Despite lacking a few fundamental elements, the Early Access release of Killsquad shows promise. Crafted by Barcelona-based Novarama, the studio who partnered with Sony for the Invizimals franchise, the title shares little with their kid-friendly, augmented reality-driven series.
Instead, Killsquad is an MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) tailored for a wholly different demographic. Teams with up to four participants trek across procedurally-generated maps, confronting foes in combat that feels inspired by both Diablo and Helldivers.
If you’re expecting an explanation of how a gun-wielding zombie, a katana-carrying nun, a medical combat droid, and a hammer-wielding freak in a moon suit and a hockey mask met, you might be a bit disappointed. Instead of offering any backstory, Killsquad jumps right into the hero select screen.
While plot seems likely to be added later, it will be interesting to see if Novarama opts for sincere storytelling or Guardians of the Galaxy-style banter. Given the undead member wears a trucker hat with “666” emblazoned on the front, I’m hoping for the latter.
Similarly, there’s no tutorial and little in-game guidance. Instead, Killsquad sends your team of bounty hunters on ‘contracts’. These are discrete missions where you’ll tackle trash mobs and mini-bosses. They’re punctuated with intense showdowns where you’ll do things like try to survive in a circle-shaped zone for a minute or exterminate a hulking enemy.
After selecting one of the four Heroes, you’ll have an opportunity to select their loadout. Eluding a traditional leveling system, your Hero’s formidability is based on the quality of the equipment they are carrying. For better or worse, Killsquad keeps it simple, with a main weapon and two types of gear.
During Contracts, enemies drop DNA. At the end of the mission, any collected double-helix strands are converted into credits, which is the main currency used to purchase randomized items. Personally, I like being able to shop for specific tools that can complement my play style. Killsquad’s heroes have fixed weapons with upgrades giving different stat bonuses and penalties, goading you into trying new things.
Like many MOBAs, you’re able to respawn after defeat. As long as another human resurrects you or your party remains for a minute after your demise, you’ll be able to jump in battle. Like most of its peers, there’s no option for bot partners. Although the game scales the back the strength of adversaries in single-player games, the lack of any respawning means you’ll want to play Killsquad with online partners.
Luckily, the game’s net-play is serviceable. Yes, there are hiccups which pauses the action for a fraction of a second. But these are mild and infrequent enough to not impact the action. You’ll be fighting both creatures and environmental dangers like falling meteors and searing laser strikes. Fortunately, the slight pauses don’t impair the glowing rings which show where natural and monster-induced attacks are going to strike.
Pleasingly, Killsquad succeeds where it counts, with combat that feels gratifying. Troy, the undead gunslinger and Zero the robot are armed with firearms. Opt for these two and the game vaguely resembles a twin-stick shooter, albeit one with abilities tied to cool down meters. Cosmo the cosmonaut and Cass the nun utilize melee weapons. While I customary prefer to keep my distance with a ranged offensive, these two Heroes challenged my preferences. With both you are able to hold the attack button down, producing a succession of strikes that can cleave right through a cluster of foes.
As with any MOBA, Killsquad is built around synergy, with Zero able to drop HP-rejuvenating power-ups and Cass able to teleport to an enemy by throwing a shuriken. While progress in each character’s tech tree resets when you take on a new Contract, there’s an inventory of tempting abilities that you’ll earn before each mission’s concluding showdown. Intriguingly, Killsquad minimizes loot drops. While there are rare items to be found in chests left by defeated elevated enemies, you won’t be meddling with your loadout very often- which works out great for the game’s multiplayer focus.
While Killsquad is missing some key components, at present the fundamental are in place. Solitary players won’t find the enjoyment of a game like Diablo, but those who covet accessible and communal action are encourage to give the Early Access title a try. If Novarama can inject variety in creature, context, and add some player assistance, this could be one of 2019’s better MOBAs.