Bounty Battle was something I was looking forward to: a 2D crossover indie fighting game that features characters from a bunch of different indie titles, such as Juan from Guacamelee!, Trace from Axiom Verge, and Otus from Owlboy. And, sad to say, I’m debating whether I should request a refund.
After reading some of the negative reviews on Steam, I was hoping I could find something in the game that would prove some of the reviewers wrong, but, suffice to say, after several delays and three years from their initial crowdfunding campaign, we still have a half-baked product. Something that probably should have been labeled as Early Access.
As I’m trying to keep my time on the game under two hours to meet the refund requirements, my thoughts on this game will be brief.
What are the mechanics like? The first thing that comes to mind is Super Smash Bros. From the fact that four characters can play at a time, that the fighters are from different intellectual properties, and that some stages allow players to get ringed-out all ring a bell. Except characters have a health bar, where they will be defeated when it’s empty. Per the description on the Steam store page, Bounty Battle has taken inspiration from the following games:
- BlazBlue: Cross Tag Battle
- Injustice: Gods Among Us
- Gang Beasts
- Street Fighter
- Rivals of Aether
That’s a lot of titles to take inspiration from, and in my experience, the gameplay tries to mash all that up into a clusterbomb that just does not get it right.
Characters include five originals: Azell, Lilith, Atlas, Lazarus, and Tyrant. This is in addition to over 20 other characters from your favorite indie titles like Awesomenauts, Dead Cells, and SteamWorld Dig, among a whole slew of other games.
Sounds awesome, right? Until you actually get into the game.
Each character has a basic three-combo attack, an uppercut, a slide attack that can be charged, three special moves, an ultimate move, and a move that’s in-between the special and ultimate. No blocking in this game; you either roll forward or backward, teleport upwards (think of it like Up Special in Smash), take a few steps back, or set yourself invulnerable for a set period of time. If you make your character invulnerable for too long, a circle will appear above their head, and when that circle becomes empty, you will be temporarily dazed.
This circle will also appear when grabbing, doing specials, or some other move that the game calls “Spammy”. Be careful not to do said move too often, or the game will punish you by tazing your character, leaving yourself wide open for your opponent to attack.
When dodging or doing a special/ultimate attack, some of the blue circles on your character’s HUD will disappear. With no blue circles, you can’t dodge or use any specials. These circles gradually fill back up over time.
Allies can be called in battle, if you have enough bounty credits. These credits are earned after knocking an opponent out.
These mechanics are done poorly. Just pick Otus, for example, and hold the Right Trigger to activate his ultimate attack, causing him to twirl his cape at the enemy. Keep holding the trigger, and it’s almost a guaranteed knockout. So far my enemies haven’t found a way to escape this. Or take Trace, push your opponent to the wall, and keep pressing Up + Triangle. The enemy will soar upwards and will stay that way so long as the attack is repeated. There’s no spam penalty for doing either of these tactics.
In addition to this, look closely at the characters faces. You’ll notice that, for the most part, they stay dormant, either with a smirk, an angry face, or a face like, “What am I doing here?” Their expressions might change depending on if they’re attacking, but little is done to otherwise make them look more realistic. Just take Azell with her bow: when she’s aiming, she’s not even looking forward. Her eyes are positioned more towards the camera rather than who she’s aiming at.
There’s also several animations that could have been added. For instance, there’s no victory animation for the character who won the match. No clapping animation for those who lost. No taunting animation either? No entry animation? Not even a crouch? Not even a walking animation that could be in addition to only running? You gotta be kidding me.
The current animations are a bit jerky. Do a move, and at the end of the frame they’ll suddenly start standing again in a completely different stance. Some frames could have been added between moves to make transtions look more smooth, but as of now it looks a bit awkward and janky.
As far as hitboxes go, it’s all over the place. Basic attacks come so quick that you can’t read your opponent in time and dodge the attack.
No voices come out of the characters when they attack, get hit, or get knocked out. Some might find that a good thing, that that’s less annoying than if they did. Me, I think it would add a little more “oomph” to the game, add a little more touch and life to the characters.
The tutorial sucks. Some green-colored devil’s face explains the concepts of the game to you at a pace that you can’t keep up with, with text not staying long enough on the screen for you to read it. You’re not even fighting an enemy; you’re just doing the moves at the air.
There’s no description of what Tournament mode is or what Challenge mode is. I’ll explain them for you:
- Tournament mode pits your character against an enemy or a series of enemies. Most of the time it’s just defeating them or knocking them off the stage a set number of times. Some challenges (heh, uh, which mode are we in again?) can be excruciatingly difficult. By the way, this is the only way you can unlock skins for your character
- Challenge mode is basically a survival mode where you defeat one enemy after the next, until your character gets knocked out
Are you getting tired of this yet? Well, there’s still more to be said.
Sometimes I’ll get stuck in a menu. In Tournament mode, for example, I can’t change the character or change the challenge. I’m forced to leave the menu and do something else.
Now, something that might have actually let me stay would be online multiplayer, but that’s not here. The developers commented that Steam Remote Play Together works, but… I’d rather just pit off against a random player any time I want, not have to go through the process of adding someone on Steam and begging them, “Hey, could you play a couple of matches with me?”
No story mode either. Though, this one I can forgive as a) a story mode would be a huge expense both in time and money, something that Dark Screen Games probably didn’t have the budget for, and b) I don’t necessarily see a story mode as a necessity for a fighting game; usually there’s plenty to be found just by figuring out the mechanics of the game.
Regarding the Linux verison
There’s no Linux icon on the Steam store page, but there’s actually a native version already included with the game; no betas need to be selected. Run it, though, and it doesn’t look great. Lights are constantly flickering, the picture quality is bad, and the game thinks you’re using a keyboard. I’ve been told by the developer that the Linux version is still a work in progress. Fortunately, the game runs much better on Proton, though if there are any cutscenes that are played during the game, I won’t be able to watch any of them (and, actually, I think the Linux version no longer exists now since I reported about it; I can’t install the native version anymore).
This is a game that I want to see progress for, but right now all I can praise about it is the big roster and the original, retro-style music. It still needs a lot of work. I blame the lack of budget — which was less than $40k — and that some of that budget was probably spent on getting the game ported to the Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, therefore less budget for the game itself. But I might hold up on the refund and wait patiently to see if the game will get any better.
In the meantime, though, for those who are reading this, if you haven’t already been turned off by all the criticism I’ve thrown here, I would still advise not to buy this, unless, somehow, the developers can pull a 180 and address a good chunk of the issues I’ve addressed here. Which, who knows how long that would take.