Are you not entertained?

Entertainment gets violent — well, more violent — in Showgunners. IMAGE SUPPLIED
Entertainment gets violent — well, more violent — in Showgunners. IMAGE SUPPLIED


From: Artificer

For: PC


I’ve always avoided turn-based games, and especially tactics style ones. Maybe it’s because I like doing more than just selecting options from a menu, maybe because I’m not very tactical, or maybe it’s because I found the best in Final Fantasy VII over a decade ago and didn’t want to be disappointed by inferior games. After playing Showgunners though, maybe I’ve been too short-sighted.

The game is set in the future on a reality game show — where the reality is firefights and death. You play as Scarlett, a bounty hunter out for revenge. Helping her out is Marty, an ex-winner of the show who sees great talent in her. You’re expected to outsmart and outmanoeuvre the enemy using your abilities and strategies, like flanking and using cover. If you have played the newer XCOM games, you know what you’re in for; a turn-based tactics game where your small band of misfits goes up against a larger force and everyone takes turns trying to murder each other.

Every character has two action points to spend per turn on movement, attacks, or abilities. Attacks follow a ‘‘chance to hit’’ system based on distance and cover. You also have to reload your weapon, using up an action point, so sometimes reloading from behind cover is better than charging out for a chance for a kill.

There’s also a universal mechanic called overwatch. You or the enemy can enter overwatch and end their turn. If an enemy moves to where they could be attacked by the character in overwatch, they’ll take a shot at them. It’s useful for locking down areas, but can only be triggered once per character per turn. That means if one character moves through multiple overwatches, they trigger them all even if already dead. While it was amusing to see one random guy just obliterated by rifle fire, shotgun fire, and a sniper shot at the same time, the five other guys who follow afterwards are annoyingly completely unscathed.

The game is hinged around cover and flanking mechanics, as cover reduces the chance to hit someone and flanking removes this bonus, so you’re encouraged to play slow, steady and tactically.

Being on a game show is tough as well; the director behind the scenes will often make life harder for you by introducing more enemies, environmental hazards, such as poison gas, or a countdown before something bad goes down, so sometimes it’s a real nail-biter to get to the last objective. (You have to keep those ratings up somehow, I guess.)

To overcome the combat arena, you have a colourful cast of characters, each with strengths and weaknesses. You can generally only have three characters with you in a fight, however, so choosing between them is tough as they’re all fun to experiment with. These characters can all be levelled up.

Opponents also have unique mechanics and every level adds more and more types to deal with.

When you’re not in a combat arena, you take control of Scarlett and Marty in a third person exploration section, filled with deadly puzzles, ambushes, and traps. If you can survive these, you can find rewards, such as equipment. These are sadly quite linear, however, so are more of a break from the gameplay than actual gameplay themselves.

If you think "you’ve only talked about the gameplay, what else is there", the unfortunate answer is "not much". The story is just OK — a B-movie revenge plot which we’ve seen a lot of times — but the real let down is the characters. They have great voice acting, but there are no opportunities for anything beyond surface-level characterisation. They don’t react to anything going on around them, including the player’s choices.

And let’s not mince words; the game is not polished. It’s fine performance wise, but it’s rather buggy. Cutscenes froze, extremely long pauses were common, game-breaking glitches led to crashes, characters stuck in exploration mode forced a restart ... problems were many. A patch is out, but it seems that these bugs are tricky to iron out as there are still a few roaming around.

Showgunners is a decent game, if a bit derivative. What really shines is the combat. While not insanely deep, it’s still very fun and tactical and leads to some very tense moments. If you’re new to turn-based games, and/or don’t want the management aspect of XCOM, this is one to check out.

Written by Michael Robertson



From: Artificer

For: PC

Rating: ★★★+


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