Have you wanted to play Super Smash Bros. Ultimate but don’t have the money to buy a Nintendo Switch or you don’t have the money to pay for a new game? Perhaps you’re a Smash Ultimate player who’s just hungry for more.
Well, as the title says, I have got a game for you that’s free to play and will fill satisfy that Smash Ultimate craving! You can play it on most platforms and it, arguably, has a lot going for it currently compared to Smash.
I’m not a Smash player myself. I played it a bit on my Wii as a kid and a few times on a friend’s Switch but that’s about it. I’ll tell you this much, though: After playing Brawlhalla casually for a few months, I think the game has a lot going for it. As always, I’ll try my best to keep this review fair and unbiased. Let’s start!
Let’s go straight to the main topic: gameplay. It’s probably the most important part of any fighting game, and every game has its own mechanics that give the game a lot of appeal. There are games like Smash that have well-known characters, games like Tekken and Street Fighter that have quite possibly the most satisfying combo systems, and games like Mortal Kombat that have some extremely violent animations that, despite being gross for some, can be extremely satisfying for others.
So what’s the unique appeal for Brawlhalla?
First of all, there are both offline modes and online matches. Offline play includes Couch Party, Training, AI Tournaments, and Tutorials. As for Online play, it has a free-for-All game mode which is essentially the Brawl mode. This is a four-player brawl where you win by being the last one standing. There are also 1v1 and 2v2 modes.
Once a game has started, each player will have three lives (or unlimited lives if it’s a timed game mode) and they’ll have a health level (instead of a percentage like in Smash). The less health you have, the easier it is to get thrown off the arena.
You are spawned without weapons. Instead, weapons will spawn one by one for players to fight over. Each character can use different weapons, including swords, axes, hammers, lances, bows, guns, orbs, and probably more that I haven’t even heard of yet. Even with all the weapon options, each game is extremely fair, you can be a great player and still lose in just one strike and vice versa.
Matches are fast-paced and chaotic which is honestly a ton of fun. But that also has its downsides since it can be really hard to see what’s going on in free-for-all or 2v2 matches. I often lose track of where my character is. And if you’re playing free characters like I do, you might even encounter situations where you’re playing against the same character which can add to the confusion.
I’d say that one of the highlights of Smash Ultimate is the character roster, I recognize most of the characters featured from my childhood as a gamer, as would most gamers my age. There are even non-Nintendo characters like Kazuya from Tekken and Steve/Alex from Minecraft is one of the DLC characters.
Brawlhalla doesn’t really compare to Smash on this point. The characters are called Legends, and most of the Legends are not that well known outside of the game because they are exclusive to Brawlhalla.
Also, despite the name sounding like Valhalla — the great hall in Asgard where half of those who die in combat go when they die — Brawlhalla has surprisingly few characters from Norse mythology.
There’s Bödvar, who you’ll often see with the Brawlhalla App Icon. You’ll also see Thor. But that’s pretty much it. There is a minotaur in named Teros, but that’s getting into Greek territory.
If you’re disappointed that a game named after Valhalla doesn’t have a lot of Norse characters in it, and if you can spend some real cash, you can probably compensate for that by purchasing some of the crossover characters.
Your options include characters from WWE, Kung Fu Panda, Rayman (a franchise that a lot of people are expecting to see get into Smash), and a lot of Cartoon Network characters like Finn from Adventure Time and a bunch of Ben 10 Aliens.
Here’s the full list of crossover Legends in Brawlhalla:
Here’s the catch: Those crossover characters are more or less just skins of Brawlhalla characters. For example, Negan from The Walking Dead is just a skin of Jaeyun so the two characters have similar-if not-completely identical moves.
Here’s the bigger catch: It’s not a characteristic unique to Negan and Jaeyun. Remember the weapons that each character has? Well, no matter what character you use or who you fight against, if both of you have the same weapon type, your light attacks will be the same. And while heavy attacks might have different animations and hitboxes, the effects are more or less still identical.
I know a lot of people will turn their backs from this game because of that, but I do think that this also makes the game fairer. Even if one player bought extra skins and characters, they still have similar attacks and actions, so the winner will be the one who can better utilize what the character can do, has good reflexes, and puts the time into practicing combos — not just whoever spent the most on new characters.
You can play Brawlhalla on a ton of devices. Specifically, you can play it on PlayStation, Xbox, PC, Nintendo Switch, and even on iOS or Android (with Controller support). With Brawlhalla being available on most platforms, you can also play and fight with players from all platforms. For me, the thought of that is pretty exciting, you can come across people playing on a controller, touchscreen, keyboard, or even a fighting pad, you really won’t know.
Because it’s available on so many platforms and devices, Brawlhalla has around 50 million players as of March 2021. That’s double the 25 million Smash Ultimate players!
Of course, there probably aren’t really 50 million active players. The fact that the game is free-to-play means there might be a lot of players who downloaded the game but haven’t played it very much. But, whether the game has a lot of active players or not, 50 million is still an impressive amount of players.
One of the benefits of having such a large number of players is the community that forms around it. I mean, sure, Smash has a large following, too. Ever since Smash Ultimate’s release, Nintendo has distanced itself from the community. It received some backlash for that and, in response, started sponsoring Smash tournaments in November of 2021.
Meanwhile, Ubisoft, Brawlhalla’s publisher, has co-sponsored a lot of Brawlhalla’s tournaments where prize pools regularly reach $500,000. That’s certainly helped the game become more known.
Even when the pandemic first hit in 2020, Brawlhalla still held online tournaments. And that gets us to our next point: Brawlhalla doesn’t only have more generous developers and publishers, the game’s online competition great.
You can choose which server region to connect to, and it works perfectly even with Mobile Data on my iPhone connected to a PS4 controller. Within the couple of months I’ve been playing Brawlhalla both on PS4 and iPhone, I have never experienced performance hiccups with the online matches.
To be fair, Smash Ultimate’s online matches have significantly improved over the years, but if you remember, the game used to have a lot of problems with their online service, and they still do. In fact, the crappy online service even halted an Official Tournament back in October due to noticeable lag and multiple matches just ending mid-game.
I think Brawlhalla has great potential. It does have some wrinkles to work out, like with the visual effects and animations being simple and maybe even boring. Making the crossover characters more than just different skins that use existing characters’ moves and animations would also be an improvement. But, who knows? That might be the reason why the game performs so well for everyone.
While a lot of people, including myself, are comparing Brawlhalla to Smash Ultimate, I think someday, Brawlhalla will become famous in its own right with its fast-paced, competitive, and simple skill-based gameplay.
What’s the final verdict for Brawlhalla? For me, it’s a great game to play right now, and it can only get better. Even if you came from playing Smash, Tekken, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, or any other fighting game, I think you’ll love Brawlhalla.
Download it to your preferred device with one of these links: