Barbaria is game that has slowly released on all platforms, starting on the Oculus Rift in 2022 and coming to Quest and Steam in early 2023. It is now available on PlayStation VR2 and is my first time giving Barbaria a chance.
Release Date: November 9th 2023
Developer: Stalwart Games
Publisher: Stalwart Games
Price: US $19.99 / CA $26.99 / €19,99 / £15.99
Reviewed On: PlayStation VR 2
* Code Provided For Review *
RISE AND CONQUER
What I find odd about Barbaria, is it applies a number of elements to the gameplay and doesn’t really master any, but strangely this one of the games biggest charms. With it coming with offensive and defensive game modes, which are spread across GORN-esc physics based combat, tower defense and asynchronous multiplayer.
The idea of the game is to raid others and defend your own realm in order to keep improving your heroes to attack and the defenses for your realm. At the start you will get some AI driven realms to attack which will provide you rewards to start building both of these up. When it comes to defending your realm, this is done by jumping into your own realm and taking on waves of AI enemies. Outside of the AI attack missions, you can also invade other people realms, this is where the asynchronous element comes into play and is gives you a reason to go back and play more, and this works the opposite way around as well, where other players will be attacking your realm.
This overtime will build up your attack and defense scores, and this is what the team at Stalwart Games use to match you with realms similar to your attack rating. This means although it can be difficult you are never overwhelmed by a realm that is way above your current abilities and allows for an progressive difficulty curve, which in turn keeps you wanting to go back for more.
As mentioned the game comes with combat akin to GORN, but it is a bit more lite-physics based, but comes with the gore you would expect. This will see you get a number of upgradable weapons for melee and ranged attacks, as well as throwable debris littered around the realms. On top of this, you will get rechargeable special attacks. When this is activated it will put you into God mode looking over a diorama of the realm, which you can then rain down attacks like meteors on your enemies. In order to successfully attack a realm, you will need to take out their hero and destroy the diamonds on all their defenses, which could be attacking you directly, healing or spawning goons to attack you.
Over your time playing you are going to be given rewards, that you will receive back in your home realm. From here you will be able to build up your own realm in the diorama style view, which will become more and more impenetrable as its grows not only in defense but in size. You will also be rewarded with different heroes and also companions you can bring with you when attacking other realms.
With all this in mind the asynchronous multiplayer is where the games longevity comes from. But, what I like about this approach is it keeps the game going and doesn’t punish those who would rather avoid full-blown PVP and the need to keep a playerbase that is constantly online – although this option would have been an interesting additional option.
One final element I really like about the game, is you can watch back replays of your attacks to understand where you failed, or peoples attacks on your own base to see how they got through your defenses and where you might like to improve in the future. This plays out in the diorama view, and for me is great to see on both sides and use these replays to learn and grow.
REALM TO SOMETHING SIMILAR
Barbaria is not a game that pushes any boundaries with the visual approach, but the choices all resonate with the tone of the game. All the character designs are cartoon looking in style and have a little bit of roughness to them, but as with GORN this feels right due to more toned down approach to the combat physics. Although people are making their own realms, all of them are going to made up of mainly stonework making the base color palette very grey, but again this suits what the game is doing and in no way detracts from the feeling or fun you will be having.
When it comes to the audio, it does the job it needs to for the game. With the spacial audio allowing you know exactly where possible attacks are coming from and letting you know what is happening around you in the realms. Where the juxtaposition of more laid back jazz music in your home realm as you work on base, to the more rocky guitars rifts when attacking realms working very well to set each scene.
Barbaria is a strange one, looking at the base of the game it doesn’t excel in any area, from the mix of game modes without mastering any, the lite-physics combat and presentation not pushing any boundaries, but all of this coming together is the games biggest charm. With the asynchronous multiplayer meaning there isn’t a need for a constant online playerbase, but gives you reasons to keep returning and having a blast each time be it in short bursts or longer game sessions – it really is your choice.