With darkness looming on the horizon, champions have been called to stop the return of an age-old enemy. But only one hero can stand above the rest. So which champion will rise to stop the world’s ancient enemy from returning? Who will show themselves to be hooves down the best? Only the coming battles will tell. Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a 2D fighting game developed by Mane6 and published by Modus Games.
At first glance, one could be forgiven for underestimating this experience’s depth as a fighting game. With an aesthetic that instantly makes one think of My Little Pony, the expectation of this game as a sort of “baby’s first fighter” is fairly understandable. But rest assured, you would be wrong. Counters and cancels, meters to manage, and a wide arrange of playstyles all come together to make Them’s Fightin’ Herds as deep and intricate as any top-tier fighting game.
While this game strives to deliver an intricate gameplay experience, it does this without an overly complicated control scheme. Rather than utilizing every button available on my Xbox controller, only the four face buttons are used in conjunction with the directional pad/thumbstick to unleash each character’s bevy of combat options. As someone who can easily find themselves punching in the wrong button when I’m pushed to the limit, having fewer buttons to mess up is always a welcome sight.
Like all fighting games, the cast of Them’s Fightin’ Herds has access to their own selection of combos and specials. From close-in fighters to range combatants who seek to control the screen, each of the game’s seven characters has its unique style. But while this variety would be enough in and of itself to keep the cast interesting, the devs have added another element to its fighting game to keep things even more enjoyable—Magic.
Along with a standard super meter that changes throughout a match, each fighter also has a magic gauge. But how one charges their gauge and what it can be used for varies from character to character. For example, while the dark mage unicorn Oleander uses her magic gauge to deliver amped-up versions of her special attacks, Shanty uses the gauge to cling to walls and bounce clear across the screen. Knowing how to power the gauge and how best to utilize it is critical to get the most out of each character.
With this extra element in Them’s Fightin’ Herds, even seasoned pros will likely need a bit of tutorial help to get a handle on what to expect from each fighter. Happily, the game sports a robust tutorial and training section that allows the player to explore each character and learn their unique twists. So even if a player has no interest in a particular character, I highly recommend playing through each character’s tutorial section, so you don’t run into any nasty surprises.
Like all fighting games, Them’s Fightin’ Herds‘ bread and butter is multiplayer. But while the standard multiplayer experience is available, the developers have gone a step further with their presentation.
When entering the online lobby, the player will find their avatar in a top-down view world where they can do more than just challenge others to fight. For example, cosmetics can be unlocked with salt gathered from nearby mines. The mines, however, are filled with NPCs the player will have to fight their way through to gather the resource. This cute pixel art presentation gives some fun to the online lobby, but this isn’t the only place it is utilized.
The final major element of this game is a single-player adventure mode that tasks the player with fighting their way through a narrative adventure. While exploring the top-down world, players face foes and some light platforming elements. While I appreciated the game’s attempt to mix up the gameplay, I found this mode to range from tedious to flat-out not fun.
The platforming segments are the lesser of the two evils that bring this mode down. Trying to make my character consistently short hop or long jump with the fighting game controls when failure meant starting the challenge over was not fun, and the precision required felt much too tedious. I feel like the intent here was to help me master these techniques, but all it did was leave me frustrated.
While the platforming fell short of enjoyment for me, the boss battles were downright unpleasant. Unique circumstances are used in these moments to create a greater challenge and further test the player’s skills. Abilities are added to the boss’s normal skill set, which makes the fights go from unchallenging to imbalanced. Once again, this simply made the mode one I didn’t enjoy. The challenge was so great that, after numerous defeats, I had no option but to retry the area again on the easiest difficulty simply to proceed. With this, I was able to overcome the unbalanced feeling, but it still wasn’t enjoyable to do.
While the story mode was easily the weak point for me, it is important to note that only chapter one is available at launch. With further chapters presumably still in development, it is possible that those may find a way to be less tedious and more enjoyable.
When all is said and done, Them’s Fightin’ Herds delivers a unique and varied cast of characters that promise a high-caliber fighting game experience. If all you are looking for is that, I cannot find any reason not to recommend this game. However, if you struggle with playing online and need an enjoyable and robust single-player offering to get into the genre, this game will likely fall short for you.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4, PS5, PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Them's Fightin' Herds
Them’s Fightin’ Herds delivers a unique and varied cast of characters that promise a high-caliber fighting game experience. If all you are looking for is that, I cannot find any reason not to recommend this game. However, if you, like me, struggle with playing online and need an enjoyable and robust single-player offering to get into the genre, this game will likely fall short for you.