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En Masse has had its hands full this year with the launch of Kritika in the US. Even with that going on, they still found time to bring over another online beat-em-up in the way of Closers. En Masse was kind enough to invite us to a closed alpha to check it out, and I was super excited to get my hands on it. So does it offer enough to set itself apart from Kritika, or is it just more of the same?

Closers is, as I mentioned, another arcade-style beat-em-up RPG. Visually, the game has a nice cel-shaded look with tons of cool particle effects on attacks that bring its comic inspiration to life in a big way. Some of the character designs feel a little bland, but overall the game does everything it needs to keep players invested.  The game also doesn’t feature any real customization when creating a character, but you can get all kinds of cosmetic items that change how your characters look, so there’s that.

Also of note is the game’s music. Closers has an awesome hard-rock soundtrack that features heavy guitars and fast rhythms. Much like the soundtrack from Kritika, it feels a lot like something out of a Blazblue or Guilty Gear game, and that’s not a bad thing. Music also changes noticeably for boss encounters to make things more dramatic.

The gameplay is where Closers, like its contemporary Kritika, shines. This is old school stage-roaming beat-em-up action done to near perfection. Skills combo together more fluidly and in more ways than in Kritika, allowing for you to build your own combo setups that suit your playstyle more easily. There are also more moves that feature button modifiers. For example, you can change Seha’s dashing slash move into a wide-arcing knock-up by holding the up key while pressing the skill. You can then let go of the up key to do the normal forward dash and start an air juggle. This free-flowing combo system is incredibly gratifying to play around with. Landing massive combos makes you feel like a monster.

To make it even more fun to do, the game uses dramatic camera angles as you rack up hits in your combo and perform extra-hit addons for your special moves, creating some wallpaper-worthy moments out of the action. Closers also shows you little cutscenes when you transition from one stage area to another or do something particularly noteworthy which adds even more to the anime-style presentation of the game. This never becomes a distraction, although the camera’s neutral position could stand to be a bit farther back when you’re running stages with multiple players.

The structure around the gameplay is going to feel familiar to anyone who has played Kritika or Dungeon Fighter Online. You grab quests in the main hub, party up with other players, and then jump into the appropriate area on your chosen difficulty. You get equipment and XP rewards for completing quests and stages, and progressing the story unlocks new stages for you to explore. They aren’t reinventing the wheel, but they don’t necessarily need to. The core gameplay on offer here is insanely fun without feeling repetitive thanks in no small part to the open-ness of the combo system.

Closers has its problems, and most of them are small. Controller support is here but if you’re not using an Xbox controller, you’re in for a lot of remapping. The default button layout for Playstation and other non-X-input controllers is all kinds of backwards. It’s easy enough to fix, but as for why it doesn’t do this for one controller but does for another is a real head-scratcher.

Another rather minor nitpick with the game is the movement. It feels fine enough when you’re dashing, but the base walk speed, especially when moving between planes is frustrating. To be completely fair, that’s how it is in most arcade-style games. Still, it feels like it could do with some fine-tuning. None of these issues compare to what is, in my mind, Closers’ biggest flaw.

Closers uses a stamina system to govern gameplay. You have two stamina bars; one for your current character, and another for your entire account. Running regular stages cost 10 stamina per stage. Each character has a maximum stamina of 170, with an additional 60 stamina on weekends. The account stamina maximum is 340, with an additional 100 on weekends. It’s worth noting that the account stamina meter is only per server.

The big problem I have with this, other than that it arbitrarily limits how much you can play the game in a day, is that you can increase this limit with real-world currency by buying character slots. There are other ways to increase it with money, like by purchasing VIP status for your account. I understand wanting to encourage your player-base to spend money to keep the game running, but this isn’t the way to do it. I honestly don’t understand the point of a stamina system in games beyond trying to get people to pay money for fewer gameplay interruptions.

Despite this, Closers still manages to be a competently built action game that’s a blast to play with friends. The combo system and dynamic camera are fluid and fantastic without overcomplicating things, and what I’ve played of the story so far is well worth a look. If you like beat-em-ups, you should keep your eyes on Closers.

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Colt takes a first look at Closers now in closed alpha!