Battle Shapers has my favorite melee attack of 2023 so far

Image for Battle Shapers has my favorite melee attack of 2023 so far
(Image credit: Metric Empire)

The movement and gunplay in upcoming FPS Battle Shapers are satisfyingly smooth and responsive, but oh my god, the punch. You play as Ada, a combat android who handles like Overwatch's Doomfist and looks like Mega Man Zero's forgotten daughter, and who's been tasked with junking out-of-control robots—in part with her giant mechanical fist. That fist has become my favorite melee weapon of the year so far. 

The tutorial introduces Ada's punch as a way to gain shields back from enemies by finishing them off Doom 2016 style, but there's so much more to it. Stepping backwards will charge a knockout uppercut, pressing forward delivers a brutal forward jab, and hopping left or right brings out nasty hooks. Once I figured these mechanics out, my runs stopped ending so prematurely, and Battle Shapers revealed its true hand as a first person beat 'em up.

(Image credit: Metric Empire)

Guns all have small magazines and awkwardly long reload times, and are used best in short bursts to set up foes for Ada's prize-fighter fist. Before each run, Ada can switch out her core, which represents a subclasses that determines Ada's passive and active combat abilities. I gravitated to the Overdrive core, which gives Ada badass Wolverine claws that let you attack while dodging, buffing damage and movement speed for every foe you tag on your path. 

Ada can still fire her primary weapon while charging, though your aim is restricted to whatever is dead ahead, so I opted for dashing and blasting whatever was in front of me with a shotgun, then laying my opponents out flat with a charge punch. Landing a good hit feels phenomenal, time briefly slowing down in concert with a gnarly bass synth sound. 

The demo, a preview of the upcoming early access release, set me up against Volt Colossus, a narcissistic centurion made of constantly gyrating Tesla coils who repeatedly FaceTimed me to brag about how cool and badass he is. Battle Shapers is presented with Blizzard-like polish: I like the way a section of the screen will quickly cut to show the enraged reactions of the area boss when you clear an area quickly, and how Ada chirps back at them like a forgotten '90s anime heroine. The music also kicks ass, with wicked synths and screaming guitar solos to hype me up.

(Image credit: Metric Empire)

Volt Colossus's level is a towering arcology complex fraught with noxious poison traps and wall mounted garbage disposal units, both perfect stage hazards for punching scores of battle droids into. I found the demo's roguelite elements refreshingly lightweight. The layout of the combat arenas and the order you access them in was largely static, with the only variances I noticed being item and enemy spawns. Otherwise, there are gun and gear rarities, a currency to collect to buy permanent unlocks, and other mechanics commonly found in the genre.

I often find today's popular roguelite mechanics unnecessary and overbearing, but  this system complimented Battle Shapers' rock solid combat loop. Even getting bad drops was fun—it just meant I had to fight harder. Battle Shapers has such great depth to its combat that it's possible to mitigate bad RNG just by playing better.

I actually ran back through the demo a few times after shutting Volt Master down, just to get more time in with what, at least so far, is 2023's best melee attack. If you're at all into the idea of frantic, first-person melee combat, Battle Shapers is worth keeping a very close eye on. It's releasing in early access on Steam later this year.

(Image credit: Metric Empire)
Nova Smith
Contributing Writer

Nova Smith is a freelance writer based out of Alberta, Canada. Nova's grab bag of non-gaming interests and passions includes Japanese mecha anime, miniature painting, as well as history, literature, and classical music. Nova also moonlights as a bureaucrat and amateur historian.