Homicidal All-Stars was an apt and vastly superior name to what is now titled Showgunners , a very linear turn-based combat game that manages to keep some surprises within it. This comes from the folks behind the original Hard West and Phantom Doctrine, both of which featured great tactical, turn-based combat. Of all the games that I’ve played across the genre, I hadn’t played one with a game show or reality setting behind it. Turns out, the thing I’ve been missing was an audience cheering on my actions while a commentator gave play-by-plays of both sides. Showgunners has a wonderful presentation that does well to keep the energy high in this cyberpunk dystopian future of competitive television, and is bluntly good and shockingly gory.
While the name of the game has changed, it hasn’t deviated from the reality and game show format, which is the fictional Homicidal All-Stars show that’s broadcast worldwide. You are Scarlett, dropped in as a rising star, and ultimately pairs with a veteran, a champion of the show as you fight to survive an onslaught orchestrated by Orion Ford, the CEO of the company. After surviving the game’s season premiere episode, you’re then brought back to a home base where you can rest, conduct interviews, exercise, and do all the things you would see on any other reality TV show. The time spent here is rather limited, and you’ll soon rest and prepare for the next episode in the hopes that you don’t die in the process.
There are multiple difficulties to set your preferred level of challenge, to include an ironman mode for those looking for the possibility of permanent death. The majority of the game is tactical, turn-based combat. I’ve always enjoyed this genre, and the different flavors that it has come in over the years. The taste of Showgunnners is that it operates on a two action point system, where an attack ends the turn (unless there’s a buff that allows multiple attacks, or movement after an attack). It’s a tried-and-true classic system that works really well here, even if it doesn’t break the mold that’s been set by others.
What I didn’t expect, is that sometimes you’re playing the game with WASD in third-person and in real-time. When this happens, you’re in explorable areas that have collectibles of sorts, like signing autographs, finding loot, or an optional arena to fight in. You’ll also be disarming traps and solving environmental puzzles. These areas include a modicum of danger as mis-timing a disarm or walking blindly could result in taking damage, or even death. There are stations to heal you, but it’s better to not take the damage or that risk in the first place. The third-person sections are an unexpected, but welcome respite over going through combat arena to combat arena.
Throughout your adventures, you’ll rise in fame the more you succeed. How you let that fame affect you, is your choice to make through dialogue responses, you can be nice even when fans get your name wrong, sarcastic to play the middle, or be the asshole that heads towards infamy. This fame grows into sponsorship opportunities. Some sponsors require a certain type of fame in order to sign-on with them, effectively aligning with your personality. It’s a really interesting system that’s not incredibly deep, but gives credence for the system’s own existence.
During the story missions that progress the episodes of the seasons, there are moments where something like a “plot twist” happens. This is an ambush, where you’ll be attacked in free explore. Or this can be during a tense fight where a new enemy or environmental hazards are introduced. In one early case, the game has you battling across several train tracks, it’s after a few turns that you learn these tracks are active. Being thoughtful during these encounters, can turn the tides in your favor by wiping out multiple enemies at once who get trapped on the tracks.
During the season, you will encounter other contestants who can become your companions for a total (including Scarlett) of six characters to control and utilize in combat. Each person has their own playstyle, set of abilities, and even equippable weapons that they specialize in. The skill tree is rather straightforward, but it has just enough branches to make decisions about what will compliment the other character during combat. These range from increased movement range, extra melee damage, or something unique to the character. The game will either drop weapons for you, or offer them up in shops that have distinct properties like doing extra to enemies who wear Kevlar. Before starting a fight, the game gives you a preview of the enemies you’ll face, and sure enough the new weapons I picked up or just looked at, would do the right kind of damage. In these cases, I equipped them and escaped without a scratch on any member of the team.
There’s eight levels or episodes to the season, with interstitials and explorable areas that make up the in-between areas. It’s not an overly long game, but you’ll easily get 15-20 hours out of it depending on how much you seek out all the extras. It’s very likely you’ll see everything there is to do in a single playthrough, as the levels are handcrafted and don’t offer any replayability. Though that’s not a bad thing, not everything needs an infinite mode.
Artificer knows what people want out of a turn-based tactical game, and you have all save types at your disposal. There are auto saves for big events, but you can quick save, and even make manual saves to recall at any moment. This is a save scummer’s dream, but it allows you to have full control in how you make it through the game. Combat encounters can be restarted at any time, if you also make a mistake in combat.
I only ran into a few bugs with the game, and even then they were minor that didn’t negatively impact my experience with it. At times, the camera would either get stuck in a wall or just run away from the scene – in both cases, they were recoverable by rotating the view. Other times, the physics got wonky when coming out of slow motion events and catapult a dead enemy clear across the map. Besides that, the game is an incredibly smooth experience, often operating above 180fps in and out of combat.
My PC Specs:
– Microsoft Windows 11 Pro
– Intel Core i9 13900K @ 5.8GHz
– ASUS ROG RYUJIN II 360 ARGB AIO Liquid CPU Cooler
– G.SKILL TRIDENT Z5 6000MHZ 64GB (32×2) DDR5 RAM
– ASUS ROG Strix GeForce RTX 4080 16GB GDDR6X
– WD_BLACK SN850X M.2 (4 TB)
– LG UltraGear 34GP950B-G (21:9 Ultrawide @ 3440×1440)
Showgunners is a true spectacle that stays true to its format for a game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. The turn-based gameplay is really smart, and the third-person real-time movement is a nice change of pace for the genre. It’s scripted fun you can save scum to your hearts content, or die a glorious death in ironman mode. Homicidal All-Stars is not a show I would watch, but I definitely enjoyed taking part in its vision of the future of reality and game shows. Showgunners is not tactically dense, though it offers a uniquely tight turn-based experience you should definitely pick-up.
A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes