Killsquad by Novarama
With isometric action and loose framing story of colorful mercenaries blasting monsters on crazy alien planets, you could be forgiven for thinking of Killsquad as a sort of Borderlands-in-the-style-of-Diablo thing.
It’s not an unreasonable first impression, but with skill builds that must be rebuilt at each level, it’s something a lot lighter, almost akin to League of Legends and the like.
Whether that’s a good thing depends on how much depth you’re looking for.
The Gang’s All Here
While Novarama is planning to add additional characters, the four starting options fill the expected slots, both mechanically and aesthetically.
You’ve got your hammer-wielding heavy, your sharpshooter, your homicidal android – who also happens to be the closest thing to a classic “healer” – and naturally, your mystical warrior witch type.
Each character has several different abilities with cool-downs in addition to a regular attack; gambling sharpshooter Troy, for example, can fire an overpowered shot that damages everything in his path as well as a “gravity shot” that pulls enemies into its area.
Each also has several skill paths to choose from. Zero, the medical robot turned mercenary, can choose to focus on improved healing buffs, for example, or bigger and badder output from his plasma rifle.
The catch is that each time you pick a mission from the opening screen, you’ll start back from the beginning. It’s a lot less like the giant and terrifying skills map from Path of Exile and a lot more like picking a favorite build for a hero in League of Legends.
Adding to that feel is the presence of in-mission shops where you can exchange DNA samples dropped by enemies for extra buffs and powers that disappear at the end of the mission (left-over DNA converts to cash).
Missions, too, are repeatable mercenary contracts rather than something more narrative or story-driven, and are fairly predictable: kill a boss enemy, protect a vehicle, stay alive until a timer runs down, that kind of thing.
Again, though, this isn’t about depth, it’s about action, and thankfully, Killsquad gets the action right. From the twang of Troy’s dual-wielded pistols to the earthquake reverb of zombie cosmonaut Kozmo’s massive hammer strikes, combat’s a pleasure.
Likewise, the alien planets and their monstrous inhabitants – from venom-spitting worms to arachnid rock monsters to flying jellyfish – are a putrid, pulpy pleasure to pummel.
And the more folks on your squad, the merrier. I go for single-player stuff almost exclusively, but can’t say enough how impressed I’ve been with the way Killsquad handles small-scale multi-player.
Whether it’s the level-based mission design – while your skill levels reset between contracted missions, your overall experience and gear determine your character’s “Vector,” which affects the difficulty levels of missions you can accept – the easy-to-use lobby or just plain luck, almost every mission I played in co-op was a blast.
(This might also have something to do with Killsquad being in Early Access and therefore having a still small but devoted player base with more skin in the game than you’d find in a free-to-play MMORPG or MOBA.)
There are still some improvements to be made. The way you can just pick up a contract and play through a mission makes this great for short, casual sessions, but it also means that playing for longer than an hour or two feels like a grind; although the mission environments are procedurally generated – and impressively so – the missions themselves do start to feel awfully similar.
More player characters, new contract missions and some new environments – all of which Novarama has in the works – will go a long way toward making Killsquad a more compelling experience in the long term.
For now, though, gear up and get ready to blow up some monsters and score some loot.
Killsquad is available via Steam.
Watch the official Killsquad trailer below: