Look at this sassy lady. You know she’s ready to wreck your shit, which basically describes how Killsquad plays, an action-RPG that’s just launched in early access this week.
Killsquad comes from Spanish studio Novarama, which spent most of the last decade working on first-party games for Sony and the PS Vita. It’s an action RPG that feels a bit like Warframe, albeit with a lot less polish, loot, but the same general idea.
Four bounty hunters are available in the game’s early access launch: Cass, the warrior nun above with a massive blade; Zero, a healing soldier bot that looks a little like Destiny‘s Exo characters; Troy, a exoskeletal gunslinger described as “a well-known ammo smuggler” and assassin; and Kosmo, who’s basically Robot Reinhardt.
Whatever character you pick, you’ll have the same general progression of abilities. Whether you’ve decided to roll out solo or alone, you’ll be given the choice of contracts in a range of different areas. Each “contract” is split into level tiers called vectors, although you’re welcome to try vectors beyond your current equipment level if you want the challenge.
Upon dropping into the vector of your choice, your character will start out at level 1, and you’ll level up as you progress. You’ll get a choice of abilities every couple of levels, including a pick of two ultimates, and there’s a couple of vendors in each level where you can spend some of the DNA from fallen enemies on minor upgrades (like extra armour, HP, or a medpack).
Each level will randomly spawn a bunch of mobs and slightly harder enemies as you go along. All of their attacks are telegraphed, which outlines the kind of ARPG Killsquad wants to be. Most of your abilities will have some kind of dodge or capacity to chain with something else, and because you can aim at any point on the map, there’s a huge degree of freedom when it comes to tactical positioning and AoE effects.
The animations are pretty sweet too, which is why I immediately fell in love with Cass and her teleporting shuriken backstab, where her sword does a wonderful flip before dropping onto her target. Most of her abilities can be upgraded to have some kind of AoE effect, and even her basic dash will do a solid amount of damage.
It’s a fast, fluid game, although it’s lacking a bit of optimisation right now. I had to run the game at 1080p, despite running on a 2080 Ti and a beefy enough CPU, because the reduced performance made the game a little too janky to play. (If you played Fallout 76 on a dodgy frame rate, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.) But tanking the resolution down to 1080p worked just fine, and I haven’t run into any issues with the servers thus far.
The only main problem, for now, is that the mission variety isn’t the most inspired. Some of the environments include the Palace of Pain, a rusty, metal-strewn aesthetic that would look right at home in a Warhammer game. There’s Kemmekh, a mining planet filled with rocky and crystal beasts, along with regular meteor storms to navigate, and Wasteland 7A, a gray, ravaged planet that’s a little reminiscent of Helldivers.
Some users have likened Killsquad to a MOBA, although the gameplay pans out a lot more like Pagan Online, with the focus on segregated levels, WASD and mouse movement, and pacing. The attacks are animated superbly, and there’s some nice effects, although the moment-to-moment action gets a bit stale between fights with a lot of dead space on the map.
And while it’s to be expected given the game’s alpha state, it’s worth noting the absence of some basic features: no in-game chat, minimal modifiers and variety amongst the weapons and armour, and no real cohesion between levels. You pick a contract, complete the contract, and head back to the lobby menu.
Put simply, it’s early days. Killsquad has got a good thing going: now it just needs to flesh out those mechanics with more things to do. That’s a byproduct of the early access program, where people get to play games that are in various states of completion. The basic gameplay loop is solid: the game just needs more bosses, more enemies, more stuff on the map, things that take time to develop.
Killsquad is in early access now for $28.76. It’s hoping to fully launch in about six months dependent on feedback, with the game currently containing 40 different missions (or contracts) across three planets.