Override: Mech City Brawl is an ambitious and exciting robot brawler, but may need a few tune-ups

By on December 20, 2018 at 12:00 pm
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Override: Mech City Brawl is the latest game from indie developers Modus Games, and is their first entry into the fighting game genre. This game is a 3D arena mech brawler — which you probably gathered from its title — that shares a lot in common with the Gundam Versus series. Override tries to slow Gundam’s frenetic pace down, simplify its core combat, and balance it around 1v1 encounters as opposed to team-based matches. After some time with the game, I am happy to say it accomplishes this in ways that speaks well to the developers’ passion, even if parts of the overall experience are flawed.

The Battle System

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Override‘s control scheme is wholly unique, as it tries to simulate the feel of piloting a mech by assigning each limb to a button. This means that you can independently operate limbs at the same time for your attacks — Every character shares the same two punches (which typically work well as anti-airs and combo fodder) and right kick (generally a good footsie tool on the ground and combo starter). Left Kicks tend to be unique attacks for each character — some get sweeps, some get backflips, etc.

This ability to modulate your attacks ties in to two important system mechanics — charging and dashing. Dashing will feel familiar to those that play Gundam Versus or other games of its ilk: you can cancel many of the attacks and animations in this game with the press of a button, but it consumes heat meter. If you overheat, you can no longer defend yourself with blocking, jumping, etc. The only thing you can do to save yourself is run — or spend one of your precious meters on a special move that gets you out of jail. More on that later.

Charging is exactly what it sounds like — you hold a button down to charge up your normal attacks. Your charge attacks cannot be shielded, but they can be parried. So you’d think, on the surface, that charging would be worthless in a world where you can reaction-parry limbs, yeah? But you can operate limbs independently of each other! And that’s the beauty of the pressure here in Override — your opponent may see the charged limb and be tempted to parry, but that could also open them up to you doing a fast normal with a different limb, then you combo into the charged limb. Or you can just shield/dash cancel your charged limb and see how they react.

It’s an incredibly simple system that manages to squeeze out good depth in an interesting way other 3D arena brawlers haven’t. With a single one round match length constrained by a five-minute timer, the pacing can be very slow and patient with good players involved — this might drive some new school, offense-hungry players crazy, but fans of the mental pressure of defensively play might find a lot to love here. This is a system that naturally makes matches tense.

There’s a slew of unblock-able style attacks in this game that can be set-up to “combo” if your opponent doesn’t tech in certain knockdown situations. If you know your opponent will tech, you can always just chase them down with another option, instead. It all boils down to the four bars under your health bar, and the health bar itself, as to how you want to approach your okizeme in Override. Since your opponent can only shield attacks in front of them, positioning and movement are important — single hits can confirm into big damage, especially when you start using your meter.

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Meter Management

Meter Management is everything in this game. Your special moves each cost one bar, and you build meter by blocking or attacking. (Blocking, coincidentally, builds a surprising amount of meter, which makes shielding rather strong right up until you start getting into the charging meta-game described above.) Each character comes with 4 special moves and one super. Among the cast of 13 characters — including the recently released Stardust — is a wide variety of properties and play-styles. No one feels like a clone in this game, and there’s genuine match-up knowledge to be gained and applied. You’ll need to learn how to avoid various telegraphed unblockables, how to deal with certain supers, etc. Supers, in particular, are a unique checkmate tool that define many battles.

Supers only cost one of the four bars on your meter, but can only be done when low on health, and only once. Some have invincibility, or have an area of effect, hone in on targets, etc. If you are both low on health, it’ll become vital to know how supers interact with each other in a match-up — for example, should Cocada pop his invincible-but-unsafe-if-it-doesn’t-kill super now or wait until the opponent tries to use theirs? That answer depends on life totals, positioning, opponent’s escape options… there’s a lot to think about, and that’s great.

Online

I can’t believe this indie fighting game’s online modes are as good as they are. It feels like Override‘s matchmaking has a priority system for location, as I have, more than once, played the same person twice in a row. That’s totally fine, as I haven’t had a laggy match yet in either its Ranked mode or 1v1 modes. Perhaps I’m incredibly lucky, but the only real complaint I have is that sometimes I may have to wait a few minutes to get an opponent. I played about 4 hours total online across two days — the first day (which was about 3 days after release) I could barely find any opponents without just turning to the communities discord. The second day, however, I was able to get back to back opponents the majority of the time.

There are other modes as well for online, including a free-for-all brawl. It’s not for me, but it functions well enough and will likely have appeal for anyone looking for something a little more chaotic. I do think it’s worth noting that, at the present time, weapons are littered in ranked battle which can take away from what makes Override‘s core combat system great. The developers have already stated this will be removed soon, which is worth bring up, because…

Developers

Do you like your developers to be involved in the community and transparent with its players?

Easily one of the most impressive things to me about Override thus far is the consideration for its players the developers are actively taking. There’s an active Discord they’ve set up, they pushed out this massive update fairly early into the game’s lifespan, and they seem to genuinely love the game they’re making. Those are all huge, huge pluses to me and tell me this game, or anything else made by this team, should be given a chance.

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Single Player Modes

Override’s single player Arcade Mode is fairly robust. Instead of just fighting other mechs, you are (usually) fighting against invading alien monsters obviously lovingly-crafted after the Kaiju film genre. (Godzilla, etc for those unfamiliar with the term.) Its plot and dialogue aren’t terribly well-written and the art of the human pilots in the mechs is far below that of the mechs themselves, but giving a robot-haymaker to a skyscraper-sized alien demon is as satisfying at it should be. I expected Arcade Mode to just be a ladder versus other mechs — that it has a full fledged story and campaign in an indie title is, frankly,surprising. Plus, arcade is a somewhat unobtrusive way to quickly get loot drops, so completionists will probably spend some time here. Creature fans will also be pleased to see a lot of snarly, gross monsters here — such a variety that, frankly, I’m surprised there aren’t some playable Kaiju. Maybe that’ll be future DLC!

We’re FGC, here! You’re probably curious about Training Mode. Unfortunately, it’s quite bad. It’s just you and an AI that doesn’t take damage — that’s it. There’s no settings to change and nothing you can do to “test” anything unless you have a second player handy. Override‘s training mode is easily the worst part of the game and for lab-monsters that like to explore a game’s engine, I can immediately see the frustration this can give them. This is the biggest blight on Override and, while I understand the limited budget of an indie game, it is the mode I am most hoping to see further development on. It’s honestly surprising it’s as bad as it is, since I think Override‘s focus on being mechanically rich is quite obvious, and that’s undermined when you have no way to study what’s under the hood, so to speak.

Override allows some limited dress-up options for your mechs in the “Garage” mode. You can unlock several skins for each character and further customize them with an accessory. The items drop as loot from battles, and can also be purchased with in-game money (that you also can get as loot.) The mech designs are already great in my eyes — it’s the strong character design that initially attracted me to Override, if I’m being honest — but the skins are fantastic too.

I have to mention that Override has a 4-man co-op mode where each of you control a different limb of the mech. I have not personally tried this mode, so I will simply mention that it exists, and probably is fine for a one-off at a party.

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Overall

Override: Mech City Brawl is a small project with a big heart, good ideas, and a set of developers that probably need more sleep than their constant community involvement currently allows them. Though its training mode is an incredible let down, there’s a real community coalescing around the game to fill the void. Whatever the future of Override is, it’s a blast to play right now and I highly encourage you to try it.

Hey, I'm just a 3D-head in a 2D-world. I like pretty much all FGC stuff, and I really like hearing about the way people think about games.