PWND First Impressions: Satirically Bad Mannered

By Mohammad Abubakr

There are not a lot of moments in gaming that feel as great as landing the perfect sequence of rocket jumps, direct rockets, and aerials in a fast paced arena shooter. While the concepts behind each of these tactics is quite straightforward, actually executing them outside of the lab can be difficult. How can you focus on landing rockets properly to jump and attack enemies while you’re being pushed around by incoming rockets? When you do manage to execute this sequence, it feels amazing. As you can probably tell by now, I’m a big fan of rocket jumping, rocket launchers, and arena shooters in general. So the description of PWND being a rocket jumping arena shooter instantly caught my attention. Read on to learn more about the game!

PWND takes place in a dystopian future where somehow the 1980s culture still influences society. The quest to crown the ultimate badass lead to the invention of the LAZER-US Resurrection Pods. Now, death was not the end. With this invention, the fear of death was eliminated and extreme sports such as rocket arena combat came into fruition. Without the concept of death, the audience quickly grew bored, just killing enemies was not enough. This brought forward the concept of ‘pwning’ where points were now awarded to teams based on their ability to further humiliate downed players.

PWN your enemies to earn points

PWND features itself as a game with unparalleled three-dimensional rocket jumping action with a unique scoring system that is not based on frags. The game revolves around the idea of ‘pwning’ your opponents, which basically means dancing on top of them as a form of bad manners. While getting pwned or pwning someone, you are left completely vulnerable and it is up to the remaining players to protect or take down the ‘pwner’.

I’m not really sure how I feel about this whole system. Bad manners in online games have always been a pet peeve of mine. Sure, it’s funny at times but can cause a lot of saltiness to what should be a fun and enjoyable environment. On the other hand, when everyone is in on the joke, it’s not really an issue and is seen more like friendly banter in a competitive environment. This is where PWND fits in – it embraces its own rude nature while at the same time ensuring it is not overly gross or repulsive to its players.

Pile of bodies waiting to be PWNed!

So the game revolves around dancing on the corpses of your fallen enemies. This doesn’t mean that the actual combat and fragging mechanics are disappointing. While the game does not want you to just focus on the kills, the real fun, at least for myself as a fan of shooters, comes from the solid controls. Everything you do just feels so natural. Running around, using your various abilities, rocket jumping, wall jumping – it all feels great. When I first got into the game, I was quite impressed by how nicely the game played, especially since it is still in development. I was disappointed to see rocket jumping just being carried out with your spacebar, I’ve always been a fan of manually shooting rockets at your feet to jump.

Even as a rocket jumping arena shooter, rockets are not all you have at your disposal. The class based system allows you to choose between four different characters each featuring unique abilities, weapons, and playstyles. You have Hank featuring his traditional rocket launcher, Mack with his more tanky playstyle, Risa and her assistant PWN Bot, and Victor featuring a shotgun shooting goo damaging and slowing enemies. Of course, when I jumped into the game I just saw myself sticking with Hank because, well, the game advertises itself as a rocket jumping arena shooter, why would I pick anything other than a rocket launcher? However, while Hank is awesome, I’ve come to enjoy other characters such as Victor. It’s just so satisfying rocket jumping around and landing a huge shotgun blast into the face of your enemies. While these additional characters and weapons lead to more than just rocket jumping action, they are a nice addition adding more variance to the game.

The goo can slow down your enemies!

It seems like additional maps and game modes will be added to the game but at the moment I’ve only encountered one map and gamemode. It will be interesting to see how the concept of ‘pwning’ is extended with additional game modes. If points are only to be awarded through ‘pwning’, what can we expect to see in the future?

Conclusion: Not for everyone

I came into the game looking for a well made arena shooter featuring rocket jumping. This, I found. The game plays very well, nothing ever feels clunky and I always feel in control of my movement and weapons. However, the idea of not relying on kills to earn points but rather focusing on humiliating your enemies by ‘pwning’ them is quite different than your typical shooter. The game takes the whole idea of teabagging to the next level by making it a core feature of the game.

Doesn’t this UI look familiar

As mentioned before, I’m very against rudeness and bad manners in online games. I’m the kind of guy that greets my team every time and always tries to keep a positive attitude when playing. Naturally, this means that I don’t like teabagging or any form of humiliation towards enemies that have already lost. With this in mind, PWND’s system does a good job at featuring ‘pwning’ without it acting as a turnoff. The entire game embraces this satirical bad manner theme and as a result, what may normally be seen as gruesome perfectly fits into the game. You’ve got to hand it to the developers for working around something that is a turnoff for many gamers and turning it into a core feature of the game.

Opening crates never gets old

Even then, I don’t see the fun behind ‘pwning’ enemies. The game’s combat and movement system is really well done, can I not just focus on killing enemies and not waste my time dancing atop their bodies? This system is amusing… for maybe the first 5 to 10 minutes. After that, it just becomes an additional step I need to carry out just to add to my team’s score. Maybe some gamers will enjoy this additional step to ‘pwn’ enemies, but I will personally just stick to fragging.

You can find PWND on Steam!

Note: A key for the game was provided for review purposes.

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