups specific to your Legend’s abilities. One of the best features of Brawlhalla is the variety in the character roster, not to mention some capacity to customize your favorite Legend’s stats as you gain experience on them. Complete with detail backstories, numerous paid and non-paid customization options, plus unique stats and weapons, the Legends within Brawlhalla add depth and richness to the experience. You can choose your character based on their weapons, stats, or even just the story of their origin and aesthetic. Learning the combat moves specific to your Legend of choice is obviously a great idea, considering that chargeable attacks net you more damage and a better chance of a knockout versus your opponent.
Brawlhalla’s glaring weakness is its interface. The menus can feel cluttered and confusing, and there’s a ton of information on the screen at any given time. It feels a lot like titles from back in the early 2000s era before designers decided that clean and compact was better than cluttered and busy. The graphics aren’t anything exceptional, but they are passable, especially for an F2P title with so much going on. They’re fun and artistic enough to match the overall theme of the game, and some of the Japanese-style elements are eye-catching. The soundtrack and effects are equally blah, not offering anything overly competitive in the Fighting genre market. But they do well enough, and since you can get a lot of hours for free out of Brawlhalla, it’s difficult to argue with the quality-for-cost ratio.
Brawlhalla is a lot of fun, especially in Multiplayer modes. I’m especially excited to become more proficient in 2v2 ranked play, and to eventually unlock all of the characters both currently – and later – available. This title doesn’t punish you for wanting an extensive roster of Legends to choose from, though specializing in one or two, especially early on, is very desirable. It’s obviously heavily inspired by Super Smash Bros. and similar, older franchises, but the F2P model makes it an excellent choice for gamers that don’t want to invest heavily into an arena Fighting title. The combat is frantic and exciting, and more than a little chaotic at times, but that’s half the fun; the addition of numerous alternative modes lends extra replay value beyond the standard brawler fiasco.
Given that Brawlhalla is currently, blissfully without any Pay-2-Win dynamics and can be downloaded and played with friends for zero upfront cost, it’s hard to argue with it as an addition to any PS4 library. The combat can be deceptively complicated if you want to master certain Legends, giving players hungry for a more significant challenge something to work towards. And yet, this title is fun for novices alike, making it easy to pair up with friends at any skill level (at least outside ranked play). The diversity of the character roster is refreshingly extensive and well done for an F2P model, and I look forward to seeing what this title gains next regarding new content, events, and updates.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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