Once upon a time, in the midst of a particular equine’s fandom, a fighting game was born. Featuring the likeness of said characters as they battled away, the game drew attention from fighting gamers to the likes of the property holder themselves who, unsurprisingly, offered a cease-and-desist letter on a silver platter. And while fan projects tend to up and die at such legalities, the developers Mane6 decided to press on with their own original story and setting while keeping the core of the game intact.
And so, years later, Them’s Fightin’ Herds (“TFH”) comes to life as an early access title on Steam. One full release later and some updates, it finally hits consoles with full crossplay on the 18th of October, published by Modus Games.
I never quite followed this game, only knowing bits and pieces of it as it developed over the years. But what I saw always impressed me and that’s because making fighting games isn’t easy—Making one that stands out? Even less so. But it’s cool to see fan projects become realised and so much cooler when they become something of their own.
The Basics of CQC
Them’s Fightin’ Herds’ is a fighting game that plays on a 2D plane similar to the likes of Street Fighter or Guilty Gear. Explaining the basics of a fighting game would go beyond the scope of this review, so I’d like to instead talk about the ease of getting into this game. I think it’s no secret that getting into fighting games can be daunting, and I always appreciate seeing fighting games add strong tutorial systems and offline content for players to practice with.
On a basic level, TFH is a four-button fighter. Buttons A through C are light, medium, and heavy attacks while button D controls magic abilities specific to each character. Some might have to charge their abilities like Oleander with her spellbook and some don’t, like Arizona and her lasso. Doing damage builds meter while using a character’s D button usually builds the game’s second ‘magic’ meter, which allows for more powerful moves and combo potential. Blocking is (thankfully) accomplished by holding the back button relative to the side of the screen you’re on. Oh, and sorry Tekken players, this game features chip damage so no multi-second long blocks.
TFH is a great game for beginners thanks to its great selection of tutorials that extend beyond the menu screen and into the game’s story mode, which not only offers challenges against special bots but also completing specific scenarios by testing your ability to input specific mechanics properly. The game’s actual tutorial features both gameplay and character lessons and learning these characters can make it easier to pick up character types from other fighters, such as charge and set up characters.
Of course, you won’t become a fighting game master overnight by playing the game’s tutorial, but it’ll be enough to get you through most of the game’s content. There are just some things tutorials can’t teach—like patience!
Kickin’ It Out
Them’s Fightin’ Herds story mode currently plays up to chapter one with players assuming the role of Arizona the Cow as she sets out to find ‘the key’, and how folks from all over will be looking for it to become champion of the land. There’s not much to unpack here besides an ancient evil coming to life, and the dialogue is short and sweet, so it doesn’t matter much anyway. The good news is that, for the few overworld stages that exist, there’s a good number of challenges and extras players can go for and pick up some adorable gear to wear.
The overworld plays from a top-bottom 2D perspective and bumping into enemies triggers combat. The gameplay here is as smooth as butter, with no input lag to speak of. I did have some issues on Xbox One X, however, where the game would briefly stutter when a match first begins. It wasn’t frequent but common enough to be an annoyance. The transitions between the overworld and into combat didn’t just have stutters but could take quite a while to load in, too. However, I liked how this mode is set up and I wish more fighting games would have adventure-like sequences too.
If story isn’t your thing, you can jump right into Arcade Mode and fight out the cast of the game plus the enemies from the story mode. Sadly, at the moment, there’s no real boss at the end of a character’s route, but I think the adjustable difficulty options can cover that hole for now.
The multiplayer portion of the game offers both ranked and casual matchmaking as well as a lobby system similar to Arcsys games like Granblue Versus or Guilty Gear Strive. In it you can walk up to players and challenge them to a match while dripped out in cosmetics that switch out of the shop every week. Outside of that, you can be in just about any mode in the game and queue up for a match, which is a nice quality-of-life feature. Readers will be happy to know that the game supports netcode rollback found in the likes of Killer Instinct, Battle for the Grid, and plenty of games now being updated to support it. And let’s not forget about crossplay!
There’s also quite a number of options to emulate online latency in offline modes as well, although I can’t say I’m a good enough fighting game player for those to matter to me. But options matter and it’s great to see them here.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a fantastic value for its price. Boasting great network play and a solid amount of offline content with more story mode updates and a season pass of new characters on the way. I love the art direction and the characters, who are voiced by some awesome talent and have bits and pieces of personality from the show it took inspiration from, but still having enough to differentiate themselves by game mechanics and aesthetics. Oh, and I love the music—just the right amount of synth and instrumentation that match their stages really well.
This is a fighting game I can easily recommend to just about anyone.
|Reviewed On||Xbox One X, Xbox Series X|
|Available On||Xbox One, Xbox Series, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC/Steam, Nintendo Switch|
|Release Date||18th of October, 2022|
|ESRB / PEGI Ratings||E10+ for Everyone 10+ – Fantasy Violence, Use of Tobacco, Alcohol Reference|
/ PEGI 7 – Fear, Violence