Don’t let the fact that Them’s Fightin’ Herds is essentially a My Little Pony fan game fool you: it’s a seriously good fighter.
With its cast of adorable animals – all designed by the creative director and executive producer of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, Lauren Faust – Them’s Fightin’ Herds will certainly appeal to a certain audience. But underneath its cute exterior lies a polished fighting game that throws up plenty of surprises. And thanks to its bargain price, it shouldn’t be missed even if just for its quirkiness.
There’s a story simmering somewhere under the hood of Them’s Fightin’ Herds, but it’s a fighting game – it’s not important. Something to do with shadowy creatures that come out at night and might perhaps threaten the world? In any case, it acts as reason for a group of feisty animals to butt heads, taking each other down before facing off the aforementioned shadowy horrors. At least in Arcade mode, anyway.
What’s surprising about Them’s Fightin’ Herds, however, is that alongside the usual modes common to all fighting games – versus, online, training, etc. – it also has a unique story mode. Jump into it and you’ll find yourself in an old-fashioned adventure game complete with pixelated visuals. Think The Legend of Zelda, but whenever you come into contact with an enemy you engage in a bout of frantic combat.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds‘ story mode won’t take too long for you to complete, but it’s certainly worth diving into at least to learn the basics. Every once in a while you’ll encounter a 2D platforming section designed to test your jumping abilities, while each enemy type you face off against will typically attack in a certain way to teach you how to deal with things such as aerial attacks and zoning. There are even inventive boss fights that further force you to develop your skills.
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It’s the combat of Them’s Fightin’ Herds that impresses the most though. It may be a fighting game about animals, but the mechanics are not gimmicky in the slightest. This is a serious fighting game, one that’s easy to get into but hard to master. As a point of comparison, it’s familiar to the likes of Guilty Gear and BlazBlue, with a four-button combat system that allows you to perform light, medium and strong attacks, backed up with a magic button that provides each character with some unique tricks.
Though each character does have unique special attacks, it’s what happens when you press the magic button that truly sets them apart. It can be used to make the enigmatic Tianhuo take to the air, for example, where she really dominates the competition. While when in control of Arizona, it can be used to throw a lasso, drawing opponents closer to her. The use of magic attacks is also reliant on a meter, which behaves in different ways depending on the character chosen.
The magic system, along with other features such as super moves, gives Them’s Fightin’ Herds a pleasing amount of depth. Anyone can pick up a controller and get to grips with the basics pretty quickly, but those who dig under the surface will be rewarded with impressive combo strings and more. That being said, it’s not the deepest fighting game out there, a matter compounded by its biggest problem: its lack of fighters.
Just seven characters make up the roster of Them’s Fightin’ Herds, and while they all have their own distinct look and playstyle, you’re going to get fed up of fighting against them eventually. While the characters look great, we also have to point out that the stages they do battle on are dull as dishwater. They’re static, lifeless, and simply not nice to look at. It’s a shame.
More characters are set to come to Them’s Fightin’ Herds over time, though you’ll have to buy the season pass to access them. Additional story chapters are set to be delivered, too, hopefully as free updates. In any case, with the game being offered at a budget price, it’s hard to be too aggrieved by the small starting roster – there’s plenty of content here for the asking price.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds has another ace up its sleeve as well: online play with rollback netcode. It results in online battles that are rarely ruined by network issues. It also has a unique lobby system that lets you roam around a rather large environment in pixelated form. It’s up to you whether you challenge other players or simply explore. There’s even a salt mine where you can fight against computer-controlled opponents and gain rewards.
It’s safe to say that Them’s Fightin’ Herds subverted our expectations. It’s easy to look at it and think that it’s going to be a jokey affair, and while there is an air of playfulness about it, at its core is a solid, taut fighting system. Add in the genuinely unique story mode, and you have a fighting game that’s well worth your time and money, despite having a limited roster of fighters and uninspiring stages.