Showgunners PC Review

A dystopian strategy and exploration game with standard but enjoyable gameplay and a good cast of characters.

By LCLupus, Posted 02 May 2023

There is a long tradition of games that have adopted dystopian settings alongside a tournament-centric narrative. There have been many games in which you play as a participant in a battle to the death, a game in which murdering other people in a big arena of some description is treated as if it’s a sport by everyone involved in the situation in question. This is the case with the today’s game.

Showgunners is a member of that long tradition that includes games as disparately connected as any of the Unreal Tournament games or even something like the oft-forgotten Ratchet and Clank game, Deadlocked. These kinds of dystopian tournament games do not need to be ultra-violent, such as in the second example, or they can be ultra-violent, like the first example. Showgunners is definitely part of that former category of dystopian tournament game.

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The setting is fairly standard in so far as dystopian narratives are concerned. You play as a character who has joined this tournament along with all the other contestants who are trying to win it big in this battle to the death. The basic premise is that you need to make your way through a series of “episodes” while killing all the psychopathic killers that get in your way. The bad guys are unambiguously bad and are even called that because they’re all people who joined the tournament to avoid their death row sentences.

So, the game is depicted as if there is no moral dilemma to gunning these people down in droves. This is because you are on a television show called Homicidal All-Stars. The fans cheer alongside you as you make your way through each of the levels in an attempt to both survive and murder everyone in your path. However, you do more than just murder your way through your enemies, you instead also need to explore the environment, manage the way you’re perceived by fans, and simply try to survive and get better loot so you can better survive.

Before we get to a proper look at the gameplay in question, it is worth noting that while the game may feel as if could use a similar random generation system to produce level after level, that is not the case here. Every level in Showgunners is entirely uniquely designed, so you should not expect the kind of replayability that one may expect out of a game of this description. It may feel like similar games at times, but it has a handcrafted central narrative that it wants to tell. So, you won’t get much replayability out of this game aside from replaying on higher difficulties. You can finish everything on your first try.

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This curated experience does mean that it has a carefully plotted campaign though, so if you want a game that has a start and end point, then you should keep reading. However, if you like a turn-based strategy game that can end and won’t offer you all that much for repeat playthroughs, then Showgunners may not be for you. Now that we have these few caveats out of the way, let’s have a look at how the game actually plays.

Showgunners is a blended experience that combines both real-time exploration gameplay and turn-based combat gameplay. Let’s first have a look at the exploration side of things. When you enter a new episode in the game, you need to make your way through the environment that has been presented to you and do your best to stay alive. No one can attack you during the real-time segments, and it will always transition into the turn-based system when fighting, but that does not mean that you’re entirely safe during these segments.

Instead, the real-time exploration segments turn the game into a third-person experience with a very detached camera that hovers quite far from your character. During these segments, you explore the environment while searching for new equipment, more items, cash, experience points, and whatever else you can find. The environments are also very busy so searching through them can take considerable time.

Showgunners, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Strategy, Turn-based Tactics, Turn-Based Combat, Isometric, NoobFeed

The busy nature of the environment also serves as a means of hurting you. You see, you can’t just explore the environment happily without needing to worry about getting hurt, because there are still plenty of ways of getting hurt. The non-combat sections primarily involve your character needing to stay vigilant because of the constant traps that fill the game world. There are spikes that come out of walls, tripwires that explode, and security robots that need to be stealthily avoided because they cannot be attacked.

These traps, despite the lack of immediate combat danger, do offer a good deal of challenge to Showgunners. If you’re not paying attention or if you’re rushing, you’re liable to get yourself hurt even when there are no enemies around. The cluttered environments force you to slow down and keep track of what you can see. Everything wants to kill you, and you need to do your best to avoid them where possible, but you may fall into the trap of running through an area because you want to get through it and immediately run into a very hard-to-see tripwire.

This can slow the game down, but as the turn-based combat arenas are oriented around slow and methodical strategic placement of your characters, the game was never going for a super-fast-paced design. The lack of real-time combat danger in these sections does help them to be a good break between the battle sections, and avoiding traps, solving puzzles, and finding loot without needing to also fight off your enemies, results in this being quite a unique aspect of the design of Showgunners.

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In addition to being a breather from the battle stuff, the real-time exploration segments also allow you to find medical stations and gun kiosks. These allow you to heal and better prepare for the next combat arena. Another aspect of the real-time segments of the game is the fans. Every now and then, you will come across an area where a fan can signal towards you from the sidelines, and you can choose to speak to them.

When you speak to the fans, you can choose how you respond to what they say about you. We will examine how your responses to them affect the gameplay further down the line, but for now, we move on to the combat itself. As has been stated, the combat makes use of a strategic turn-based model in which you can find and use cover, flank your enemies, and so on. It has a similar general style to games like the more recent XCOM games.

You enter each arena of Showgunners on one side of the room and immediately seek cover. From there, you get to choose where you position your characters, how you use their unique abilities, and ultimately murder everyone so that you’re the only one left standing. This is all fairly standard in terms of turn-based strategy games.

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You need to keep track of your ammo as reloading uses action points, you need to ensure that you attack enemies when they can actually be hit as an enemy behind strong cover likely won’t get hit at all, and you need to adjust your strategy based on the types of enemies that appear. There are regular enemies, runner-melee enemies who will dash up to your character behind cover and slice them up, and others that are impervious to ranged attacks until their shields have been depleted. This is the kind of stuff you would come to expect of a game like this and also, thankfully, unlike some of these games, the overwatch option is automatically unlocked from the very beginning.

For those unfamiliar with games of this variety, overwatch is an automatic attack system where you set your character to defensively wait and then attack an enemy when said enemy happens to leave cover. This is all standard fare thus far. This is also the case with the special abilities that your characters may possess, such as special healing abilities, attacking after moving double the space that you would ordinarily be allowed to move, or using an unmissable stunning attack. All of these elements mean that Showgunners is a game for players who enjoy the general gameplay of games like XCOM but want to have a more refined and curated experience.

One of the smaller cinematic elements of this approach entails the use of a kill cam when you murder someone. It zooms in on the characters and shows you killing them in some spectacular fashion. This is also fairly standard practice in many of these games and it also feels somewhat like the VATS killcam from the later Fallout games, like Fallout 3 and Fallout 4.

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Aside from the more cinematic aspects, these battles can also entail special challenges. There could be hazardous materials placed around the environment, a bunch of bombs that need to be disarmed while still fighting off enemies, or there could be certain tasks that can be accomplished for further rewards, like killing all the enemies in a certain way. The final part of Showgunners’ combat that is worth touching on is the use of so-called “plot twists.”

These are moments during which the people in charge of the tournament add additional elements to make things harder for you, such as dropping in a bunch of new explosive barrels that can be more easily targeted for splash damage against both you and your enemies. It adds some complications to the proceedings that can serve as some pretty great challenges along the way.

So, that’s how the combat works in Showgunners. It’s fairly standard but well-executed and it gives you a lot of room to do things your own way. Furthermore, it isn’t as inherently punishing as some games of this description as you don’t lose your people if they die in combat. Instead, they’re simply out for the rest of that particular battle and then they’re back with minimal health after the fact. Although, the harder difficulties do throw a few wrenches in the works with regards to this, so if you want a tougher challenge, there are loads of difficulty settings.

Showgunners, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Strategy, Turn-based Tactics, Turn-Based Combat, Isometric, NoobFeed

As for the general structure of the game, it is split between two main modes: the episodes and the hub world. Each episode is an open-ended environment filled with traps and ambushes. You can do as much exploration as you want as there aren’t time limits imposed on you during any of the real-time segments. You explore, check out possible side objectives, and murder your way to the end. Every environment is designed to be fully explorable and so, as previously stated, you can get everything in one playthrough. It is not randomized. This could turn off some people as they would want a more procedurally generated experience.

This curated design means that the game never has the chance to feel unfair though, and then, between each of these episodes, you return to the hub world where there are no dangers whatsoever. Instead, you get to heal up, get new weapons, chat with a few people, upgrade your character’s skills, and also take on sponsorships.

The sponsorships reveal some aspects of the outside world as this whole tournament is also publicly televised. So, companies come in and offer sponsorships based on your performance and how you have interacted with fans. Some sponsors want a badass who doesn’t play nice, but others want someone personable and funny with the audience. Each of the sponsorships will give you things, like special perks, additional items, and so on.

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The televised nature of the whole experience also means that there is a constant commentator as you plow your way through your enemies. You are one of the Challengers who has come along to try and beat the tournament and you need to slaughter your way through the death row inmates who surround you. It’s quite a grim setting in general, but it doesn’t necessarily have all that much to critique about the world in which it exists.

Some of the most social commentary-oriented segments involve the interaction with fans as Showgunners is presented as if it’s all a big reality TV show. You can even give testimonials to the fans as if it was all a big show. This all makes the game into a pretty good gameplay experience that could have done more with the setting than has been presented. Not every game is aiming for social commentary though, and some just want to have more fun with the whole experience.

In terms of the game’s functioning, Showgunners has very few technical hiccups. There will be the occasional visual stutter, but none of it is bad in any way and it shouldn’t distract. In addition, even if there were a frame rate dip, nothing can hurt you because you’ve now had the need for fast reflexes taken away from you. All combat is turn-based, so even if the frame rate became horrendous for a few seconds, it wouldn’t be an issue.


In general, Showgunners is a good example of turn-based combat set within a dystopian world that will take you, on average, somewhere in the realm of 15-18 hours to complete the full game. This isn’t a bad duration, but for those who want a more procedurally generated experience with a lot of replayability, this may not be the game for you. For everyone else, it’s a fun ride with a grisly world and an enjoyable if fairly standard combat system.

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Good Shepherd Entertainment
Developer(s): Artificer Games Sp. z o.o.
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: Dystopian
Release Date: 2023-05-02

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