FL337 Early Access Preview

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Fl337 (or “Fleet”), by KWL Productions, is a pirate-themed brawler. You must slash, shoot and roll through hordes of baddies in order to become the greatest pirate of all. Note: The game is currently on Steam Early Access, so aspects of this review are subject to change.

Fl337 is a traditional semi-isometric beat-em-up taking after games like Golden Axe or Final Fight. Your piratical heroes are on the left, there is something of value on the right, and while the level is side-scrolling, you have some three dimensional movement “up” and “down” the width of the level. Offline co-op is a given for this genre, so Fl337 has controller support for two players, although one can also use a keyboard.

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The gameplay is merely serviceable. You have a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge roll, a block, and a pair of flintlock pistols. The enemies are generic, and have two or three generic attacks, tops. While the combat is somewhat challenging thanks to limited; it’s limp, unfair, and above all, boring. Wheras other beat-em-ups are defined by diverse movesets and enemy variety, your pirates have fairly boring moves. You shoot once, roll away, move back in for a slash, or just stunlock by mashing light attack and blocking when the poorly telegraphed animations make it possible.  The stage bosses help, with somewhat unique designs, but given the length of the levels they only go so far.

What’s more, between the hitboxes and enemy movement patterns your attacks are only going to hit one enemy at a time, which really takes away a lot of the appeal. There is an upgrades system, where the player can put XP towards upgrading various attributes. But that’s the problem, they are only numerical attributes, which add very little to the game other than complicating the difficulty curve as your damage output and health increase.

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Now, Fl337 is in early access, and some of these things could be improved upon before release. The problem is that there are other, more fundamental issues. The art quality is inconsistent. Resolution and even proportions is mismatched between the different character models, and the backgrounds are a muddy mess. The animations are clearly not fit well to this game, with large amounts of clipping or sliding around mid-attack. These show more fundamental problems with the underpinning of the game, not just a few gameplay and coding kinks.

This reviewer cannot recommend Fl337 in good conscience at this time, nor ever unless the developers completely overhaul the game. It is in some ways perfectly serviceable, but it’s rough and incredibly tedious, and especially at 9.99 US$ there are better ways to spend your money.

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