Four years after being delisted from Steam, multiplayer sidescrolling action game The Showdown Effect is back in a completely fan-made resurrection that's been given official approval by Paradox Interactive.
Paradox released The Showdown Effect in 2013 to decent reviews—we called it "a cheap and cheerful action game that won't win any awards but provides solid knockabout laughs" in our 70% assessment—but it didn't really go anywhere. Player counts tailed off quickly after launch, and in 2018 Paradox pulled the plug and removed it from Steam.
That was the end of it until a couple of years later, when GiuseppeIII (who asked that we not use his real name) got involved. He was a player from the early days, but ironically came into it almost entirely by accident: He ended up with a copy of The Showdown Effect by way of a Humble Bundle that came out a few months after the game did.
"A little while later when looking for stuff to play and scrolling through my Steam library I noticed the game, and remembering the trailer from when I got the Humble Bundle I decided to check it out," GiuseppeIII told me in a recent chat. "At this time the game was already on the decline user-wise and the bump it had gotten from the Humble Bundle had mostly gone away.
"While a low-player count is usually a death knell to a multiplayer game, it is actually one of the things that attracted me to the game and kept me playing. The welcoming tight-knit community and seeing the same names week after week was something that kept me playing."
One of those community members, who goes by the name Deathaxe, reached out to GiuseppeIII in 2020 with the idea of getting the old gang back together. They set up a Discord to welcome players back, but they couldn't do anything about growing the community because the game was no longer available for purchase, so it was effectively impossible to bring in new players.
Amusingly, The Showdown Effect's removal from Steam was seemingly the result of a mistake. GiuseppeIII said that, based on his talks with Paradox and original developer Arrowhead Game Studios, Paradox removed the game from Steam after shutting down its microtransaction store server as part of a cleanup operation. Someone at Paradox apparently assumed that the shutdown would kill the entire network infrastructure and render the game unplayable—thus the Steam removal—but The Showdown Effect actually makes use of peer-to-peer networking to connect players, and so it continued to run just fine. The problem was that while old players could continue to beat each other senseless in violent cartoon action, newcomers could only get in if they found an old key lying around (say, in a Humble Bundle) or purchased one from a third-party reseller.
To help bulk up the player base, GiuseppeIII first got about 100 old keys from Arrowhead and gave them away. He then reached out to Paradox, which was sympathetic but not inclined to make The Showdown Effect, which had already failed once, a priority. So he took a more aggressive approach to the problem by eliminating Steam from the equation.
"Starting in late December of 2021, I was able to unpack and decompile the game’s source files," explained GiuseppeIII—who, in case there's any doubt, is a programmer, although his real job is unrelated to games. "Then, with some consultation with the team at Magicka Wizard Wars Reborn (shoutout to Alias, Rat, and Neon) who were doing a similar project for a different Paradox title which used the same game engine, I was able to create a lua DLL injector, which along with the decompiled source allowed me to freely change the game’s code."
After getting that far he contacted Paradox again, which after some discussion granted him a non-commercial license to develop and release the game for free. With that secured, he continued to work on the project as time allowed before launching The Showdown Effect: Reloaded on August 20.
The updated game includes a brand-new launcher, bug fixes and balance improvements, new features (including new levels, a ranked mode, and new gameplay settings), and the ability to access old real-money characters and skins through the standard experience system. It still uses Steam as a backend for its "networking stuff" and will automatically install a Steam-based wrapper to make it work, but all of the actual game files are only available through GiuseppeIII's site.
Since going live in August, The Showdown Effect: Reloaded has signed up about 150 players, and GiuseppeIII hopes that number will grow as word of the revived game spreads. He's not finished working on it, either: He wants to use the new leaderboards and Elo rankings to organize tournaments with in-game rewards, and also plans to incorporate a new "weekly challenge" feature.
"Looking out to the future, anything is possible," he said. "I know a planned feature a lot of people are excited for is bots. TSER is semi open-source (I give access after vetting), so if people are interested it is easy and straightforward to contribute!"
I tried The Showdown Effect: Reloaded myself last night, and it works very well. The installation process is quick and smooth (the installer automatically sets up what it needs from Steam) and the game itself runs perfectly. The gameplay basics are simple, but there are complexities to movement and combat that clearly take time and practice to pick up: GiuseppeIII repeatedly owned me in our 1v1 showdown, until I finally stumbled upon a strategy that enabled me to score a kill: I asked him a question and then pasted him while he was typing a response.
Regardless of where it goes from here, The Showdown Effect: Reloaded is entirely GiuseppeIII's project. "Paradox doesn’t play a huge ongoing role in terms of development but allowing the project to happen in the first place (through their license) shows their amazing commitment and relationship with fans of their properties (even those as niche as TSE)," he said. "It's been super nice how supportive Paradox has been with everything, when it would have been super easy to just ignore my requests!"
The Showdown Effect: Reloaded, and a link to the community Discord (which is handy for setting up matches), are up at theshowdowneffectreloaded.com.