REVIEW: DubWars

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

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DubWars Title Screen
Title DubWars
Developer MURA Interactive
Publisher WOBBL3 Entertainment LLC
Release Date July 19, 2016
Genre Twin Stick Shooter
Platform PC Steam
Age Rating General Audience
Official Website

DubWars presents a small challenge to review adequately. I can tell you that it’s a great game, and I can show you that it looks pretty cool. But when over 75 percent of the appeal is in relation to the music, that becomes a very difficult task to describe. But, at least the title gives a good indicator of what the game represents. I could say that this game is most similar to Rez, of all the games I’ve played. However, the game is almost entirely the opposite of Rez. Nevertheless, that would be a good starting point.

DubWars | Calm

The calm before the storm. Don’t get seen!

Possibly the most important thing to know about this title going in, is that there is no fire button. There is not even a jump button. Yes, it is a twin stick shooter, but merely pointing the analogue stick (or mouse) in the direction you want to fire will not cause you to shoot. There are also no bomb buttons. In fact, during an actual stage, you will only ever move and point your ship. So you may rightly ask, how do you kill the enemies? That is the hook of this game. Your spaceship only fires to the beat of the song that is playing. So in that respect, this game is basically the opposite of Rez, where it created a musical score by killing the enemies. Instead, the score enables you to kill them at all. One of the most fascinating consequences of this is present in the genre of music represented in this game, dubstep.

DubWars | Drop

Give me a drop, and I’ll assault more than just their ears.

The most popular feature of dubstep music is probably their drops. That is when the songs reach their crescendo and are usually the most popular part of the songs. This game leverages that to cause your ship to do super attacks (like you see above) during this musical event. Not only does it feel very satisfying, but once you learn the structure of the song you can plan to use that to maximum effectiveness. For better, or worse depending on your musical tastes, dubstep can be a bit predictable with the way it builds the beats. So even when playing a song for the first time, I could usually tell when a massive beat was coming.

DubWars | Metal

This stage had my favorite song, the combination of dubstep and metal was a good one.

One other interesting aspect is that your spaceship fires a different shot type depending on the nature of the beat at the time, something that you just have to experience at least once to know what to expect. You will often have 5 to 6 different shots during a stage. This becomes important to you when you upgrade your shots after a round. You can earn wubs from defeated enemies and completed challenges. You will trade them in at an equalizer screen before playing any stage. Some shots are used more often in a stage, depending on the most common master track during the song. So that one may be the one you want to upgrade, but not always. If you are struggling during a particular part you may want to upgrade the shot that is used during that sequence. Or you can also upgrade your ship health. However, these upgrades only apply to the stage you purchase them on. This is quite understandable considering that your ship’s weapons vary wildly between each stage, as they are determined by the stage music and aesthetic.

DubWars | Beat

I’m being chased by a swarm of aliens, someone turn the beat back on!

Equally important, if not more so, than shot selection and aiming is ship movement. In general you will be surrounded by swarms of enemies and movement will be very important. However, an important feature of dubstep music makes this even more paramount. As any fan of this music genre will tell you, almost as important as the drop is the silence. If a song is a giant wall of noise, when it does reach a massive beat, it would be less impactful. So many, if not most, of these songs will have significant calm sections. While certainly a cool moment on a dance floor, it will make your pilot want to bash his head against the canopy. Because you will have long sequences of not being able to fire. But that will not stop the enemies from coming after you during that time. You will need to run your ass off during these times. Just when you think that you can’t survive any longer, the drop will come and you can lay waste to all those opportunistic aliens. That is pretty much the most satisfying hook of the entire experience.

DubStep | Artists

The artists are justifiably featured before every stage.

There are only 10 stages, which is a little on the low side, but they are also wildly different. One of them takes place underwater, and then the next stage you may be attending a concert for giant alien brains. One of the difficult initial tasks is figuring out what all is hostile and what is not. Some of them are just background and others you can run into, but won’t fire back. Also you definitely need to figure out what will actually shoot at you or release new enemies, and prioritize those targets. There are 4 difficulty levels for each stage, and though the first difficulty is rather easy (I finished some of the stages without dying at all), it quickly ramps up to insane levels. Thankfully the upgrades to your ship apply across the entire stage. So by the time you reach the highest difficulty level, you should be ready to max out all of your shot types and health. Some of the challenges do task you with not using any weapon or health upgrades, however, so you can always just turn them off with the equalizer. It only costs wubs to unlock the upgrades, after that you can use them or not use them.

DubWars | Color

The colors definitely pop off of the screen, do not be near this one if you suffer from seizures.

My only real complaint is that some of the stages can be a bit bland looking in the background and design department. The enemies are often not anything interesting to look at, with a few great exceptions. But the game makes up for this with the bright shots and lasers which both vary wildly depending on the stage and music. Unfortunately, I was not able to check it out myself, but the game also supports Razer Chroma keyboards, making quite the light show on your keyboard during a round. It’s supposedly fantastic to look at, though. The keyboard and mouse controls were functional, but I actually preferred to play on an XBox 360 controller. No real complaints about either style, though, your mileage can vary.

DubWars | World Map

Choose your weapon.

The best part of this game is that it matches up the stages and shots with the music so well. And that attention to the music bleeds into every detail of this game. Your medals are rewarded in the same manner as album sales (Gold Records, Platinum Records, etc.), DJ bio sheets before every level, and the use of equalizers for power ups. The only part that they missed out on stressing the music would be to have a gallery in which you can just listen to the music without playing the game. If they also added a visualizer to the songs with the gallery, this would be an even better release. I didn’t really mention sound effects in the review because there aren’t many to speak of, but that is intentional. The shots are firing to the beat of the music, and you wouldn’t want enemy destruction to give you a false sound or interfere with the song. If you really hate dubstep or electronic music, then I can see you just passing on this one, and that’s fine. But for $9.99, I can definitely recommend this for anyone else. Even if you never want to go past the lowest difficulty level, there is a lot of fun in opening up all the different paths and experiencing all 10 stages. That is a great price for that experience alone. Then there is more beyond that, if you really want a challenge.

Review Score
Overallwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.comwww.dyerware.com

Review Copy Was Self Purchased

About William Haderlie

Born in the 1970's, I've been an avid participant for much of video game history. A lifetime of being the sort of supergeek entrenched in the sciences and mathematics has not curbed my appreciation for the artistry of video games, cinema, and especially literature.