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A decade ago, everyone was concerned about console online play. Playing in the same room as someone else seemed so old-fashioned back then. Now, we suddenly crave what was once considered passe, the face-to-face interaction that comes from playing with friends sitting on the same sofa.
React Games’ new roguelike, Super Dungeon Bros. (Releasing Fall for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Steam, Windows 10, and Mac), is catering to both preferences, by allowing both online and couch players to interact in the same cooperative play session. This means you could have two players playing in the same room on the same TV, while two others play on their own setups online.
After playing a build at this year’s Game Developers Conference, it seems couch and online multiplay aren’t the only things React! Games is looking to unite.
Heavy metal midgets
Super Dungeon Bros. puts players in the role of one of four hard-rocking dungeon explorers, who are into bashing monsters while seeking treasure in a super-deformed, heavy metal fantasyland. Our four adventurers seek more than just fortune and blood lust: they’re also on a quest to rescue the land’s rock stars. It’s a little odd, but I’ll roll with it.
The build shown at this year’s Game Developers Conference featured only a handful of weapons: a sword, a crossbow, a staff, and a hammer. Crossbows and staffs ranged weapons, while the sword and hammer enable players to get more up close. The designers told me that the weapons they’re showing are just a general representation of a more complicated tech tree of subweapons, which players can unlock and upgrade independent their runs.
Each weapon has its own combo system, although at the time it’s limited to “hit the attack button a lot.” React assured that the attack strings will more sophisticated upon release. It also has some big cooperative maneuvers, such as a sword charge attack that puts the other player characters into a straight line and then blasts everyone forward creating a unified piecing attack. Another move had characters stack on top of each other, forming a spinning, swinging, totem pole of death that lasted about a minute.
Another more basic cooperative maneuver is simply picking up a friend and throwing them across the screen. Tossing a buddy is more commonly used to access platforms that are otherwise out of reach for a single player. Obviously, I immediately tried trolling the developers by picking up their characters and throwing them over the side into oblivion. I was then told that, actually, React Games is planning some secret areas that will require throwing fellow players into the nothing that surrounds the dungeon. This will include some platforms that will require a quad jump, where all four players must time throwing each other at once in order to make it across.
Just like any roguelike, making progress in Super Dungeon Bros. means pushing through a campaign that features procedural level design. Dungeons are random, never setting up the same way twice. This keeps the experience from going stale. React Games is looking to add special content and dungeon types during Super Dungeon Bros. lifespan to also keep it replay-friendly.
Besides unifying couch co-op and online multiplayer, React Games is also pushing for cross-platform unity as well. The developer is on track toward allowing PlayStation 4 and Steam users to play in the same session together, with Xbox One and Windows 10 also following suit. I’m curious if this is an example of how robust Unity 5’s platform support is. Super Dungeon Bros. cross-platform plans have one snag, though: as of right now, obviously, the designers have no way for Xbox One/Windows 10 players to mingle with PlayStation 4/Steam players.
React Games may be able to close the divide between couch and online multiplayer, but creating an experience where Sony and Microsoft customers can play together is a difficult — if not an impossible — feat.