Ignoring the deliberately poor pun in the title, what we have with Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a fighting game. But not just any fighting game, oh no – move over Ken and Scorpion, there’s a new fighting roster in town.
It all comes from developers Mane6 and their friends at Modus Games, and so I guess the question I have to ask when it comes to review is this: Can a bunch of ungulates take the place of kung fu masters? Well, saddle up and let’s moooove out, pardner.
The age-old story of the fighting game, as is clearly required by some old statute or something, is in place with Them’s Fightin’ Herds. It doesn’t seem to be the most important part of the game, mind you; something that is hammered home when you notice that Story Mode is actually the third option on the menu list. It has been given the amount of attention consummate with its position too.
Basically, it appears that a while ago, all the predators of the world were sealed away behind a door, and the door was locked. Now the predators have obviously got bored of waiting, and have started to hunt for the key to release themselves on a world full of tasty fauna. In the story, we play as Arizona, the headstrong calf offspring of Texas, and “champeen of the prairie”. What we need to do is explore a pixelated world, and then get into various rucks, either with predators of some type or with other champions of the various different species of herbivores.
Odd set-up and that continues in the presentation as this is a game of two halves. The majority of the game, the actual one-on-one combat, takes place in 2D arenas and features a lovely hand drawn art style. The design of all the characters is bang on, from Arizona the cow to Velvet the fancy deer to Shanty the goat; they all have personality oozing from every pore. The weirdest one, both in look and fighting style is doubtless Paprika the Llama/Alpaca (I’m not sure which) and all in all the design and animation in this section is bang on.
The other half of the game is pretty much the whole of the story mode, where you have a top down view of a pixelated world and move our hero around to explore the world. This mode reminds, weirdly, of an early Zelda game, with lots of secrets, things to find, and fights to have. The sound is all very good as well, as every character has a fully voiced soundtrack, and this is mixed in well with the usual fighting game sound effects.
So, what about game modes and gameplay? Well, the good news is that there is some, so relax. The first option on the list as we start the game is Local, with options for PvP, Arcade or to play Vs the CPU. There’s not a lot to say about these modes, honestly, except that local battles work really well, and the final boss of the Arcade is very cheap indeed. But no spoilers here.
The second option focuses on the Online battles. Now, three options are available here, with lobbies to be found or created, and in these modes, there is a distinct lack of fighters to find. The main mode where I have found players willing to engage in fisticuffs (hoofticuffs?) has been in the Pixel Lobby, a mode that sees us wandering about in our story mode guise, being challenged by random strangers. This worked pretty well to be honest, but the netcode does struggle a bit, with the game constantly delivering ‘poor connection’. If their connection is so poor that it freezes what should be a fast paced fighting game, why let them play?
Thirdly we have the story option, then the usual practice bits and bobs to let you train as your favourite character. There is a full tutorial mode here, and as well as the one in the story mode, it does teach you the basics pretty well.
With the modes covered, what is the actual gameplay like? Well, pretty good again is the short answer. It does seem odd to be playing as a cow or a reindeer, especially as you are actioning the motion for Ryu’s fireball, and to see a fireball appear. But the commands are all instantly familiar in the fighting mode, even if the timing can be a bit fiddly, with the game seemingly not registering a button press when you have just done the same move a matter of moments ago.
One thing that stands out though is the fact that the AI is really dumb; it is entirely possible to beat the whole of the story mode with just repeated use of the “Down and Y” attack. Arcade mode does also suffer from the same flaw to some extent, apart from the final boss, who seems to be mystic in its ability to predict what you are going to do. Fighting other real people is the sternest test, as you’d expect, and there are those out there who seem to have sunk a lot of hours into learning the moves already. As with most fighters, it’ll be a bit of a rude awakening as you venture online.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a fun new interpretation of a fighting game, with strong aesthetic and design identities on display. The netcode isn’t great, but the game does its best, and all in all there are a lot worse fighters out there. Some of the controls in the story mode are tricky, but all in, Mane6 have carried it off with aplomb.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds isn’t a Street Fighter killer, but there is enough here to ensure that it is worth a try.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is on the Xbox Store
- Great design and graphics
- Fighting action can be fast and furious
- Netcode is a bit ropey in places
- Some movement commands are fiddly, unnecessarily so
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to – Modus Games
- Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch
- Version reviewed – Xbox Series X
- Release date – 18 October 2022
- Launch price from – £16.74