TBB Alpha Spotlight: “Killsquad”

     Welcome, Templars, to another review from The Balanced Blade! This review will be rather different than our standard format due to the nature of the game in question.
Due to the fact that Killsquad is releasing into Early Access, we are refraining from giving the game a final review of any sort, instead focusing on what the currently has, what it currently does not, and the nature of the game as a whole.
In addition, we will be giving the game our honest thoughts on things we it could or should have in the future of development. Things that we have come to believe will help it stand out from the crowd of both it’s genre and steam early access all together, to help it succeed. This review will also show you, the prospective players of this title, more about the game in its current state and whether it’s worth playing so early on.
In the future we will likely return to this game two times, once when the game moves over into the beta stage and once when the game goes full release. We will then, and only then, give the game it’s final rating.

So, let’s cut into this title, shall we?

     Overall –

Killsquad is a game that resides within the A-RPG genre or the Action Role Playing Game genre, for anyone not familiar with the acronym. It is starting in Early Access on PC on July the 16th, with console ports planned.
It has been confirmed this game will drop on the 16th at 19.99$ MSRP into Early Access, however I have not been able to confirm if this price is static or if it will be going up with early access updates like other games around it.
This is important because a game that is worth it at 19.99$ can easily become not worth the purchase at 39.99$ or 49.99$. It is a slippery slope that many a developer team has fallen into. This sub-genre of games lie within the RPG space most of the time, often emphasizing real time combat and action or turn-based action over other role playing mechanics present in other games within it’s genre.
Simply put, It’s the difference between games like XCOM and games like Mass Effect.
XCOM prioritizes the combat mechanics and overall story rather than offering deep intellectual conversations and character dialogue. Diablo 3, Grim Dawn, Path of Exile, just a few examples of games that share similar aspects to Killsquad in design. Killsquad itself is a blisteringly fast paced co-op experience centered around either hack and slash or run and gun style combat, depending on the characters you choose.
Furthermore, Killsquad doesn’t care whether you can keep up with it’s combat or not, throwing wave after wave of enemies at you, as well as map hazards like mortar style strikes and other things that can make a normally simple fight something much harder to deal with. This is easily the strongest asset Killsquad has to it at the current moment and only gets more and more difficult as my squad works our way up the Vector level missions, forcing my team to communicate and work together or die one by one.
Through this, I have come to know that Killsquad has the chance to become a gem within the ARPG space.

And with that said, There are quite a few issues with this game as it stands, some systemically and others not so, that will prevent it from becoming something great if they are not addressed.
This is, of course, was expected as it is going into Early Access not full release. We never expected the game to run flawlessly. And while many of these issues will or are currently being worked on, I believe the prospective players need to know about them before they consider purchasing the game so early.
People need to know what they are buying before they buy it, not after.
In addition, I hope to help the developers narrow down the issues as the come along so that they may fix them in the future, as well as give them some “Game Theory” to work with as they decide where exactly want to take the game in the future of development.

I personally know how much games can change from concept to alpha to full release. So some of the things within this review will err on the side of a think piece or a dream piece.
As a result the ideas may or may not even be possible for this developer team to accomplish in a timely manner, if at all. Or, with respect to their art and game, these things could simply not be within their vision all together.
And that is more than okay. It is their own game after all.

Mechanics and gameplay-
We will begin at mechanics for this game, rather than story today, because the current state of the game is heavily about the base mechanics than anything else. In this way, if your expecting a lot of RPG in your A-RPG, look elsewhere for now.
But I’ll come back to that later. But what of these mechanics? Are they any good? Are they worth jump on this soon? Well, even with all of Killsquad’s issues, I still find myself coming back for it’s fast paced combat from time to time.
Personally, I love Troy and Kosmo and for completely different reasons from each other. From the very moment I picked up Troy, the single thought that filled my head was,
“Damn I would love these mechanics in a MOBA”. The reason I thought this is because, with the exception of SMITE which I think has janky controls at best, No other MOBA has given players the ability to control their characters so precisely.
If I could get Troy in a MOBA environment, I would kick some serious…

Well you know. 

You are able to dodge and dive, shooting enemies dead in their tracks with hitscan mechanics that feel oooh, so good. And Kosmo, Kosmo is a different story altogether. The combo strike mechanics behind Kosmo’s left click feel so solid,
allowing you to 180 mid combo to strike an enemy at your back.

The swings are responsive and fluid, but still separate of one another mid combo. All the character skills and combat mechanics are very well made and solid, allowing the base of this game to shine and show that there is a gem here.
However, it is hidden under a long list of bugs and glitches that prevent it from being seen for the most part. Some mechanics that could stand to be improved on in this game don’t really stem from the characters but rather the enemies.
They are too stagnant at times, predictable in the worst ways. With exception to the boss and mini-boss monsters, the small enemies have about two ways they seem to fight you.

Either they are homing rockets or moving sentinel towers. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when they accompany a boss. They can make things rather hectic in a fight when homing down on you or filling the screen with laser fire, but they are predictable and a bit underwhelming after a while. Especially when it becomes obvious that the small creatures of the different places you go to all seem to have the same coding at their base.
This could be fixed by offsetting their timings for shooters at random or having the homing enemies flank you instead of just moving directly towards you as soon as they spawn.
What could also improve their viability in the world is simply giving them more to work with across the board. Small abilities like maybe a rooting shot from the shooter troops or a taunting shot that enrages the homing enemies would be fantastic and really make you sweat when you make a mistake as a player. Their targeting protocol seems rather questionable as well.
I feel as if it would better serve them and the game as a whole if the light troops and aliens tended to target those of weaker health like the medic and the DPS players, rather than the tank Kosmo.
This would make the tank and medic rolls more valid than they already are.

Simply put, the game is fun to play, but at its current state, it’s hard to ignore how shallow it is very quickly. 

 

     Bugs- 

If there is any reason why you shouldn’t buy and play this game right now, it’s the very long list of bugs that currently plague the gameplay. Just in out time playing we came across many bugs, some small and others forcing us back to three main menu before we could play correctly again. This was expected and very much should be considering the current state of the game. Just don’t walk into this game expecting an alpha that is in a profoundly stable condition.
On occasion you will experience things such as-

  • Steam Vr activates when this game turns on (if installed) 
  • Account wiped from level 15 back down to level 5. 
  • Upgrade screen had to be pressed four times before it committed the upgrade. 
  • Falling through the map to our deaths multiple times on multiple occasions. 
  • Parties disband after win/loss. (Currently being worked on)
  • Bit of a framerate issue across the board.
  • Sound issue, audio sliders do not work.
  • Audio issue at main menu, distortion that followed me into the game.
  • Cannot dismantle base vector 5 gear.
  • Possible bug with Kosmo upgrade making him invincible. 
  • Invincible dragons spawning on multiple occasions.

Edit to post: It has come to my attention that as of July 15th, 2019, there was an update that cleared out about 70% of the bugs in this game, including ones mentioned. In addition, It has been said that there is a Bug fix update every two days from the developers.
As a player and a reviewer, I can only say that this is extremely promising. The developers are active and working on the game every day and that is all that is important in the end!

Alpha Killsquad 0.6 Patch Notes:

– Added German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese localization
– Players are now invulnerable upon finishing the last mission of the contract to prevent dying once the mission has been completed.
– Optimized sky laser particles for better performance
– Game version is now visible on the lobby screen
– Fix for Zero being unable to launch abilities after being hit two times at the same time with an attack having knockback
– Fixed a bug where some end of contract enemies that where supposed to spawn minions did not do so
– Fixed a bug that caused some enemies to stay stationary in front of the player doing nothing
– Fixed a crash that occurred using some of Kosmo’s weapons
– Fixed Kosmo’s overshield not refilling correctly when using perks that increase overshield
– Fixed the orientation of some popups
– Fixed the focus on some widgets
– Fixed and exploit of Troy basic attack being able to be performed in quick succession resulting in an enormous increase of DPS
– Correctly renamed Cass level 10 upgrades as they where referencing an incorrect ultimate ability
– Fixed the final big chaos crystals from the contract to destroy them as they where not spawning enemies
– Fixed a bug with matchmaking that caused players to join a session already in progress
– Fixed a bug that prevented Cass from moving after performing her shuriken teleport attack
– Fixed a bug that caused the dismantle sound to keep playing event after dismantle has ended
– Turrets no longer drop health packs, ADN and XP

And the list goes on.

However it seems that the developer team is very much on top of these bugs, as evidenced by their timely responses in both the steam bug forums and the discord bug report chat room.
Taking my due diligence, I have gone ahead and reported all the bugs my team had found in our time playing the game as should anyone who is considering buying this game in early access.

 

     Story- 

This is where my team and I had the biggest problem. But also, where this game could potentially have it’s strongest asset. 

What makes ARPG games worth playing is, for the most part, not the action itself. Instead, it is in fact the RPG behind the ARPG that gives it its distinctive playability and subsequent replayability.
Games like Diablo 3 and XCOM: enemy Unknown are not played solely for the action like Killing Floor, they have story. Deep and meaningful lore behind them. Characters you care about and wish not to see die.
Killsquad, unfortunately at the moment, does not have this. I assume it is because the game is in such an early access state, but I could be wrong. The game absolutely needs this however, that much cannot be understated.
We talked about this for a long while, my team and I, and eventually came to the conclusion that Killsquad exists in a no man’s land of sorts. There are two sides to the RPG front. On one side you put emphasis on characters, story, worlds, history, backstory.
On the other, you put emphasis on gore, effects, action. It’s the difference between Mass Effect and Doom. Where there is a story in Doom the main character, along with the player, just don’t seem to care about the story unfolding around them.
Doom guy is just there to kill demons, period. And the game shows this clearly by giving you face melting metal music and intense action sequences from the first moment of play to the very last.
By contrast, in games like Mass Effect, you will likely be doing more talking to people than combat, diplomatically, personally or otherwise. Two games within the same genre that happen to be way across the spectrum from one another.
This is important because Killsquad also falls on this spectrum of games somewhere right in the middle of the road, leaning towards action over story. The problem is, we came to the conclusion that Killsquad does neither sides exceptionally well.
If it wants to be a “hardcore” action RPG, it lacks hardcore deaths or dismemberment. And if it wants to lean to the RPG side of things, well it severely lacks any lore or story behind it. Take Kosmo for example.
On first sight, Kosmo is extremely reminiscent of a certain Jason X character, So I assumed that he was a murdering killing spree sort. This shows in his complete lack of pinpoint skills in favor of large heavy strikes and moves.
However, I was taken back the first time we won a mission and he made an honor bound salute at the win screen. This made me confused on what exactly he was supposed to be as a character.
Conflicting character traits aside, there is little to no lore behind the planets, missions or corporations you are killing for, leaving the game rather empty of the RPG aspects of an ARPG all together.
This can be fixed through cutscenes, mission statements, planet statements and corporation statements in time, but the fact still remains that it needs to be fixed.
If there is no lore, the reality of the situation is that there is nothing to bring the players back besides their own desire to play, which fades rather quickly these days with all the games coming out across the spectrum.
The most worrying thing to us is that some of the things that would probably be the games strongest aspects have already confirmed to not be in the game as of now.
There is no player hub at the time of review, and there doesn’t seem to be any plans to make a player hub, which is rather disappointing considering a player hub like something out of Phantasy Star would add a lot of depth to the story, the corporations,
the characters, the worlds that the game encompasses and simply meeting new players and keeping the games community alive.
Team raid missions that are fabricated by the developers to give high tier loot drops and other events would also be beneficial to the overall experience as a whole. 

With that said, it seems the Developers of the game have the full intention of making us a true RPG product in the coming times saying,

“We love game universes. The way they evolve, the way they grow, the shared journey with your audience. We live by Tolkien, by Asimov, by Lovecraft, by GRR Martin. When we see games like Path of Exile or Fallout we feel, that’s the way to go! When we see Eve Online, we feel “that’s a masterpiece”

 

Killsquad is our tribute to that. We dream of a day where you have dozens of Killsquad heroes, and many planets to explore. But, as Tolkien himself would say “Little by little, one can travel very far”. So, today, we are happy to reveal our vision for the next 6 months. The season 1 of Killsquad, which has the theme of REVELATION. REVELATION will present the actors of the Killsquad universe: the factions, their agendas, and how do we, the Killsquad, work to get what we want.”

 

In their dev blog. As a five year veteran of New Eden myself, I can’t agree more with this statement. I was present at the Fountain Wars and I know how much emotion and truly meaningful stories that EvE online helped create.
And if creating a meaningful story with meaningful characters and players is the Developers ultimate vision, I personally have very high hopes for this game. Then there is the roadmap, which looks very good.
All in all, I would say it is a solid start to what may turn out to be as solid world and game. But we always must keep in mind that this is not the game yet. The game as it stands achieves little of these things promised or desired.

With that said I am very excited to see all of the things that are to come.

 

     Visual-
The game is okay looking so far. What we came across however in our time playing is that the death animations are all the same for creatures no matter if you shoot something or slash it with a katana or pulp it with a hammer. This definitely needs to be changed at the very least. The Katana should hack off tentacles and cut things in half spraying a cone of green blood across the screen. The hammer should pulp creatures, the fires engulfing a dying creature to turn it to ash. the pistols should blast out the insides of the aliens. The laser should fry them. There is currently no individually to the characters kill animations when fighting things and well, we believe the game would be stronger if it had such things. However with the FPS issues currently plaguing the game, even at low settings for some odd reason, animations and blood physics and ragdolling can wait. Stabilize the game as a whole before you go adding in a bunch of new assets.

Another thing the buyer should be aware of is a strange FPS drops at odd moments in the gameplay. I had thought that turning down my settings would fix the issue but strangely enough it actually just made it worse. That’s right folks, I am saying that I had higher FPS on all high settings than on all low settings. That is a very peculiar little bit and something I have never quite seen before in any other game.

 

As you can see just by the store page screenshots alone, things can get pretty hectic in game, with multiple enemies on screen at once, each having their own abilities and effects around them. At times it can look amazing.
At other times it can be overwhelming, literally making you lose sight of your mouse in the heat of combat.

     Audio-

We all had kind of an issue with audio in this game. My team said that the game was to loud and although there is an audio option in the game, the dials don’t seem to work or do anything currently. But I had a bigger issue with the games sound. The audio that is there is mundane. The music is rather weak, not at all invoking the frame of thought needed to keep you in the game. I ended up turning off the sound all together and playing metal in the background because it fit the game better than the music that is given. Specifically, the tech-metal genre fit this game very well for me. Heavy base and deep rhythms went very well with the hardcore action happening on screen. 

I particularly enjoyed this list with the game-

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTunArsiki0[/embedyt]

     In conclusion-

Killsquad is a good game that currently, doesn’t really hold a reason for people to keep coming back to play it. I’m sure that once all the bugs are ironed out it will be worth playing, but I have to ask myself how long will it be fun? Where are the hooks? Where is the reason to play this game over Grim Dawn, Diablo or any of the other top down ARPG’s on the market? Difficulty alone does not make a game, even a game like Dark Souls showing that you in fact do need lore and story behind it all. If you, the player, are looking to buy this game today, I’d say in its current state wait for a few updates until the game is more stable. The reason I say this is because buying a game you’re excited about early can often leave a sour taste in your mouth about it. 

However, if you truly support this developer team and the art they are creating, have at it.
The game is playable as it stands, as we have not run into any truly game breaking bugs, so you and your friends could have a lot of fun for a time as you help the game grow to its final release state.
Just don’t go in expecting a smooth ride from day one.

With time, with heart, with dedication, with imagination, I can see this game becoming something greater than it may have ever imagined itself to be.
I want to thank the developers of Killsquad for allowing us the opportunity to take that ride right along with them.

Until next time Templars, strike true!

 

     –Godfrey, Baron of gaming

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