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Game Info:

Them's Fightin' Herds
Developed By: Mane6, Inc.
Published By: Humble Bundle
Release Date: April 30, 2020
Available On: Windows, macOS and Linux coming soon
Genre: Fighting
Number of Players: 1-2
ESRB Rating: Not Rated
MSRP: $14.99
(Humble Store Link)

Thank you Humble Bundle for sending us this game to review!

Them’s Fightin’ Herds has such an interesting story – and I don’t mean just the game! The initial proposal by this development team was to make a tribute My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fighting game, called Fighting is Magic, using characters from the TV show. In the process of making the tribute title, they got a cease and desist letter from Hasbro, the owner of My Little Pony. Through it all, they got the support of the show’s producer and developer, Lauren Faust. When it was clear a licensed game wasn’t happening, they felt that they nevertheless had stumbled upon something truly special, and still wanted to see their dream happen. With Lauren’s incredible art skills behind them, they decided to launch an Indiegogo campaign to create an independent four-legged fighting game, called Them’s Fightin’ Herds, to gauge interest and help with their funding. The campaign was successful, and they were later picked up by Humble Bundle publishing who helped bring their dream to reality.

Most fighting games (obviously) feature human or humanoid characters, with one character fighting against another in one-on-one combat. Each side has a health bar, and the survivor wins the round when their opponent’s life bar is whittled down to nothing. This game is very much like that, but rather than bipedal creatures duking it out, we have quadrupeds hooving their paws at each other’s throat. (I wool keep the baaad puns to a minimum!) The game features a main cast of six fighters, all female. A calf, a lamb, a reindeer, a dragon, an alpaca, and a unicorn round out the main cast. A goat is promised for later.

Them's Fightin' Herds
Highlights:

Strong Points: Wonderfully drawn art; fantastic voice acting; deep and interesting combat mechanics; story mode is a great feature; online is active enough to find people to fight against

Weak Points: Horrible difficulty spike in story mode that prevented my progress; battle against the AI in general requires advanced fighting game skills even on the easiest difficulty level; the online battle I played had bad lag (but not always)

Moral Warnings: Animated fighting violence; magic use by enemies and player, including one character who holds what appears to be a sentient spellbook; while I wasn't able to see the completed story mode, there is dialogue that implied existence of something sexual happening in a basement (perhaps a sex dungeon), and another character thought you might be the person he was waiting for to hook up with; I may have seen 'h*ll' but it also might have been heck instead (I accidentally skipped past the screen too quickly); you can steal a loaf of bread

Like many other fighting games, each character has unique moves, all based on a common set of attacks. Here you have light, medium, heavy, and magic attacks, with the latter being quite different for each character and often requiring the use of a magic meter. Some help bring opponents closer, some bring powerful attacks, some summon puppies to help you, and so on – each character is different. Normal attacks can be strung together into combos, which is a critical part of the fighting system.

The fighting system has incredible depth, with combos, dashes, runs, magic attacks, throws, chain combos, knockdowns, juggles, and more. Thankfully, there are in-depth tutorials to train you on how to pull off these moves. My problem with the tutorial mirrors my problem with the game overall – it’s extremely sensitive to even the slightest timing differences, which can make certain kinds of combos very difficult to pull off. And even if you get the result you want on-screen, sometimes the tutorial may not agree that you pulled off what it says it wants you to. (Honestly, this is a complaint against the fighting game genre overall – it’s extremely sensitive to input timing. In my experience this one seems particularly strict.)

It’s not strict in just the input and combo timings – even on the easiest difficulty level available, the opponents are incredibly unforgiving. I do not expect I will ever see the ending of the story mode, or even arcade mode for that matter. Most fighting games have a super-easy difficulty for new players to get their feet wet with; while it claims to offer a very easy difficulty level, I found it to be anything but.

Despite the exorbitant challenge, if you are a fighting game veteran, there is actually a lot to like. While the character roster is rather small at only six, each has a really interesting moveset along with some truly unique attacks, such as summoning puppies, throwing vegetables, slinging fire or ice, or even simply just using a lasso. The attack/block/combo system is quite intricate, and is very well done – just expect that your opponents will take advantage of them also.

The art is simply exquisite. It is all hand-drawn (though perhaps computer aided), from the characters to the backgrounds, and so on. The characters look right out of a cartoon, and move perfectly smoothly in both their general movements and attacks. They are also very high resolution, as you won’t see pixels unless playing it up close on a large 4k screen. Motion, animations, and so on is a huge high point for this game.

Outside of the actual combat itself, the menu is attractive enough. Another area of note is the story mode, along with the multiplayer lobby. These areas use top-down pixel art, not unlike a classic role=playing game. Each character is represented with pixel art, and you can walk around and talk to non-player characters, or fight opponents, which then brings you to the fighting screen described above. They also use this system for multiplayer matchmaking, where you can walk around town and challenge others to combat. It works pretty well and looks nice, though it is a bit incongruous considering how much higher resolution the in-battle (and menu screen) art is.

Them's Fightin' Herds
Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 88%
Gameplay - 15/20
Graphics - 10/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 85%
Violence – 7.5/10
Language - 9/10
Sexual Content - 8/10
Occult/Supernatural - 8/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The music is high quality, but the voice acting is especially great. Hearing the silly comments with appropriate accents is a hoot. After looking it up there is a good reason for that – these are all IMDB-listed actors, and in some cases with extensive careers. They spared no expense on the voice talent it would seem, and it definitely paid off.

I was pleased to see the multiplayer community to be quite active – with around fifty active players when I signed in on a weekday evening. They even have a good old fashioned server browser if you’d rather not use quick play, which is a nice touch. A healthy online community is really imported, especially for a niche game like this – I was really glad to see one here. Of course, I didn’t do so well in combat, and had a bit more lag than I was comfortable with, but what can you do. It’s supposed to support GGPO online network optimization support, so I’m sure my experience is not the same for everyone. I didn’t have a microphone connected at the time, but I heard other players talking, so online voice chat appears to be supported as well. Of course, that does mean it’s impossible to find players online cursing up a storm; that’s an unfortunate side effect to online play in general.

In the story, I can’t say for certain if there was anything worse than ‘heck’ from what I was able to play, though I could have sworn a saw a ‘h*ll’ once, but sadly I accidentally pressed the continue button before I was able to screen capture it. Overall the language is just fine from what I saw. What bothered me the most is that in one of the towns, there was some dialogue that seemed to hint at something more adult going on, but it never came right out and said it. One animal thought that you might be the person (I use that term loosely) that he was waiting for with what seemed like a hook up; in another case you went to a basement and were deeply disturbed by what you saw (but don’t describe it); my guess is she saw a sex dungeon. Thankfully, since the game doesn’t come right out and say it, these scenes would likely go over the heads of most kids playing the game.

As expected there is animal on animal violence, and the main plot deals with predators vs prey in this mostly herbivore society. Actual combat uses a mix of punches (front paws/hooves), kicks (rear paws/hooves) and magical attacks. One character casts spells from her sentient, talking, spellbook. She’s a bit darker overall, with the rest of the cast being more positive and light-hearted. You can choose to take things laying around without asking, including a loaf of bread from a lady cow that asks you not to eat it now.

Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a high-quality 2D fighting game that I’m honestly glad I got to play despite my skill level simply not being up to par. The art, voices, and overall polish (despite one bug – don’t use alt+enter to change to full screen or it’ll hang) is top-notch, and I really look forward to seeing how it continues to improve, since the developers have promised more chapters to the story mode and continued tweaks over time. I wish some of the subtle innuendo was left out of the story mode so I could recommend it as a kid-safe fighting game without reservation; even still, if you stick to the Local and Practice modes, I’d say it’s safe for almost everyone unless magical attacks or bovine battles are of particular concern for you. If you hope to do well against the computer, be sure to spend a lot of time perfecting your techniques; you’re going to need it.

About the Author

Jason Gress

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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