After the rocky launch of the beta because of online issues that lasted a few short hours yesterday, I've played PlayStation All-Stars: Battle Royale for about 6-7 hours now. Usually, I'd be able to form a concrete opinion on something after that much time spent with it, but I'm still unsure about what I feel about this game.
It's easy for people to use the term "Sony Smash Bros." as a way to describe All-Stars, but if it were that simple I would be having a fantastic experience with it, which is not quite the case. Sure, the game's basically a 4-player brawler with a cast of PlayStation (and non-PlayStation) characters playing on stages with hazards, spawning items and such. However, the fundamental gameplay is quite different, and that's the focal point of my issues with All-Stars.
Having super attacks be the only method of truly killing an opponent is an interesting concept in theory but, for now, one I don't think I enjoy in practice. AP—the resource that fuels a player's super meter and allows them to perform one of their three super moves based on the the meter's level—is gained by attacking other players or by collecting AP orbs across the stage and is lost by being hit by certain stage hazards, throws and items.
Because the amount of AP gained varies depending on a character's attacks, I feel that this means players either use the same moves or combos that they know gain them the most AP over and over again or they recklessly mash any of the three attack buttons they can and hope for the best. Using the same move constantly for AP isn't too different from spamming a high damaging move in a traditional 2D fighting game, however because high/low mixups aren't an issue in All-Stars, the need to memorize several of them is not a necessity.
As for the mashing, well that seems like all too viable an option in this game, because stuff gets pretty hectic when four characters are in close proximity to each other and, unlike Smash Bros., people do not fly away when hit by moves in a combo, so they stay stuck in a same group and the more people you hit, the more AP you gain. Heck, sometimes it was even difficult to keep track of where I was, but thankfully that barely happens.
Another issue with the super meter system is that since the only way of gaining points is based around limited resources that are only gained after a certain period of time, the game can be immensely frustrating and things such as comebacks are nearly impossible in the three minute free-for-all mode that is the only accessible mode in the demo. If you miss a super or get knocked out of one you were about to perform, you lose the AP you had collected for it and having to gain all of it back again just to score a kill feels a bit more like a hassle than it should. A player's score is not indicated before a match ends in the beta mode, however knowing which player is in the lead is usually not a difficult thing to do and when there is little time left in a match and you find yourself left with practically no AP to pull off any supers while being behind in the scoreboard, you might as well just give up because there is literally nothing you could do to change the situation.
My view might change on the combat mechanics after I spend more time with the beta, but for now it's not impressing me too much. The issues I have with it could be different based on other modes such as 1v1 (which the game doesn't seem suited towards at all), stock mode or something, but all I have to judge All-Stars on right now is the 3-minute, FFA mode of the beta. I'll definitely be playing more of it before the beta expires on October 30th and I'll see if my opinions change.
*Note: I played the Vita version for a couple of hours. It's pretty much exactly the same as the PS3 version, so not much to say about it other than the scale is smaller so things are slightly more difficult to keep track of and that tapping the screen to grab an item doesn't seem intuitive.