Diablo-style dungeon crawlers are always fun, and especially in co-op. Get a group of mates together (and role play a narrative if you have to), then set off through various levels, slaying monsters and taking loot. It’s a fantastic gameplay loop that hooks players in and keeps them interested, choosing outfits to wear, weapons to wield and custom builds that eventually destroy bosses on the highest difficulty in mere seconds. As a friend of mine likes to say, “make the number go big.”
Having just launched into Early Access, Killsquad looks and sounds like an action RPG that’ll check the right boxes for fans of the genre. Strangely though, it bares more similarity to games like Heroes of the Storm than Diablo.
It’s not that I’m against games like League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm – they’re ridiculously popular and played by millions for a reason – but what was jarring for me was the dressing of one type of game wrapped around the meat of another. For me this just doesn’t work. When I play a Diablo-like, I want a Diablo-like.
So what makes it more like LoL and HoTS? Simply, you don’t level up characters in the traditional action RPG style, taking your character progression from one quest to another. Instead, each time you drop into a level, your character starts at level 1 and you earn experience to get all the way up to level 10, unlocking abilities and stat buffs as you go. This is fine for a MOBA, where you’re then racing against time and your opponents to level up as quickly as possible, but for an action RPG, having to rinse and repeat this for every mission is not much fun.
When playing you have the choice of four very unique looking Bounty Hunters who, for all intent and purpose, feel like they’ve been ripped from other video games. Cass and Zero, for instance, look like they’ve taken a holiday from boosting their Light levels in Destiny to come and complete some contracts in Killsquad. I mean, Zero is straight up an Exo and Cass is definitely Awoken. You also have Kosmo, who is Jason Voorhees in a space suit and Troy who looks like most video game aliens.
Killsquad promises big things: “This is not the future you dreamt of. The Galaxy is in chaos, planets go rogue, and mega-corporations assemble Killsquads to raid whatever riches and bounty are left,” it boldly states, but it feels empty as I play. There’s just no soul here. The characters feel like they are just for the sake of being. You are essentially just taking four whacky looking misfits on different contracts which are selected from the home screen, instead of feeling immersed in a deep lore and galaxy of chaos.
There is a meta-progression outside of each mission, though. Contract difficulties are measured in Vector, with your Vector determined by the three pieces of gear that you equip to your hero, each of which has a rating and a modifier of sorts. For instance, an item that just looked like a credit card decreased burn damage by 30%. The average rating of your gear is taken and your Vector rating is calculated, dictating how difficult missions will be for you. It’s just like Destiny, but let’s not dwell on that.
What really sets characters apart are their unique abilities (which you have to earn time and time again). Kosmo carries round a massive hammer and has a bunch of typical barbarian-style moves like Whirlwind, which sees him spinning towards his foes and unleashing pain on anything in his path. Cass is your assassin character, wielding a sword and sporting a ton of ninja style attacks. It’s the descriptions of these abilities that make me laugh. Even accepting that this game is just now in Early Access, they all feel a little lazy and rushed. I laughed out loud when I read the text for the Charged Dash: “Every 3 hits with basic attacks you charge you dash. It deals 250 to enemies you go through.” Meanwhile Cass’ basic attack description just say “Slices and tears”. Meh.
It’s a damn shame because Killsquad looks great. I mean, it’s lovely to look at, there’s lovely lighting effects, the characters are well animated and everything runs smoothly. Levels are also quite lengthy and generally involve the typical smash and grab seen in Diablo-likes. On your own, it feels quite difficult, especially as healing never seems to drop from enemies, and the monster types were pretty OK. It’s just a shame that everything else feels so empty.
I did not care about the lore or characters. It feels like they are trying to build a big budget universe on a small scale by lifting visual cues and ideas from various games, but using them in a less effective way. The game just feels soulless and the idea of going back to it, fills me with dread.
Hopefully this improves with time and support as the game goes through Early Access, but even that promise through the rest of the year isn’t enough to get me excited.