UPDATE: Ragtag Adventurers is out of Early Access now.
Who doesn't love a good boss fight? I know I do. I'm drawn to the grandeur of the battles. The epic soundtracks, the intricate character designs, the combination of strategy and execution—there's nothing quite like these challenges. Perhaps that's why boss rush-style games like Cuphead or Furi have become so popular in recent years. As a fan of the genre, I recently sat down with a Steam Early Access game entitled Ragtag Adventurers to see if it holds up.
As the genre implies, the core of Ragtag Adventurers is the sequence of four boss fights you must take on. These fights are long and demanding to start out with, but become even more hectic as the fight continues. As each boss takes damage, it throws attacks at you more rapidly. Not only are these attacks coming at you faster, they often are harder to dodge. Projectiles that once split into 4 parts now split into 8 or 12. Fire that cracks through the ground now erupts multiple times, causing smaller and smaller safe zones. Couple this increasing difficulty with fights that last over ten minutes and you have a recipe for a stamina-draining marathon.
There are four heroes to choose from, based on standard gaming archetypes—a tank, a healer, a fighter, and a mage. Each has a unique fighting style and complementary abilities. When starting the game, you can pick one of these characters as your brawler, though this really only matters if you aren't playing by yourself. If tackling the game's solo mode, you are free to swap between characters at will, giving you full range to all the heroes' powers. If you choose team mode, you can either play with friends locally or have the AI control the other characters. I didn't have anyone to test out the local co-op with, but the AI seems to be fairly useful, always laying down a heal, shield, or revive when needed. Online multiplayer will also be present in the final version, adding yet another way to play.
Not everything is so grand, however. There are times when I would separate from my group to regenerate mana, but the camera would stay where the action was happening. As such, I would be left with no indication of where I was, a devastating disadvantage when trying to dodge bullets that seemed to kill me in one hit. I would also experience seemingly random one hit kills on the dragon boss, a major annoyance when I was already on my last life.
My main source of frustration though comes from the game freezing on me upon a game over. Basically every time I get a game over, Ragtag Adventurers just freezes, forcing me to close out of the game and restart it. I can't imagine that this problem will persist in the final version, but as it stands now, it's a major interest killer.
In small bursts, Ragtag Adventurers is a fun, challenging boss rush, despite its problems. But in longer stretches, I found myself losing interest rather quickly. It is fairly satisfying to defeat a foe after a ten minute fight. But on the other hand, it's incredibly demoralizing to be that far into a fight, only to lose because of something I didn't see. Furthering this frustration, having to close and re-open the game every time I lose pushes me away from longer sessions. Since it is still in Early Access, I'll be interested to see how Prime Time Studio polishes what's already present to produce the final version.
A copy of Ragtag Adventurers was provided by Prime Time Studio for purposes of this review. In addition, one member of the development team is a former staff member of Gamnesia.