One Must Fall: Battlegrounds Review

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Publisher: Diversions Entertainment
Developer: Diversions Entertainment

Platform: PC
Reviewed on PC
Windows System Requirements: Pentium III/ AMD Athlon 733, 128 MB RAM, 16 MB video card, 1 GB HD space

One Must Fall is the first name in PC fighting games thanks to the cult popularity of the shareware/freeware One Must Fall: 2097, released in the mid-90s. After its underground success, Diversions Entertainment went back to the drawing board to create a new One Must Fall game. Back in the summer we previewed One Must Fall: Battlegrounds, the anticipated 3-D PC fighting game that would revolutionize a genre. Has One Must Fall achieved a first round knockout, or is there still room for PC fighting games to grow?

Carrie Gouskos

One Must Fall: Battlegrounds (OMF:B) is the tale of a pilot, the robot he/she telepathically maneuvers, and you. As the player, match your pilot and robot against up to sixteen opponents at once in arena environments. Each pilot has different attributes, but they don't seem to impact play, so it's best to pick the one whose face you won't mind seeing over and over again as your worldly representative. The important choice is your selection of robot, as your entire style of battle depends on your robot's capabilities. Each has an array of original moves, such as Chronos' teleport (which is surprisingly not a cheap tactic) or his freeze projectile, which can be caught by the opponent and thrown back.

Variety in Robots, Not in Controls

Single Player is, effectively, a training mode (despite the fact that there actually is a Training Mode). Single player matches are where you'll discover and perfect your technique with each character, but you won't necessarily encounter an inspiring storyline. In fact, the plot unfolds the same way no matter which robot you picked, so you'll be tired of the banter in short order. At least the opponents pick different robots each time, so you'll be exposed to all the possible fighting styles. Although the computer AI is not as clever (or as abusive) as your human opponents, training is crucial before heading online.

Robots have different moves in combat, but these actions are triggered by the same, limited set of keystrokes. Once you've figured out the button combinations, it's simply a matter of seeing how each move is executed by each character. That means you can change your fighting style by changing robots without learning new controls. OMF:B doesn't require heavy duty memorization or complicated button presses, which may appeal (or not) depending on your relationship with fighting games in general.

To any hardcore fan of the fighter genre, OMF:B is the appetizer of fighting games. It lacks the perfectionism and endless move lists of meatier, traditional fighters, but has its own flavor in the form of online multiplayer. While the battle system itself is basic, the meat (and sometimes cheese) is the way the moves can be strung together to form combinations and chain attacks. Characters such as Katana and Gargoyle are better at combination attacks because of their agile juggling (and flying) styles. Still, Diversions has done an admirable job of balancing the characters, so less agile characters are compensated with more effective throws and harder melee attacks.

Juggle for Points

There are essentially six keys used for combat: punch and kick on both the left and right side, jump, and evade. Controls are limited to the keyboard or PC controller, and would have benefited from mouse use, but are surprisingly adequate in spite of that. Various three-button combos execute throws, counters, specials, projectiles, and air attacks. These moves make up the core gameplay, since nobody online wins by just punching and kicking. Evading and jumping skills are important because it's otherwise impossible to get away from enemies attacking from behind or the side. There's nothing more frustrating than being double-teamed and caught on the receiving end of a combo-chain. It may be a good thing that the online community is sparse, because popularity in online games seems to inspire a loss of good manners. At the moment, playing with other OMF:B fans is the best aspect of the game.

Multiplayer is either Last Man Standing or Demolition style. The latter tallies total damage over the course of a match and assigns points. A pre-set point total defines when the match ends. Although the server selection is sparse, there are almost always people online and the players are persistent in their pursuit of the OMF:B championship crown. Thankfully, the decision to keep the player maximum at sixteen was a good one, because a group of four to eight players is ideal (depending on the arena) and is commonly the size of multiplayer games. Larger games result in players ganging up on others and longer waits between rounds. The community so far, although somewhat small, is a courteous one &ndash that has made the key difference in the online experience.

If You Stay, Stay for the Community

OMF:B does have some significant flaws. The most crucial is that the gameplay isn't as varied as fighter fans want. Little precision is needed to execute moves and juggling matches become festivals of button-mashing and frustration. Furthermore, the arenas are mostly empty and, despite a few clever moments of environmental interaction, mostly useless. Future OMF games should make the arena more interactive, including pick-ups and hiding places. Less importantly, OMF:B is not a polished game, but this doesn't impact gameplay significantly. The game lacks character voice-overs and sound effects have little variety, but the rough edges will distract some people. It would have been nice to get a level of flair to match the game's originality.

Creating OMF:B was a bold step for a company otherwise unestablished in the fighting genre. Diversions Entertainment does well in creating instantly satisfying gameplay that is substantive and original. The experience with different human players gives it an edge, but the edge is much needed to counterbalance the lack of moves and environmental interaction. This provides fun but superficial gameplay that succeeds in small doses.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on December 30, 2003 7:18 PM.

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