When we got the email earlier today from Sony with the latest Fat Princess beta key we packed up and rushed to the nearest pub for a gin and tonic or two before sauntering home and downloading the game. Yes, it’s exciting, but it’s also mid week which means taking a breather from all things PS3 and relaxing with a lovely glass of juniper-powered alcohol. Of course, there’s tsa2 to work on, too, but that can wait for tonight.
So, Fat Princess, the multiplayer cute-em-up that will presumably have considerable weight for Sony this E3, is now playable and, despite its limited level and mode selection just now, seems just about feature complete. There are bugs, the AI is dumb and the game needs a little general tightening up, but it’s certainly accomplished visually and there’s a lot to like here, assuming it’ll be priced sensibly when it’s released.
The Beta we’ve been playing has two modes, a deathmatch and what will be the game’s main mode, Snatch and Grab, although it’s called a couple of different things in this version. Essentially like a busier, more manic version of your standard capture the flag, Snatch and Grab places a (initially thin) Princess into each of the level’s castle dungeons and tasks the 32 players to try and steal their own Princess back and place her on the throne in your own castle.
Of course, it wouldn’t be called Fat unless you could feed ’em up whilst scrapping with the other villagers, so the level’s endless supply of cake must be ferried back from the battleground and into the hungry mouth of your captured Princess. Doing so makes her heavier, and thus harder to carry for any would-be rescuers brave enough to attempt to pick her up. It’s a cool mechanic, but it’s certainly not the game’s only neat feature.
What we weren’t expecting was the relatively deep class based gameplay. Whilst you start off as a general purpose ‘villager’ your castle is also home to a number of machines which dispense a variety of hats. These hats are the key to the various classes the characters can assume, and range from archers (with long range arrows) to warriors (good at short range, naturally) via priests (who can heal) and mages (who can do magic, a bit). Square is always ‘attack’ and most classes have a charge-up power too.
The most useful class though is the builder. Their precise name isn’t really mentioned in the game but they act as an engineer would do in similar (albeit first person) games. With your builder you can chop trees and rocks to create the vital ingredients required to upgrade your castle’s towers, which in turn give you advanced versions of each of the classes. Simple hold L1 to lock onto the nearest thing you want to make good, be that a damaged door or a handy log and then hold Square.
If you or your team upgrades a tower, you can use triangle once you’ve donned the appropriate hat to switch weapons, as your class will now have a more powerful alternate side based on a more destructive or useful version of the original class. For example, the builder can now throw bombs rather than just swinging around the wood axe, which are great for damaging small groups of enemies rather than just the one that using L1 to lock on would normally afford.
You can also build a small variety of world objects, such as see-saws and springboards to launch your friends into castles. To be honest we found the storming of castles needlessly tricky, there was always a good number of defending villagers when we made it across the solitary map and the presence of a huge wooden door that had to be broken down seemed a step too far. Certainly getting back across the map with a hefty Princess required extraordinary team work but as with all multiplayer games the players will get better quickly.
The single player surely needs work – the AI is smart enough to help you out if you’re in trouble (and you can tap UP on the d-pad to call for assistance, too) but isn’t nearly clever enough to help you form any kind of meaningful strategy. Yes they’ll feed the Princess and smash up rocks whilst the medics kept you topped up with health but as for working together to break through the castle, well, that requires voice chat and a few like minded buddies, not the PS3 itself.
As a Beta, then, Fat Princess serves to highlight what great potential lies within its gorgeously rendered walls. It’s certainly a joy to look at in 1080p and the action seems perfect for large groups of people. As it stands just now the customisation is too limited, there are too few people with the requisite skills to make the game really enjoyable and the single player is a little too embryonic. With a few more maps and modes, however, we have no doubt that this will be an instant PSN classic. Great work, Titan.