Brawlhalla is a free-to-play online fighting game that boasts its large fighter selection, its simplicity, and its promise to never become a “pay-to-win” game. It is very much a Super Smash Bros. clone in which up to four players at a time can fight each other on a set of platforms. It’s quite easy to pick up and appeals to casual gamers who are not too familiar with more advanced fighting games like Street Fighter or Tekken.
The game’s story is quite simple: a group of 34 fighters have all found their own ways to Valhalla, the mythological heaven where warriors go when they attain a noble death in battle. Once they arrive, they are free to fight and feast in glory forever. Some of the characters died to arrive there while others spent their entire lives searching for the mythical land only to stumble upon it. Each character has a specific background and story of how they came to be in Valhalla, which are fun to read.
Like Smash, players must be launched off screen in order to lose a stock life or a point. As of now there are four items that can be used: a bomb, a proximity mine, a spiky ball, and a horn that calls a fiery ally to zoom across the screen, hitting all enemies in its path. Each character can use two weapons which are chosen at the character select screen. These weapons spawn randomly on the stage as flaming swords. Once the player picks the sword up, it will end up being one of the weapons chosen—whether it was a scythe, power gloves or other choices.
Every character has unlockable skins, colors of skin, weapons, taunts, and stances. As you play with a certain character, they level up, and with each level, that character unlocks one of those things. You can also purchase any of these add-ons at any time with Mammoth Coins which can be purchased with US dollars. Not every character is available for online play at all times; you only have 6 random fighters available at a time. Fortunately, with each match played, coins are earned and you can unlock a fighter of your choice with these coins. If you want to explore which character you feel more comfortable with, all combatants can be used in the training mode.
Without looking at the controls, I dove in right away and started an online match. Once I learned the attack and jump buttons, I was able to hold my own pretty well—and I had just started! The controls are simple: ‘triangle’ and ‘circle’ are heavy attacks and ‘square’ is light/quick attack. Each of these have an up, down, and directional variation which is useful when attacking rivals at different angles. ‘R1’ and ‘L1’ are used for throwing items and ‘R2 and ‘L2’ are used for dodging/dashing. That’s really all there is to it. Editor’s Note: You DO own a controller for PC, yes? If not, PS4 owners can use their charging cords to plug their DS4s right into a USB port.
There are parallels to Super Smash Bros. as mentioned before. For example, throwing an item, being able to double-jump, and having to recover from being launched are all familiar mechanisms. Fighters are launched farther and farther as they take on more and more damage. But I wouldn’t classify Brawlhalla on the same level as the chaotic multi-player fighter from Nintendo; it feels more like a cheap copy. However, the fact that it is free-to-play makes it viable to attract a large crowd, and its quality is impressive. Even now, matchmaking is quick and it seems that there are always players available.
In regards to the character roster, each character has its own style and design. They all have their own quirks and features that will draw players to use a certain fighter for the sole reason of “because he/she looks cool.” For example, among the combatants is a legendary gambler who made a dangerous bet and a legendary mercenary who followed her target all the way to Valhalla—their designs fit their description. But most characters tend to use the same weapons and have the same moves—which can get a little repetitive and multiple fighters will start feeling the same after a while. The good part is that there are 34 fighters to choose and experiment with. I recommend trying them all.
The game boasts many different modes online such as the following: free-for-all, 2 vs. 2, 1 vs. 1 and Experimental Deathmatch—a PvP mode that tests out new possible settings. Players can also set up online rooms to play in with friends locally or online. When offline, training, local PvP and tournament modes are available. If feeling curious, players can browse the lore of all the different characters and take a look at the store from the main menu.
While Brawlhalla is a good game so far, it is not great. The fighting styles seem to be the same with multiple fighters and it takes a long time to unlock a miscellaneous feature of a character. The brawling mechanism being similar is understandable since it’s hard to have 34 different fighting styles in a game this small. But if multiple microtransactions are expected to happen—which are inevitable—a little more detail could have been put into the combat. Hopefully, once Blue Mammoth Games is finished with the game, the combat will be more unique per character.
With a great character roster, controls that are easy to learn, and fast matchmaking, Brawlhalla is fun. It’s a great game to play when looking for something to pick up and play right away. It’s also good for groups both locally and online. As to the store and purchasing weapons and skins, I recommend spending no more than the time you invest in it. Follow the one dollar per hour rule. As a fan of games like these, I’m looking forward to playing more hours of Brawlhalla.
If interested, Brawlhalla is free-to-play right now on PC through Steam. The PS4 version is set to launch soon, but no specific date has been given.