Slayers For Hire, a beatdown – First Sip Review
Late last year we ran a preview on the then-upcoming Slayers For Hire. A platform fighter developed and published by Meta Games. A few months have passed since then and now the game is available for purchase. However, the game is still in Early Access and has plenty more content planned. But we took a look at the game in its current form and here is what we have to say so far.
At the moment there is no real story in Slayers For Hire. However, there are hints at a story. For instance, there are mentions of the playable characters being referred to as not only Slayers but Dragon Slayers. And the final character on the list of characters so far is simply named Dragon. Coincidence? Not at all. Because it seems that this Dragon is the reason for the eclectic Slayer roster to have formed in the first place. I’m putting together a few things by context and maybe making a few little jumps. But it seems that the Dragon is either a rampaging beast or some form of supervillain. Either way, his destructive capabilities are high enough to warrant the hire of Slayers to take him down.
In essence, it feels a little like the story in Them’s Fightin’ Herds where a great evil forces the peaceful races into defending themselves. But their pettiness will not allow any of the races to elect a champion that isn’t their own. So they have a tournament to prove who is worthy to face the evil. But in this instance, I’d say it’s probably greed over pettiness, as these are Slayers For Hire and that paycheck must be nice.
Overall the story is more of a loose concept at the moment. However, as I mentioned the game is in Early Access and Story in a Platform Fighter (or any fighter really), is more like set dressing once the gameplay mechanics are sorted.
The look of Slayers For Hire is simply magnificent. The team have opted for a hand-painted look with some slight 3D aspects to the character models. In still shots, everything looks really nice. But full motion is really where it comes to life. Everything in the game feels so fluid. The animation is among the smoothest I’ve ever seen. And each character is dripping in personality. Right now the two available characters are Slugger and Artist. And everything about their designs, animations, and even basic stances gives you a great understanding of who they are. For instance, the Artist is a very light character, she skips in her run cycle, flaps her arms when she jumps. She is feminine and very cute. Her arms are giant paintbrushes, and her moves take a lot of inspiration from Japanese artworks, including a tree that can blossom with cherry blossoms.
While the other character the Slugger is a heavier but more frantic type. His run cycle is a lot of little steps and his moveset incorporates his bat very heavily giving you the feeling that the bat isn’t a gimmick, it’s a part of who the character is. An extension of them if you will. Even the backgrounds on their character portraits give you a little taste of who they are. The Slugger has a pattern that looks like the inside of computer chips which matches his robotic exterior. And the Artist has bamboo which further solidifies her as a Japanese painter.
The level designs, while quite basic at this stage are also wonderful paintings, and are a joy to look at.
Once again Meta Games have knocked it out of the park here (maybe The Slugger was in charge?). The music for the title screen/menus alone is great. But then you have each level and their own special themes. Right now there are three levels and each one has a distinct feel dictated by the music. The Bay has a heroic fantasy theme, that wouldn’t be out of place in a Studio Ghibli movie. Then you have the hot air balloons and their light, calming soundtrack. And finally, you have the rooftops with a fun lively jazz sound. Personally I think the rooftops theme is my favorite, but each theme works well for the level it is designed for.
Beyond the music, the sound design is also incredibly well-handled. And once again I will refer back to how different the feel of the characters are. The Slugger’s attacks generally have a heavy thwack sound or the clink of the metal bat. And honestly hearing the bat clink on a successful attack is satisfying every time. The Artist, however, has lighter, more airy sounds to her attacks, almost like a giant calligraphy brush painting on a canvas.
Characters are not voiced at this stage. But other than some small exertion noises it’s not necessary.
When I reviewed Tidal Shock I mentioned that there are two main ways to develop a game. The first is to implement everything you want and then start to polish the mechanics. The second is to focus on tightening the core mechanics before expanding the content. And just like Tidal Shock, Slayers For Hire opts for the latter. That’s not the only commonality between the games either. Both are taking an existing game genre and making it their own. However, for Slayers For Hire, the genre is platform fighters rather than arena shooters. Which segues to my next point. While there are plenty of platform fighters out there, they mostly owe their success to the Super Smash Bros franchise. And more specifically Super Smash Bros Melee, which has proven to be the most competitive title in the series.
Slayers For Hire is hugely inspired by SSBM, in fact, the creator of the game Ryan “Winnarly” Gilbrecht was a prominent member of the Melee community. But the game is far from a simple fan project. There are a lot of similarities such as the basic increasing damage meter as opposed to decreasing health meter. And the win by knocking your opponent off the edge mechanic. Even down to the set up of standard attacks and specials, and how they are modified by holding a movement direction (mostly up or down). However, the game doesn’t feel like a “smash-clone”, the two available characters have their own gimmicks that separate them. But at the same time, they could easily slot into SSMB if given the chance.
How does it stack up?
While I am a fan of the Smash Bros series I haven’t really played with or against a real player in a number of years. For this reason, I brought a friend along to help me test out this game. But he wasn’t just any friend, he is another member of the competitive Melee community. “Izzago” and I played for a good hour or so despite there only being two characters and three very basic stages. But at the end of our session, we were still figuring out some of the intricacies of the game. And I have no down there is still a lot more to learn.
The game operates with a focus on speed and fluidity. While so many smash-clones feel bulky, awkward, and focus on the fun cameo character aspect of the Smash series. The team at Meta Games have managed to create an incredibly fluid style of play. With the fast pace and fluid movements, even lower-skilled players are able to create satisfying combos. But high-level play, well there is still so much left to figure out.
During our time with the game, we both worked out which character we preferred to use. But more than that, we figured out a situational use for every move.
Money Making Opportunities
Just a quick mention here. The developers are hosting tournaments with substantial cash prizes ($500 – $1000 USD). So if you pick up the game and get good really quickly you can cash in on your skills.
While it is still early days for the game, the team have put so much love and effort into it that it’s well worth playing in the current form. Even more so if you can get a couple of friends to play with. Or you could join their discord and organize some matches there. The game is fun and interesting. If you’re looking for a Smash-like you can get on Steam then this is currently the best option out there. But even still it manages to do things that even Smash doesn’t. Such as seamless online play. The team have also opted to replace the shield mechanic with a parry that functions in a similar way but more aggressively. Which really works well for faster level play.
Slayers For Hire is like Johnny Cash’s cover of the Nine Inch Nails song Hurt. Rather than trying to replicate something already done, they are doing their own thing, showing their personality and making something amazing.
Literally the only thing the game needs at this stage is content. Very soon the next character will be released (The Spy). And the developers have confirmed plans for at least 8 characters. They have also confirmed a lot more content other than characters. And an intention to continue building the game for years to come.
Right now The Slugger has knocked it out of the park. And very soon The Artist will make it a work of art.
In Coffee Terms
What can I say that I haven’t already said? Slayers For Hire is like taking a well-loved premium blend. Assembling the finest and most passionate baristas. Cultivating the best ingredients and putting their own spin on the classic blend. It’s everything you’re looking for and more, it feels like just a matter of time until it’s a household name.
Slayers For Hire Links
Slayers for Hire review summary
One half of the YouTube brother duo, The Game Bros with Sirhc and Ar0n, Chris is a lover of games, movies and other great things you can do from home.
Coffee of choice: I like the sweeter kinds, mixed with chocolate, coconut, caramel etc. but I won’t turn down a flat white or a straight black either.