App Reviewed on: iPad Air 2
User Interface Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Every time I step away from a session of Barbearian, I have pretty mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s a beat em up with a surprising amount of depth and creative design. It’s just too bad that all of these great decisions exist in a combat-focused game with clumsy and awkward-feeling combat. So, for all of the cool stuff surrounding Barbearian, you have to put up with a core that's simply not up to snuff.
In Barbearian your task is simple. Teleport onto landmass, kill everything in sight, and repeat. Even at the beginning stages of the game, this can involve killing hundreds of enemies as they rush toward you. With your trusty axe though, it doesn’t matter how many foes come at you. You can carve through everyone relatively easily as long as you play things strategically.
An early lesson from Barbearian is that you can get overwhelmed if you let too many enemies swarm you at once, which makes for an experience where you’re spending a lot of time trying to manage your positioning while taking down tons of enemies all at once.
Space management is but one piece of the puzzle in Barbearian. In addition to simply swinging your axe, you can also perform lunging attacks, pick up ranged weapons, and even enter rage mode to hulk out and decimate opposing armies.
Speaking of armies, your enemies aren’t the only ones with numbers. Stages in Barbearian provide you the opportunity to free hostages, which you can then enlist as knights and archers to fight alongside you. It’s a really neat concept, and can allow for Barbearian to create battlefields that feel pretty dynamic and exciting.
Swing and a miss
Between the army building system and the ability to upgrade and unlock new weapons, Barbearian has a great progression system built into it that feels rather compelling. Or, rather, it would feel compelling if the fighting was more satisfying.
Great brawlers are great because they have a flow to their combat that makes you feel powerful. In Barbearian, every axe swing feels clumsy, shooting guns is borderline uncontrollable, and it’s hard to feel true feedback as you get hit. This isn’t just a touch control problem, either. Barbearian has flawless MFi controller support, but even playing it this way doesn’t fix its awkward combat.
The bottom line
There’s a lot of great ideas surrounding Barbearian, but games like this are hard to enjoy fully if they don’t have good combat. With this in mind, it's kind of frustrating that the game has such impressive level design, charming art, clever writing, and interesting progression. At the end of the day, the act of playing Barbearian doesn't feel good, which makes it hard--though not impossible--to enjoy all of the great things it has to offer.