Gravity Bear Weighs In to Social Gaming on Facebook with Battle Punks

Startup game developer Gravity Bear has roots in traditional gaming and big ambitions on Facebook. Headed up by Phil Shenk, one of the former lead artists for Blizzard’s hit game Diablo II as well cofounder art director for Flagship Studios, it has fully released its first game, Battle Punks. The preview last fall showed promise and from our experience it did not disappoint.

The game is an automated avatar fighting app, and is similar to past reviewed titles such as King of KungFu and Killer Toon. However, whereas those were done in 2D, Battle Punks is completely three dimensional, and does it look good. Okay, granted, it’s not PlayStation 3 graphics, but would you really want to download that on Facebook anyway?

The name of the game is character progression. Players create a very basic avatar, and start in an area of the world called the “Training Grounds.” This is the area for all new players, and users cannot proceed to another area of the map (which is concealed anyway), until they have leveled up enough to enter it. Using a combination of mafia-style role-playing and automated fighting game rules, users battle one another in order to gain experience, earn money, and claim victory.

Players start with 10 of the familiar stat, energy. Each fight will take three, with one energy replenishing every five minutes or so. However, players are free to send each other food, as gifts that can get an exhausted punk back on his or her feet. Within the fight itself, the player has no control, and simply watches as the players trade blows back and forth in a turn-based style.

Though it is automated, the fights are actually very interesting. There is a good deal of animation and randomness to each fight that makes it entertaining. Each avatar will generally do an attack one by one, either a single big swing, a miss, or maybe a combo. Beyond this, the avatars can also dodge, parry, initiate quick surprise attacks, counterattack, and even disarm each other.

The last of these is extremely important. Pre-planning comes in a great deal before a fight. When visiting the store, players can purchase different types of gear and weapons (as well as cosmetic items, of course). These can add blocking capabilities (shields), do more damage, attack faster, or even have a better grip.

Yes, grip. The better the grip on an item, the less likely you will be disarmed. So, as an example, a two-handed mace (which is owning everyone right now, by the way) has a very strong grip, so it will not be disarmed easily. However, despite its high damage, it is very slow, and doesn’t seem to counter often. Nonetheless, should you lose your weapon, then your battle punk will pull out another from their inventory (or just fight bare handed).

This is actually where Diablo’s influence comes into play. The inventory interface is actually the same as the game. Basically, players have a grid, and items come in different shapes and sizes. If you can fit something within the grid, then you can carry it into battle. It’s that simple.

Eventually, this will lead to strategic choices, as after each fight you are rewarded with gold, experience, and random items (more if you win). Obviously, this will stock up your inventory with many different things, leading the user to decided on speed vs. strength, grip vs. defense, and so on.

Also, with each level, comes a small bit of virtual currency, called Newtons. Unfortunately, we haven’t found anything yet that requires them, but you can at least convert them to in-game currency (gold). That said, however, once you can travel to new areas, new items can be bought there – adding a sort of adventure element to the app – so likely there will be Newton-only goods at higher levels.