Created by those at Red Beard Games, and published by Hi-Rez Studios, is Divine Knockout (DKO), a game that fits as the latest entry in the fighting game sphere. In fact, in a bold move, the devs claim to have created something unique here, stating that this is the only third-person platforming brawler in the world. I’m not sure about that, but basically their description is pretty much bang on – imagine Smash Bros with an added third dimension and you’ll be pretty much there.
But does this third dimension add anything to the gameplay, or are you better off with Smash Bros instead?
We’ll start with explaining about the overarching story of the game, detailing the twists and turns that await you as you work your way through Divine Knockout (DKO). Or at least we would if we could and sadly there is nothing resembling a narrative here. In fact, it appears that some Gods have rocked up in the same place, at the same time, having nothing better to do with their time than to have a massive ruckus. Reasons? Back story? No thank you!
So, the presentation then, how does that stack up? Well, pretty well, to be honest.
The third dimension of the fighting arenas in Divine Knockout (DKO) works pretty well and the arenas are pretty imaginative to boot. Each one has a certain trick to it, be that a giant boulder rolling around, all the way up to a central rotating pillar complete with spikes that raise and lower to trap the unwary. Rotating platforms, vanishing platforms, danger zones where ghosts can get you – the design of the stages is all very nice.
The characters you can choose from are all jolly too, with small, almost super-deformed versions of various Gods being set in motion. Well, I say Gods, but some are divine beings, such as Thor, while others are just people like King Arthur and Hercules. Whatever, there is a good spread of characters that cover all the bases in terms of attacks.
There’s some nice sound going on too, with pleasant music and crunching impacts, while special moves have a nice line in announcements to go with them. All in all, when you consider the speedy animations and lots of flashy action, Divine Knockout (DKO) looks very nice indeed, and the sounds are in keeping with the theme.
So, what about the actual gameplay then? Can Divine Knockout (DKO) be mentioned in the same breath as the mighty Smash Bros? Well, not to mince my words, but no, not really. But let me explain.
At its heart, Divine Knockout (DKO) is pretty much just a button masher and there are no real tactics required to win the actual combat side of things. By mashing the X button, you can perform a three hit combo which is plenty enough to push any enemy away from you. If you repeat it enough times, the enemy will fly off the edge of the stage and be defeated, a la Smash Bros. The developers have even borrowed the counter over enemy heads that show you how close they are to being knocked out, and when you see someone with 150% haloing them, you just know that you need to keep whacking them a teeny bit more.
Admittedly there is slightly more to the fighting action than pressing X, however. Not a lot more, but a bit. Each character also has special attacks they can unleash with a quick press of a shoulder button, from Sol’s fireball to the rock throw of Hercules, and these can turn the tide of battle, especially if you unleash it in a contested area. There are also Ultimate moves that can be charged up and then unleashed by pressing the triggers, and these usually have a large area of effect and can really mess an enemy up if it hits them. However, the third dimension makes landing one of these moves quite tricky, as a swift side step is usually enough to get you out of harm’s way. The long build up time for these attacks doesn’t help with the element of surprise either.
The game modes on offer are a mixed bunch too. There is a straight up Death Match, where the first to eight K.O.’s wins; there is a mode where you have to collect coins from the arena floor and deposit them in a chest; and there is also King of the Hill in which you will need to capture a ring on the arena floor, stopping the enemy from getting it back. In addition to battering the enemy of course, and especially in the coin round, smashing a foe out of the deposit zone is not only satisfying, but makes them drop some coins too, so it’s all good.
The default game mode for Divine Knockout (DKO) comes in the form of 3v3 online battles, and again as a default, cross-play is enabled. You’ll have no difficulty in getting a game, either in a team with friends or working with randoms off of the internet. There are other modes too – 2v2 and 1v1 to be precise – but these game modes are locked away until you win sufficient rounds to unlock them. In addition, these other modes are combat only, so if you want to do something other than press X, you have to stay in 3v3.
The same goes for the majority of the roster of Gods – they are either locked away behind a paywall, or you can keep playing – and playing, and playing – until you have levelled a God up multiple times, after which you will be awarded with a token to unlock a new character. And it is here where the problem arises with Divine Knockout (DKO) – as a game to play with a few mates, in a party, it is pretty good fun, however, for a long term proposal the maths is a little more difficult, with the investment in time required to make a dent in the roster of locked Gods a little too grindy.
Of course, you can spend real money to unlock the God’s you don’t have, and I do have a bit of an issue with this, as in effect you can pay-to-win, especially if you get a God no one else. It just feels a tad wrong to me.
Still, it is what it is, and the main issue is the lack of any kind of tactical play in Divine Knockout (DKO). The best of these games have characters that can counter the moves of others, and that is entirely missing here. Just hammer X to win!
Divine Knockout (DKO) is on the Xbox Store
- Looks good, both the characters and arenas
- Fun in short bursts
- Very much a case of mashing X
- Grind to get new Gods is very real indeed
- The pay-to-win feels
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Hi-Rez Studios
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PS4, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 6 December 2022
- Launch price from - £21.99