Over the past 5 years, the free-to-play section of our console or PC store has grown bigger and bigger, and let’s be fair, we all love something free. But too often these ‘free-to-play’ titles don’t feel free, well, not unless you want to sink 100 hours into repetitive gameplay, so, with new platform fighter, Brawlhalla gracing our consoles how true does it stays to the ‘free-to-play’ branding? I’m pleased to tell you that not only does Brawlhalla offer a legit free-to-play experience but is also a fun and competitive fighting game.
The arcade style ‘smash your opponent off the screen’ has been a fighting game favorite since the Brilliant Smash introduced it back in 1999 and although Brawlhalla doesn’t offer anything new here it does provide you with a ton of diverse warriors to get the job done. The whopping roster of fighters currently sits at over 30 and is continuously growing. Better yet, every fighter feels different; some offer lightning quick attack but little damage output, others can take a shed load of damage but give little back in terms of movement speed – every warrior really does feel different.
With Brawlhalla being a free-to-play game not all the warriors will be unlocked from the beginning unless you choose to pay just under £20 to unlock all heroes. Not having all the fighter available is to be expected, but the method that Blue Mammoth Games have chosen is a questionable one. The available warriors work on a weekly rotation basis, which, in most games would be a nice idea to give the player a continuous variety. However, much like every other fighting game, if you wish to really be competitive in Brawlhalla you’ll need to find a fighter you like and seriously get to know they attacks, timing, weapons and escapes. I find it slightly strange that a game that requires that amount to practice to be competitive not to provide players with a set amount of base heroes to master. If you choose to go the completely free route then it’ll take around two hours of gameplay, depending on victory rate to afford a new warrior.
You’d think that with this many fighters it’ll take a lot of practice to get a good understanding of the basic fighting mechanic, which isn’t actually the case. Developer Blue Mammoth Games have made Brawlhalla a classic simple to pick up, hard to master fighting game. There is only two attack button in the game, I was playing on PS4 so light attack was square and special or charge attack was circle. Each of the attacks buttons have 4 attacks linked to them, which depends on the direction you press while inputting the attack command. Although this simplistic approach does hinder the ability to unleash punishing combos, it doesn’t feel a hindrance as it’s not the combos that will lead you to victory in Brawlhalla but a perfectly timed attack.
The concept of winning is also pretty simple. Every player has a health bar in the top right of the screen, it starts green and fade through to red depending on the damage you’re taking. You cannot be defeated by losing your health alone, instead, this health bar acts more like a stamina bar, the closer to red it is the higher chance you have of being booted off the screen. Obviously, the other fighters are your primary opponents but the stages you fight in can easily catch you out. Some of them decide to evolve and change layout half-way through battle as if fending off three other warrior wasn’t enough.
More variety is added to the simplistic controls of Brawlhalla through the use of weapons. Each warrior has two different weapons, which normally differ in range. These weapons can be picked up during a fight and come with their own unique attacks, again four linked to attack button. The game doesn’t allow you to choose what weapon to pick up, instead it works on a rotation basis, which puts an emphasis on you learning how to utilise each weapon your favorite warrior has at their disposal.
Another area where Brawlhalla has a breadth of content is through the different modes and activities it has to offer. Quickplay features three modes; 4-player free-for-all, 2v2 and 1v1, as well as an experimental mode where you can playtest the developer new ideas. Rank play plays out in tense 1v1 battles and there’s a weekly rotating bout that throws new mechanic and challenges at you as a play. Throughout my current 20 hours with Brawlhalla I’ve never been stuck for an option, neither have I felt like any modes a weak link.
Brawlhalla is a fast, fun and sometimes chaotic platform fighter that has a lot of content on offer from the start. The decision to make the free warriors rotate on a weekly basis take away the emphasis of learning a favorite fighter, but it shouldn’t take you too long to buy a select few with in-game currency. It’s easy to skip past the free-to-play section as we’ve often felt they don’t live up to their name in that past, but Brawlhalla breaks that feeling. If you’re looking for a competitive fighting game that isn’t too daunting to learn then Brawlhalla is a game you should defiantly check out. I’ll see you in the arena, shotgun Ragnir!