PAX West 2023: Hands-on with Foamstars

6 Sep 2023

Square Enix put a great deal of focus on the recently released Final Fantasy XVI at PAX West 2023 and you can check out our coverage of the panel and voice actor interview here on Gamer Escape! However, FFXVI isn’t the only title Square Enix is generating excitement for. With the most stations out of any game available to try at the Square Enix booth, people were lining up to try out Square’s upcoming four-on-four online shooter Foamstars.

Foamstars has been likened to Nintendo’s Splatoon and for good reason, but the game definitely builds on the concept, sometimes literally, as players layer mountains of foam on the field while playing distinctive characters reminiscent of Overwatch 1 & 2‘s vibrant cast.

While playing, I had the opportunity to try out Tonix, Soa, and Agito, each of which make use of different weapon types and special abilities. Every character in Foamstars has the ability to shoot foam from their unique type of gun (or guns) by pressing the Right Trigger on their controller or to slide quickly across foam their team has laid down by holding down the Left Trigger. Beyond that, all of these characters activate their individual special skills through the R1 and L1 bumpers, with a special Super Star Skill on triangle that functions similarly to Overwatch‘s Ultimates.

So let’s talk a bit about those characters and their skillsets!

Tonix places turrets around the field and is described on the Foamstar‘s X account as being a “genius inventor…bursting with curiosity and eager to test her inventions on the battlefield.” She makes use of a burst rifle and allows for great area control with the supplementary fire her inventions dole out. While pure healers or supports aren’t necessarily a role that Foamstars offers due to its offense oriented nature, Tonix is a character that comes closer to that play style for those looking to put down some strategic fire.

While I wasn’t a huge fan of Torbjörn in Overwatch, I’m happy to say that Tonix gives a sense of fun and freedom to the turret playstyle that allows for cover fire without leaving you, or your enemies, as sitting ducks. Dropping down the turret was only one part of the strategy as I raced around the field to support my team’s efforts and ease pressure in situations where the numbers were stacked against us.

Soa is described by Square Enix as “a stylish idol who has mastered the art of acrobatically controlling bubbles.” As her tagline suggests, she’s a highly mobile character that’s able to leap into the air and flip away from enemies, all while laying down return fire from her dual pistols.

I personally found that her daring maneuver’s offered a huge advantage on the field once I started to get a grasp on their usage and timing, which allowed me to avoid attacks while dishing out some damage of my own.

Agito is definitely one for those Overwatch Reaper lovers out there, with a hard hitting shotgun and a psuedo-assassination playstyle that allows you to duck into the foam and swim through it like a shark searching for blood in the water- or suds as it were. He’s described as a “pro-gamer who continues to dominate the world of e-sports and is now looking to prove his skills in other fields too.”

As others rushed around the arena chaotically hurling projectiles, I found a particular enjoyment in using him to prowl the foam-filled landscape they’d created while identifying a target to jump up beneath and ambush.

Foamstars‘ initial lineup has 5 more characters that I wasn’t able to test out in the time given, but that all offer unique abilities and assets to teamplay, so be sure to check out the other promotional videos on the game’s social media!

During our session, we were able to play a game mode known as Smash the Star, a 4v4 brawl where players attempt to be the first to 7 kills on the enemy team, at which time a ‘Star’ player is marked on either side. Don’t worry though, these Stars are given extra buffs and power as they become the focus of every players’ fire. Both teams then have to protect their own Star while trying to take out the opposing Star.

The chaos is a bit overwhelming at first for those less familiar with this kind of game, but after a couple matches, the bright colors, wash of foam, and pulsing music begin to feel more comfortably a part of the experience. While Foamstars undoubtedly draws inspiration from both Splatoon and Overwatch, it does expand the individual scope of either game, most notably through combining the player directed zone control mechanics of Splatoon with the memorable character designs and abilities of Overwatch.

Taking fire from foam leads it to build up on a character’s body and the foam itself can literally be piled on vertically to gain a height advantage on the field or create barriers to protect from enemy fire. This pivotal environmental mechanic interacts in a variety of ways with different characters, such as Agito’s stealthy swim through the foamy waves, which is an interesting change from Splatoon’s more horizontal paint mechanics.

The matches were over in a flash, but my time with Foamstars wasn’t unpleasant in the least! In fact, I had a ton of fun zipping around the arena once the game began to click in my head and objectives became clearer amidst the bubbly bombardment. It seems as though a great deal more polish has been applied to the experience since earlier previews where frame rate and other finishing details were often mentioned to be lacking refinement. All I can say is that during my own playtime, the graphics and movement of character felt incredibly smooth, which is what you want from a PvP gaming experience as fast paced as this!

If you’re a Square Enix fan looking for an upbeat, catchy, and easy to dive into game to play with friends, Foamstars may just be for you. For others looking for more substance, the appeal of the frothy foam may begin to fade as quickly as it melts away on the arena floor. Still, given Splatoon‘s continuing popularity and depending on how Square Enix develops the game and playable character cast further, Foamstars may swoop in just in the nick of time to appeal to those players who have lamented Overwatch 2‘s underwhelming development and are looking for a new colorful shooter to dive into!

Foamstar‘s release is still TBA, with confirmed availability on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.

Images provided by Square Enix. Photos taken by Gamer Escape.