Review: Smashing The Battle (PC)

Smashing the Battle is a deceptively challenging action game sure to test fans of the beat-em-up genre, though some may be discouraged by its repetitive nature.

Smashing The Battle (PC)
Score: 8/10

Platforms: PC, PS4, Oculus Rift
Release Date: 5/16/2016 (Steam, Oculus Release Currently Available, PS4 TBA)
Developed by StudioHG
Published by StudioHG

Smashing the Battle was originally developed for mobile devices by one-man Korean developer StudioHG. After its initial reveal last year, the game has since released on PC with Oculus Rift support. The PC version recently released through Steam following its debut in the Oculus store, with a PS4 version expected to release later this year; footage from StudioHG’s YouTube channel shows working prototype builds of Smashing the Battle on an iPad, Samsung Galaxy phone, and the PS Vita. A first-person shooter spin-off, Smashing the Gunfight is currently in development for the HTC Vive.

Players assume the role of Sarah O’Connell, an employee of robotics manufacturer Beholder Industry. Upon leaving her shift, a rouge hacker seizes the facility and all of its internal systems, effectively gaining control of Beholder’s Buildbots series and all internal communication systems. The majority of Beholder staff successfully evacuate before the full effects of cyber-attack take action, however Sarah and her partner Ivan, and Beholder’s head of the security division- Lorien- are still trapped inside. With Lorien aiding her over an unreliable communications system, Sarah reluctantly dons a suit of power armor, venturing out into the hostile depths of Beholder Industry. The story is broken up into two 30-level episodes; Sarah O’Connell’s “The Survivor” episode is available from the start, with “The Chaser” starring Mary Lucy unlocking upon completion of the first episode. A somewhat “hidden” character, Mary Lucy has her own unique story, moves and unlockable upgrades.

Smashing the Battle Story Screenshot

Anyone looking for a beat-em-up with some depth to its story should probably look elsewhere; aside from a few plot twists driving the 60-level robot massacre, Smashing the Battle‘s plot is rather thin. A staggering 80-level Hardcore Mode offers players an even more difficult challenge, however this mode is entirely for acquiring currency used to purchase upgrades.

Smashing the Battle is a deceptively challenging game that requires the player to have complete mastery of its streamlined mechanics. Both Sarah and the additional unlockable character Mary Lucy have identical mechanics, apart from a few variations in their attacks and primary weapons. Though Mary is equipped with a massive sledgehammer, Sarah wields a large blunt sword- the Spanner. The Spanner can be used for standard combos, or immediately after a roll to stun Buildbots; the Evasive Roll can be cancelled at any time into a Spanner attack. If Sarah dodges an attack at the last possible moment, she gains an extra bonus for her SP Gauge; Evasive Rolls and all other special abilities require SP, which can be replenished through dodging attacks, items and destroyed Buildbots.

Smashing the Battle Gameplay Screenshot 1

As indicated by icons on the right-hand side of the screen, Sarah has access to five cooldown-based special abilities. While it serves no offensive purpose, the Magnet ability will pull nearly every on-screen enemy into itself, allowing Sarah to attack multiple Buildbots simultaneously; the Mine will activate once an enemy walks into its attack radius, however Sarah can take damage from her own Mines if she’s within the field of detonation; if a series of Buildbots are organized together, Sarah can unleash the Giant Spanner, an overcharged Spanner strike that hits enemies in a straight line. If the SP Gauge permits, the three offensive special abilities can be used in tandem for strategic attacks and “Massive Kill” bonuses; for instance, the player could drop a Magnet on the field, then drop a Mine before all enemies are pulled into its blast radius. Once unlocked, Mary Lucy can summon a Remote Bot to aide her in battle, or briefly activate Shield to create a defensive barrier.

Health items are hidden within crates littered throughout each stage, though if Sarah has enough SP, she can use Repair to replenish health and power suit durability. It may be locked for the first few stages, however Sarah’s most potent ability is her “Overdrive”. Akin to Senran Kagura‘s “Frantic Mode”, Sarah’s power suit will break upon activating Overdrive, somehow causing her overall attack power to increase, at the extreme sacrifice of defense; in the most treacherous of situations, primarily during boss fights, Sarah can die in mere seconds, forcing the player to restart the level. Overdrive is the only special ability that remains active for the duration of the level.

Smashing the Battle Gameplay Screenshot 2

After a few introductory tutorial levels, Smashing the Battle throws the player into a relentless gauntlet of action. Even the most seasoned of 3D beat-em-up players may find themselves glaring at the “Defeat” Results Screen more often than they would expect. Fortunately, players can return to the Main Menu after every stage to purchase upgrades, regardless of whether or not the stage was completed. Weapon, ability and suit upgrades can be purchased from Lorien in the Upgrades menu with Coins obtained in-game, or through fulfilling hidden requirements in the Mission menu. Additional Power Suits can be acquired with Scrap, however this is harder to obtain, as this is only given through completing stages with a “Perfect” rank, by fulfilling Mission requirements, or as a hefty purchase in the Shop.

Smashing the Battle Spanner Upgrade

Though not as rare as Scrap, Keys are another uncommon collectible item and currency within Smashing the Battle. Later stages may include branching paths that lead to a “Lift” platform; once the Lift is activated, Sarah is taken to an alternate section of the level where she may come across an injured Beholder Industry Worker. Workers can be rescued if Sarah has a Key; Workers occasionally drop a replacement Key after being rescued, however Keys can also be obtained from Bosses, or through the Shop. If the player hasn’t spent all of his or her Keys on rescuing the 50 hidden Workers, remaining Keys can be used to unlock artwork in the Gallery; Smashing the Battle‘s Gallery is composed entirely of fan-made artwork submitted to StudioHG.

Smashing the Battle Worker Screenshot

Apart from the main campaign, Smashing the Battle suffers from repetition. Though the game offers plenty of stages- 140 between the two campaigns and Challenge Mode- and a plethora of unlockable bonuses, the gameplay environments seldom change, granted the entire game is based within a robotics engineering facility. A new enemy type is introduced to the player after completing a set of stages, however boss fights are often limited to fighting an oversized version of a base enemy, but with enhanced attacks. The soundtrack is a fantastic compliment to the industrial theme of Smashing the Battle, but the limited amount of tracks may just become droning noise to the player later on in the game.

Smashing the Battle Perfect Screenshot

Smashing the Battle is an accessible beat-em-up with no shortage of content between its 140 stages and plethora of unlockable bonuses, however the repetitive nature of level design may turn this mindless-fun action game into a chore for some.

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