Now and then, some ideas are so ridiculous they sound brilliant. I would not think to make a fighting game based on a variety of horses, many of whom would fit in with the My Little Pony crowd, yet Them’s Fightin’ Herds does just that. The awe-inspiring thing isn’t the idea, but the commitment to the concept. With each character having a distinct personality, plenty of variety, and much thought and effort, it’s way more than meets the eye. Still, with plenty of games exploring similar concepts, is this a choice product or a novelty game that forgot it was a joke?
Them’s Fightin’ Herds story is in a peculiar place. The adventure starts with a brief prologue that introduces a rather clever premise. In their world, predators went away sometime in the past, allowing the remaining herbivores to live peacefully. However, something changed, and they’re starting to appear again. To prevent this terrible fate, several mighty warriors were selected to avoid this from happening.
Story is charming
Despite the exciting opening, Them’s Fightin’ Herds takes a step back and works on fleshing out the characters. Things start with Arizona, a young calf filled with cute expressions and a desire to make her family proud. She encounters a good number of the cast in her adventure, with it ending on a rather exciting cliffhanger.
Unfortunately, at the time of posting, only four chapters and the prologue are present in Them’s Fightin’ Herds. The remaining chapters are currently in the works and have been for a while. In a recent blog post, the goal was to complete the remaining chapters before the end of the year, but that was no longer possible. However, at some point, the rest of the story will be added as a free update.
All this being said, the content currently present is surprisingly robust for a fighting game. Instead of having a series of fights with dialogue before and after, Them’s Fightin’ Herds has a big world to explore. These areas include collectibles, cosmetics, optional dialogue, puzzles, and more, all with a cute pixel art look.
There are practice, online, local, and arcade modes outside the story. Method includes traditional training, replays, and tutorials. Like many newer fighting games, the tutorials combine fundamentals and advanced concepts. It’s a great way to learn how to play some surprisingly powerful combos or simply master the fundamentals. Best of all, Them’s Fightin’ Herds does not limit you to a specific character, so you can do the tutorial with whomever you want.
Really Detailed Characters and Environments
Arcade is another exciting mode. Like similar games, you fight through each available fighter, with the boss being a gauntlet of the four predators present in story mode. What makes the method interesting is Them’s Fightin’ Herds‘ approach to difficulty.
Generally speaking, higher difficulties will feature enemies that will punish literally any mistake you make. It’s good for beginners to train, with pros having little to no trouble beating these predictable foes. With Them’s Fightin’ Herds, the AI is much more passive about forcing your hand.
On the “medium” difficulty of Greenhorn, I stood perfectly still for about 11 seconds before the AI even attempted to make a move. However, if you mount an offensive, the AI will be extremely fast to block and punish. It feels incredibly unforgiving for a newcomer and is honestly not the most exciting to play against.
Oddly enough, I find the highest difficulty easier since the AI tends to be much more aggressive. In doing so, I don’t need to figure out how to beat their defense or get close; I just need to counter their attacks. This changes based on the opponent, as every fighter, has one or two characters that are strong against them, but it makes for a weird experience.
You Can Really See Each Characters Personality
This is also Them’s Fightin’ Herds most vital point. Despite the concept, it’s a really robust fighter. Each of the seven available characters fills a specific role and play style. Arizona is a rusher; Pom uses companions. Velvet utilizes ranged attacks, Oleander punishes, Shanty relies heavily on solid combos, and you get the point. Each gets a fair number of tools designed to improve their play style. It can make teaching them a little rough, though once you master them, some impressive combos are possible.
Finally, I wanted to touch briefly on the art style. Mane6 put a lot of effort into everything, and it shows. Character attacks look smooth and have a fair amount of flare. The backgrounds are lovely, each matching the intended character. Several characters have adorable quirks, reflected in their look, attacks, and even dialogue. Even the amount of color options is impressive, which doesn’t even touch on the sheer number of references.
Them’s Fightin’ Herds Review Verdict
On paper, Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a little light next to prominent fighters, but it makes up for that with quality. Each of the soldiers feels different and has a distinct personality. The story is more than a couple of lines of dialogue between fights and builds a world around it. Even the difficulty is surprisingly challenging and will force players to get better. So, if you’re looking for a robust fighting game, I strongly suggest giving Them’s Fightin’ Herds a shot. However, if you’re unwilling to put in the time, you’ll probably find it frustrating and unenjoyable.
[Editor’s Note: Them’s Fightin’ Herds was reviewed on PlayStation 5 and a copy was provided to us for review purposes]