Dynasty Feud is a 2D platform-based fighting game, with two to four players battling it out to be the last dynasty standing. Developed by Kaia Studios, the game certainly looks similar to titles such as Super Smash Bros. and Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. What makes Dynasty Feud stand out from these other fighters is its character roster. Rather than just picking a single character, you select a ‘dynasty’ made up of one leader and five characters, all of whom come with their own attacks and abilities. While this sounds like it might make matches long and drawn out, it’s balanced by Dynasty Feud’s other unique selling point — the characters die in just one hit. This makes for fast-paced, frantic matches where everything always hangs in the balance, and comebacks are very, very possible.
The game uses 2D sprites, and the art style is simply gorgeous. Each dynasty’s fighters mesh well together, and the backgrounds, characters, menus are all beautiful to behold. It’s not so distracting during the game, either, as the fighters seem to pop out from the stage, which makes it easy to see you and your opponents. Choosing to go with a bright and cartoon-esque art style was refreshing, especially for a fighting game, but it fitted the genre so well.
The game has both offline local and online play. There is no option to play offline against a computer opponent, which means you can only play it either with people in the same room as you, or hope that someone is waiting online. There is a training mode, but you only get to pick one character and it’s basically an empty room with dummies that last one hit. In short, you can’t actually practice anything there. In a game where the focus is on learning the intricacies of your chosen five characters, there isn’t much of a chance to learn them in the training mode — and it isn’t much use trying to get a feel for them in a match, either, as just when you think you’ve figured something out, your character gets killed and it’s onto the next one.
Thank goodness the game has a full instruction manual, or a ‘codex’ which teaches players the game system, and each character’s abilities and backstories. It’s informative, well-written and easy to understand. It’s not as easy to read, though, as the instructions float up and down while you’re trying to focus on words, making it a harder task than it needs to be. However, there’s no fault with the codex itself, as it got even a Smash newbie like me playing and thinking about the game strategically.
Each dynasty is well put-together and they’re diverse enough to be interesting in of themselves and when compared to the other dynasties. Each usually has a specific trait which the characters within are based around, with a few unique twists of their own. For example, the Cartwrongs specialise in projectile bullet attacks, with characters wielding a revolver, a shotgun and a gatling gun. But to keep things fresh, there is also a cactus who throws TNT as far as he can. It’s this varied but specific focus which keeps the dynasties and the character choice interesting. One problem that might be encountered at higher levels of play is that the projectile based characters, and by extension dynasties, do seem to have an advantage over melee fighters in a one-hit kill game, as it’s always a challenge to approach a bullet character without any bullets to retaliate with. In expert-level matches, the melee exclusive dynasties probably won’t get picked at all, but considering this is intended mostly as a party game, this isn’t a major problem.
The main game type, Family Feud, works simply enough. Each player chooses one dynasty, which is comprised of five fighters and one warden. When the match starts, you have the option to choose which of the five fighters you want to use first. When you get hit, usually just once, you die, and are able to select which fighter you want to use next until you run out of them. The idea of choosing your next character is reminiscent of titles such as Overwatch, where picking a good counter to your opponent is the key to victory. The problem in the early stages is that you can only see the character portraits, and if you haven’t memorised what each character looks like yet, you don’t know which one you’re picking. Just after death, you play as the warden, or leader if you will, of your chosen dynasty. You can float around and annoy the other players, but you’re just waiting to respawn.
The game isn’t like 2D fighters such as Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat due to the jumping mechanic. Stages are comprised of platforms, and players move about both horizontally and vertically, by running and using a double jump. However, the jump height was rather short, and in order to actually reach a platform, every character has to use their double jump. In games such as Smash Bros., most platforms can be reached with just one jump, leaving the other jump free in case you were attacked by the enemy. This made vertical movement tedious, leading most players to just stick to the starting platform on the simpler stages.
Now, it is fun and satisfying killing the other players in just one hit, but at a beginner’s level of play, it basically comes down to ‘who has a projectile’ and ‘who can fire it first’. The usually fast-paced matches ended up in the two remaining players standing at opposite ends of the platform, daring the other player to approach. As the game was played more and new things were discovered with each character, the fast-paced action became increasingly obvious and matches were frantic, at times too close to see who the winner was. After either killing or being killed enough, players gain access to a dynasty specific super move, some of which are greatly overpowered (like the Cartwrongs’ frantic bullet spray), and some of which aren’t so useful (like the Nekoyama-shi, whose ball of wool just sort of bounces around the screen in a slow, easy-to-dodge pattern).
There are two other game types. Team Feud sees players team up and select a dynasty, working together against the enemy. Simple, obvious, but still a lot of fun. All Star was the interesting one, though, which allows players to assemble their own custom dynasty of five out of the total roster of forty characters. This led to some crazy matches and fun gameplay, but the strategic element of picking a dynasty and counterpicking a character in-game was completely gone.
The online modes are surprisingly well put together and robust. The only game type available is Family Feud, but seeing as that’s what the game was designed around, not much is lost here. There are different modes available, however, including one which allows for up to four players in a just for fun type game, and one where only two players can compete and are then ranked on their performance. The former is just to enjoy yourself, whilst the latter is intended for experts and competetive players. Despite sitting in the ranked mode lobby for a good while, I wasn’t able to get a match. Maybe I was ranked too low to get paired up with anybody, but I know it wasn’t because there aren’t many players — hopping into the for fun game mode, I was getting matches left, right and centre. I was able to play two, three and four player matches online one after the other.
The normally fast loading time took way longer than usually, just sitting on the Dynasty Feud logo for near enough a minute before loading the match. But during the actual game, there was a little bit of lag, but it was still a fast and fluid experience. It was quite a bit of fun playing, but I noticed that the game is much more fun when your opponents are in the same room talking to you — playing the game in silence detracts from the tension of the one-hit kills.
All in all, it’s a fun fighting game. It’s a brilliant experience with friends, it’s an okay game online. If you’re looking to get into it competitively, be prepared to take the time to memorise all forty characters without a robust training mode, but as a quick, simple to get into party game, it ticks every box.
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.