I recently read through my preview of Killsquad from 2019 and it’s a strange thing to read back on negative comments from a thing that has since mostly faded from my memory. It’s amazing what a little time and care can do for a product, but also why Early Access can potentially be damaging to overarching opinions. There was every chance I would have never gone back to Killsquad. I’m happy I did, because this time around I’m having a very different experience.
The premise is still the same. You choose from one of five members of Killsquad and embark on various contracts, solo or with buddies. You drop in, do the mission, earn the rewards and move on to the next, playing out in a very similar mission structure to Destiny. The difference here being that you are playing isometrically a la Diablo, with a dash of Heroes of the Storm vibe thrown in.
This annoyed the hell out me during Early Access but the system has been improved so you now feel like you are making progress with your characters. As you complete more missions, you unlock tech for your character which can be used to upgrade the various skills on offer. It’s not a case of just unlocking the skills and having it all to hand. Each character has ten cores which can be spent to equip these upgrades, meaning it’s more about creating the best loadout for the mission you are about to tackle as opposed to getting huge and rinsing through everything off the back of just being stronger.
For instance, one of Cass’ default abilities, Teleport Shuriken, has multiple levels of upgrades. The first, costing one core to equip, let’s you bounce to a second target. The second, costing two cores, causes an explosion on impact. The third and final upgrade, costing three cores to equip, reduces the time on your ultimate skill down for each enemy killed by your Shuriken. That’s six cores out of ten, meaning you really do need to be choosy and experiment with what works for you. You can be a jack of all trades or a specialist in a certain skill, meaning that even playing full squads of the same character won’t necessarily be a bad thing if people are running different builds.
These abilities are then unlocked in game as you play, ranking from level one to ten. At level one, for instance, you have your basic Shuriken then at two you’ll be able to bounce to that second enemy, then at three you’ll get the explosions, and so forth. Very Heroes of the Storm but now with more control than before.
Much like Destiny’s Light Level, Killsquad has a Vector level which is made up of the various levels of your character’s equipment. Weapons, Support and Prototype upgrades are all earned through missions or purchased in the store. This does mean that you’ll be doing a lot of grinding, which will be hit or miss depending on what you enjoy out of your gaming experience. It’s a tough one, as where Killsquad has been improving from its original Early Access release, I can still see the grind getting a little repetitive here.
The online component doesn’t lend itself too well to playing with randoms. If someone wanders off and you want to explore the level for secrets, items and lore bits, then you might be in a race against time. There were many times I was exploring, only to be teleported off to the final boss because my team had rushed ahead. It meant I had to play the level again afterwards to try and find the thing I was looking for, only for it to happen again. Quite annoying.
There’s also the worry that there are five characters to do this with. Five, still uninspired characters. Cass unashamedly reminds me of an Awoken while Zero still reeks of an Exo. Also, the new character, Ekaar, looks even more out of place. I really do not dig the character design. Thankfully, they are fairly balanced to play with and provide a unique play style so it can break up the grind a little.
The actual game itself is visually stunning. The landscape is full of life and the lighting is on point, making for some interesting trips into enemy territory. It’s generally an explosion of lights and colour, much like Diablo 3. If your screen is lit up and you’re not sure what’s going on, you’re probably doing well.
Enemies are not unfair either, with most of them giving you quite the visual cue that they are about to attack and where you should avoid. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to get in on the enemy who’s about to attack and knock them out of their flow. It’s up to you if you think it’s worth the risk.
Quests are available to complete as well, offering you additional rewards and experience. Experience can also be earned for factions, of which there are four: The Consortium, The Uprising, The Sentinels and The Unseen. There’s no pressure on doing these, however, as the rewards are either cosmetic, a new title or a new profile picture. It’s a nice little feature if you fancy showing off your accolades.
Overall, the experience is much better than that of two years ago. I still think Killsquad has a way to go as right now, gear progression feels more focused on shop purchases, making missions less fruitful and more of a money grind, which is not as much fun. I’m still not really sure of the narrative. It feels so tertiary compared to everything else. There were lines of dialogue and missions logs but I was never really forced to pay attention. As a result, I was clueless to any real plot. There’s also a score there somewhere, but nothing memorable that sticks out. The sounds just felt a little generic.