by Andrew Skelton (Outfoxed)
Platform brawlers have come a long way since the days of the original Super Smash Bros. These days it takes something truly outstanding to lure people in, be it solid gameplay mechanics, balanced characters, unique and fun combos, or engaging aesthetics. Dynasty Feud, by Kaia Studios, brings about a whole new twist on the formula: dynasties. No, this isn’t Dynasty Warriors: Family Feud edition like some people have asked, but a true platform brawler with a cast of colorful characters and incredible, interactive stages. How does it hold up to the superstars of the genre, though? Will it manage an epoch of its own?
Warriors, Come Out To Play
When a game tells you outright it’s better experienced with a controller, you should probably take note of that. It is unfortunate, however, that there is absolutely no option to rebind your keys anywhere. This goes for both mouse/keyboard AND controller users. Thus you need to get used to Dynasty Feud’s controls on your preferred peripheral pronto. Thankfully, the controls are very responsive, which is an absolute must for a brawler like this. There was absolutely no input lag that could be feasibly detected throughout multiple play sessions (online or local).
The training session available for new players is very lackluster. You get a very basic overview of controls, such as how to attack and how to jump, and even how to use your super attack. You’re not, however, ever given any indication on how to dodge — which is quite important in a brawler. In fact, the only way you might know how to dodge is if you read the help files or began button mashing to discover the secret. While training mode allows you to select a kingdom to practice with, it’s not that great to see what a character can do against another player. After all, as Bruce Lee put it, “boards don’t hit back.”
I Call It Strategic Button Mashing
Despite being thematically unique, every character has the same set of commands. You have an attack, a special attack, a jump (more accurately, a double jump), a dodge, and a super move. Some characters are very straight forward. Eerika, for example, has a spear attack, a spear throw special, and a block. Others, however, may only have an attack and reload. While many dodges are simply a dash away from the combat, others include a stun which lets certain characters juggle control on their opponents.
The other key consideration in Dynasty Feud is that each kingdom has its own unique super move. There’s a major imbalance here as some dynasties, like the vikings and the prehistorics, are downright overpowered, practically guaranteeing a kill. Others, like the cowboys, are easy to avoid. When a character goes down, you can also use a maneuver to annoy your opponent, but this too suffers from major balance issues. Some annoyance moves knock back, which can cause a character to be knocked from the stage. Others distort the screen for everyone, which is more of a self-inflicted annoyance than any real hindrance.
Kingdom of Heaven, or Loathing?
Initially, you’ve only access to the cowboys and the vikings, though as you play and level up, you unlock more kingdoms. Each kingdom has five characters that have unique play styles and skillsets. As hinted above, some characters just feel weaker than their compatriots. It’s not good for game balance if there are multiple situations where it’s best to suicide a character by jumping off stage so you can use a more valuable team member.
Of course, it’s not terribly hard to get killed in the game. Dynasty Feud features a one-hit-kill mechanic, and only a few characters come with an additional hit point through armor. Because of this, there’s no combos here, no style. Just quick fights until someone emerges victorious.
No Stage to Stand On
There is one definite point of excellence in Dynasty Feud: the stage design. Most brawlers don’t have quite this level of sophistication. Take the cowboy stage, for instance. You start out in your stereotypical Western town jumping from platform to platform fighting your enemies until it starts scrolling off the screen. In fact, the main stage is not the cityscape you’ve been fighting on, but the train down below that transports the characters from place to place. Similarly, the knights stage is a castle under siege, and catapults will quickly reduce your fighting space to nil if you take too long.
Each stage has its own little touches too. Ninjas pop in and out of the samurai stage. Lightning storms crash on the vikings stage. All in all, the stage design makes you pay more attention to your surroundings by design, rather than simply focusing on your opponents. After all, this is a brawler, and getting knocked off the stage is just as bad as being defeated by your enemy.
Keeping Your Friends Close, Your Enemies Somewhere Else
Not everyone wants to play with random people on the internet (shocking, I know). Thankfully Dynasty Feud does offer both local and online play for up to four players. Local players get the most game mode options; Online only has the option to play in Family Feud mode. Family Feud is the basic kingdom versus kingdom mode detailed above. There is also Team Feud mode, which is a 2v2 team mode, and All Star mode, which allow you to pick and choose your heroes from any of the unlocked kingdoms. Each character has star value associated with them in this mode, from one to three. You have to take a team of five, here, but are limited to a total of ten stars on your team with additional limitations to prevent power stacking.
Playing online may only give you access to the Family Feud mode, but you do have some options here. Quick match will put you in with three other players randomly. The game does try to match players with similar skills (based on rankings when you win or lose), but you’ve no control over who you play against. You can also play in a private game, which will let you play with your friends no matter where you all are in the world. Finally, you have a Ranked mode, which is a highly competitive mode, and features a best-of-five format to determine a winner.
Final Verdict: Good (3/5)
It’s hard not to compare Dynasty Feud to similar titles such as Smash Bros. and Brawlhalla. Unfortunately, compared to either of those games, Dynasty Feud falls regrettably short. Some may consider the fact you’ve one or two hits will bring about more skillful play, but it really only rewards extreme offense. Some of the kingdoms are just plain imbalanced in this regard, when you take supers, annoys, and character roster into consideration. The price tag ($14.99 US) is also hard to ignore in light of the fact similar games are either cheaper, or outright free-to-play — and have better game balance, even in competitive modes.
That being said, the non-static stages bring a huge amount of fun to the table. The options available only to local play also make it a great party game for friends, provided you have extra controllers for everyone. If you’re looking for a platform brawler that’s fast paced, look no further. However, if you’re craving one with a bit more depth, you may want to look elsewhere.
Dynasty Feud Screenshots