Review: Smashing the Battle


Something's smashed, all right

Having dabbled in every launch title for the Oculus Rift, I've been relatively impressed with the lot of them. They either have something unique to offer to gaming in general, or are retrofitted with a VR perspective in a way that doesn't feel forced.

The same can't really be said of Smashing the Battle.

Smashing the Battle (PC [reviewed with an Oculus Rift], PlayStation 4)
Developer: Studio HG
Publisher: Studio HG
Released: March 28, 2016 (PC), TBA (PS4)
MSRP: $19.99

When you put it into perspective that Smashing was basically a one-man job, it's impressive. As a brawler at heart, Studio HG has created an entire universe around two central characters (Sarah and Mary), embroiled in a far-future conflict involving Beholder Industries, who has lost control of its androids due to a hack. It's up to to two unassuming employees to respond in kind with souped-up mech suits of their own.

The dialogue doesn't offer anything of substance -- not even goofy fan service or amusing commentary. The main character Sarah takes an "aw shucks" approach to her recently granted mech suit powers, which, as you can probably expect, doesn't really work if that's all it's going for. A lack of a solid translation doesn't help matters.

This flatness extends to the game itself, so don't expect anything other than a standard beat-'em-up formula. Sarah (and Mary, once she's unlocked) have dodges, standard slashes with no real nuance to them, and powers like mines. Attacks have no weight to them, nor do abilities, for that matter. Bosses tend to be oversized versions of regular enemies, and soak damage like a bullet sponge without much tactical variation. The AI also isn't aggressive enough, sometimes standing still while you're pummeling a big bad.

I dig the general vibe of the game and its art style (especially when you consider that fan drawings are added as an unlockable), but a lot of my playthrough felt like just going through the motions. There's almost no incentive to use your array of powers when just normal slashes will do, and item boxes are all stuffed with generic rewards, at times littering the entire battlefield -- I had no reason to try to acquire them all in a tedious fashion.

With over 30 levels (80 in challenge mode), and unlockable documents that help build up the lore, it's impressive for a beat-'em-up, but I had to take frequent breaks to get through it. That isn't because of VR though, which isn't necessary -- so don't bother paying full price on the Oculus store. Rather than provide a different perspective to the action like, say, Lucky's Tale, it merely places you above it in an isometric fashion. It's a cool effect, looking down on the game like it was a tabletop (a table you can see in its entirety, mind), but it's more of a gimmick than a feature.

I also had some technical issues with the Rift version, mostly stemming from crashes or lock-ups. One such problem was a claim that the game had "lost focus" while I flipped my headset up to take some notes, but when I put the unit back on, I wasn't able to get the game to start again unless I opted for a hard reboot.

It's noble that Smashing the Battle was built around VR -- at the launch of the Oculus Rift, no less -- but it ultimately feels like a free-to-play game and not a $20 brawler. It's no surprise this was originally slated as a mobile title. If Studio HG can patch up some of the problems lurking in the Oculus build and get the price down, it may be worth picking up on PS4 down the line.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Smashing the Battle reviewed by Chris Carter



An exercise in apathy, neither solid nor liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures



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