With warm greetings we welcome you back to yet another game review. Today we have Killsquad, developed by Novarama and released July 16th, 2019 on Steam for PC. Killsquad is an ARPG with a MOBA-like twist, that plays like a twinstick arcade with hack n’ slash mechanics. If you were hoping for a Diablo clone, this ain’t quite it chief. It’s certainly different, so bear with us for a moment.
Now, how one derives fun from a product tends to be highly subjective. Therefore ALL forms of review are opinionated, and should be taken with a grain of salt (this included). So let’s review Killsquad through the lens of more objective metrics such as; Graphical fidelity, characters/story, content/length, controls & gameplay, then finally, sound design and cinematics. This product was reviewed on a 1050Ti 4Gb, 8GB Ram, with a i5-7300HQ.
A range of graphical options are available in Killsquad. It can look like dirt, or make impressive use of the Unreal Engine. Performance is decent on Ultra and High graphics preset, although certain abilities and groups may cause slight stutters. As always motion blur is disgusting and has to go, but shadows, textures, lighting, ambient occlusion, and all that jazz appears quite dandy. Some of these abilities are visually extravagant, and the game overall looks great with no noticable screen tearing. Damage numbers (when they work half of the time) give the game a grounded feel, and the health bars give it a tactical presence (again, when they work). The environments range from interesting, bright and exuberant, to visually monotonous, and obviously procedural.
At one point during a work trip, Killsquad was played off of laptop battery and sucked 60% dry within 5 minutes. Afterwords it had performance issues related to power usage specific to it. This was a fixable issue, but an issue nonetheless. On a last note, Killsquad isn’t a fan of Alt-tabbing. Generally it looks good, and runs well enough.
Characters & Story
This title has little-to-no story to speak of, unfortunately. Players choose one of 4 heroes and take bounties, while a weirdly creepy lady named ‘mama’ talks to you. That’s pretty much all there is to it. There’s a codex of enemy units, but these offer little story orientation.
Content & Length
The game is split into different levels accessible based on your ‘vector’. These levels take place on a variety of tilesets dictated by their corresponding planet or location. In a similar fashion to bloodborne dungeons, Killsquad procedurally generates it’s environments. In some areas this looks fine, while in others it’s rather drab and repetitive. I often found myself getting turned around, as maps are disorienting at times. The game currently has 4 heroes to choose named Troy, Cosmo, Cass, and Zero. Classes being effectively a DPS Gunslinger, a Tank Hockey Mask Jason, A DPS Swordfighter and a Healer with a laser. Cooperatively these classes work well together, but the game tends to struggle in single player without the healing sustain of Zero. Each character also has a small repertoire of weapons and ‘Gears’ acquirable with an ingame earnable currency. This game contains no lootboxes or purchasable cosmetics to it’s benefit.
Levels in Killsquad come in a few different forms, from defending areas, to hunting bosses. The procedural generation makes them feel a bit stale after a while, but the different objectives and bosses are occasionally creative and refreshing. Alternatively, I am always disappointed when a boss is simply a larger version of a previously used model, like the Dolem Boss. All that said, the potential gameplay for someone who thoroughly enjoys Killsquad is almost limitless, however I’m not sure it’s content is that retentive.
Controls & Gameplay
Killsquad can make use of both controllers, alongside mouse and keyboard. It plays like a twin-stick shooter with a MOBA style leveling system. Players get an ability modifier every second level with an ultimate ability choice at level 6, and each match has a level cap of 10, lasting around a half hour. This may not sound long, but I do wish the contracts were a bit more bite-sized, requiring less time dedication. Alternatively, specific missions and goals are sent to players in a mail system to keep things varied and retain player attention.
The equipment players purchase outside matches is underwhelming at best, and it seems uncertain how it scales with vector. Credit and vendor pricing seems to scale with vector, though aside from the occasional extra passive, I’m not sure it’s worth the time investment. It would be better if equipment gave flat statistic boosts that slowly scale, instead of unlockable passives. Additionally with the amount of recycled equipment, the rate of improvement feels tedious and drip-fed. Unfortunately Killsquad‘s gameplay loop just isn’t engaging enough to justify a 40 hour grind for it’s best gear, nor does the gear demand it. With a reworked gear system, however, this gameplay loop has the potential to be highly addictive. But for now, it doesn’t feel like it has meaningful impact on a players character. Speaking of characters, it should be noted that they 4 classes do feel unique and are each satisfying to use. They integrate well in multiplayer, where the game is best played. I simply wish there were more classes or abilities to mix and match.
What makes this game frustrating to play at times, is it’s wonky feeling hit detection and/or targeting system. Sometimes your shots or laser (I played Zero Primarily) seemingly miss for no apparent reason, shooting above or below a target leaving the player feeling slighted. Offsetting this is how reactive abilities feel. The modifiers are a nice MOBA nod, and offer a littlebit of build diversity – but only a bit. After a few games you’ll find yourself defaulting to maximum damage to minimize match time due to efficiency. A game’s gameplay loop should intrigue me in a way that it itches for my return, but Killsquad feels like just going through the motions. Without different heroes or abilities, each engagement feels the same. Enemy variety is good enough to not be an issue, the combat just need minor tweaks and quality of life changes. Some of these may include better targeting, alternative abilities, new heroes, reworked weapons and equipment. If these were to get the much needed changes, it could potentially re-invigorate the gameplay loops, giving meaning to character progression, and bringing replayability to players.
This game is built on a interesting concept, blending a match based MOBA-like level system with permanent equipment modifier that supposedly scale with ‘vector’. It looks and plays as expected, the problem lies within it’s longevity. I personally couldn’t find a reason to keep playing Killsquad, as much as I like it’s potential.
Sound Design & Cinematics
The audio has an almost ‘Starcraft‘ Vibe to it, for those familiar. The general sound design in regards to abilities, enemies, and attacks is fine. It’s Nothing special in all honesty, but it is passable. During Co-op my colleague had issues with a no audio glitch, resolved by a game restart. There are no sizeable cinematics to speak of, but without a strong focus on story that’s understandable. There are short introductory clips before each boss that look nice, but nothing outstanding.
When all is said and done, Killsquad isn’t necessarily a bad game. It’s core ideas have massive potential, and with some TLC, updates in the direction of hero variety, and meaningful stat/level changes – things could turn around in a big way. With some polish and the right content, this game could be the next underdog No Mans Sky. There’s some fun to be had here, and it’s ideas are interesting, I just wish it’s execution was better. 6.0/10. I applaud Novarama’s efforts, and I hope their envisionment comes to fruition. Killsquad is available for purchase on Steam.
What did you think of Killsquad? Let us know in the comments. If you enjoyed this content, why not check out our DOOM: Eternal PlayStation 4 Review?
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Great Ideas, Needs Polish
- Score - 6/106/10
+ Visually Nice
+/- Good Hero Builds, Not Enough
– Hit Detection Frustrating
– Questionable Equipment/Weapon Stats
Just a Canadian dude who’s passionate about gaming, and the industry as a whole.