Secret Ponchos Preview
It wouldn’t be unfair to mention that the multiplayer market is becoming saturated. With the majority of triple A titles releasing some form of online mode to appease gamers who aren’t complete ‘shut ins’, no matter how playable it is, which unfortunately makes its difficult for newer development companies to flourish. With every indie that produces the goods and gives the player a new experience, it offers a breath of fresh air amongst the towering heights of the busy gaming industry. An unbelievably fun concept that reflects this is ‘Nidhogg’, a game that is so simple yet devilishly hard to master, offering nothing more then two stick men fighting with swords, demonstrating game plays importance amongst fans. As an increasing number of developers believe they can produce an ultimate multiplayer experience, perhaps some may offer an enjoyable experience.
Secret Ponchos is a multiplayer action fighter/shooter on early access, developed by Switchblade Monkeys. The developers, whose name is somewhat intriguing, originally intended the title be a Playstation 4 exclusive and announced the news at the E3 conference back in 2013. Although the title will still hit the console sometime soon it has already made its debut on Microsoft Windows, something only announced at PAX 2014. Rumors have now surfaced upon its integration on Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3.
The indie developer claims their inspirations were League of Legends and Team Fortress 2, something I initially picked up on during my first test of the game play. The graphics, which will be touched upon later certainly reflect the art style of Valve’s multiplayer masterpiece whilst movement and the top down nature of the game draw similarities with the ever-popular League of Legends.
The gameplay is similar to League of Legends. You are presented with a battlefield, in this case a Western Shanty Town or another cowboy inspired landscape and it is a fight to the death. This is very enjoyable and certainly, a unique experience yet it lacks a lot of the complexity of other titles in the genre, which will be touched upon. Secret Ponchos seems stream lined and focuses on small teams with lots of action.
The playable characters are numerous but offer little customization. The aesthetic is different from character to character yet you are limited to the size. A bigger character means slower movement and a greater chance of being hit by incoming projectiles but means you are stronger. On the other side, being smaller means a lot less health meaning multiple deaths are almost a certainty. You can try and resolve this with the progression system put in place but it has limitations and may take a while to unlock.
The skills you can upgrade include damage, stamina, speed, fire rate and health, all used for the benefit of the player, however, upgrading everything is a lengthy objective allowing players a skill point sporadically or when they achieve a higher rank. This may be impractical if you rely on this system to gain you wins but my fear is directed towards veterans of the game and how this may affect match pairing and the overall fairness of the title. For now, this is speculation due to the recent birth of the game and my lack of veteran status.
An interesting aspect of the game is the progression system and its display. Instead of the Call of Duty-like numbered ranks it is replaced with bounty, identical to the Wild West. The higher your bounty, the more notorious you are meaning you can refer to the skill menu to upgrade certain aspects. A unique concept that not only creates an interesting idea but loosely remains historically accurate with reference to the games time period.
The major problem with the game so far is its limitations. There are far to many restricting level quantity, skills and game modes. Offering a maximum of five maps allows for a repetitive experience and a lack of exploration, perhaps making deliberate and capitalizing on the downloadable content market. When skills are labeled in the points menu they are very broad offering very little customization, which is tiny compared to other big hitters like League of Legends. This combined with the limited game modes available make the game enjoyable for a short time before becoming mundane and a case of point grinding to achieve a high rank. This may all be fixed later when it releases on the other planned platforms and creeps out of the early access phase.
The graphics match the same unrealistic aesthetic as Team Fortress; using character models so vastly different from each other, size being the predominant factor. Some bigger and bulkier characters dwarf the thinner ones. As well as this, the cartoon look about everything is similar with a nice texture quality making the game look good. Certainly, the defining feature of the graphics would be the shadow, allowing players to identify enemies even without the use of screen prompts. This also reflects a certain level of mood and when combined with the use of colour and lighting it creates and interesting dynamic world for players to battle in.
The music, whilst not groundbreaking, follows a Western theme and adds something to the game play that usually doesn’t in other multiplayer games. Using instruments that stereotypically match the genre is even better, making player reminisce about some of their favourite Westerns and perhaps immerse you in the cartoon violence. The soundtrack may not be as varied as some may hope but it offers enough content for the game to still sound appealing, even after a long game session.
The game shows a lot of promise for a small company but unfortunately lacks considerably. Due to the future release on Playstation 4, the game will inevitably be polished and added to via patches to increase the options given to the player. This has always been the nature of early access games. The title is entertaining and does a great job of the combat and I’m certain, in time, that it will be a lot of fun, but from what I have seen so far don’t hold your breath for the next League of Legends because it doesn’t share it’s competitive edge. It is a fun experience and I look forward to its full release.