Thoughts on Realm Royale

The Battle Royal genre has been picking up steam for the last couple of years, joining the likes of MOBAs, CCGs, and Survival Sandboxes as flavors of the week. Every developer wants to get a cut of the pie, so they’ll create their version of the genre in question with mixed results. Being successful in a budding genre tends to depend on a few factors, timing being paramount. Developer clout isn’t necessarily going to mean much. Just being the first to market with a title doesn’t mean anything, as most people can attest to witnessing — if you jumped in during an early version of a new genre it’s likely one of its competitors ended up being more successful, building on core elements and expanding features. I’ve covered plenty of these genres over the years, and have been playing Battle Royale games since the first — H1Z1. Clearly that entry isn’t the most successful version of the Battle Royale, as Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnight’s Battle Royale have both seen more and longer lasting success. I have not played the former, but the latter didn’t appeal to me with it’s more juvenile design elements and the building mechanics felt unnecessary. Another new challenger has entered the ring, and being from a developer that I have a decent relationship with I had to try it out for myself.

Enter Realm Royale, Hi-Rez Studios’ addition to the Battle Royale genre. The game fits into the genre nicely, providing the same sort of experience you’ve come to expect, when you boil it down. You’ll still queue up for a game, enter a match, drop onto the map and try to be the last person standing — nothing has changed here. So why play Realm Royale over the other titles out there? Well, if you have played any of Hi-Rez’s games and have enjoyed them, you may be pleased to know that this is a spin-off title of one of their other games, Paladins. Using the same sort of graphic engine, similar gameplay with classes and skills, you’ll feel right at home if you’ve enjoyed their other titles in the past.

The game has launched its Alpha in Steam Early Access for now, but I assume a Playstation version of the game will pop up when the game gets to Beta (the rest of their titles have followed this pattern). It’s free to play as of now, and no sort of RMT has been added, but I’m sure that’s coming. It’s likely there will be skins and such that will appear in a virtual store. When the game hit Steam it had a duo and party queue but they have recently added a solo queue which allows you to play on your own. Five classes exist now and sort of match up with their Paladins counterparts. Each has unique skills that they bring to the table, so its imaginable that a party could queue up in a fairly balanced fashion. Once you’ve selected your class you’ll be able to run about a little lobby area and wait until the Zeppelin deploys to take you to the main island.

The map seems comparably sized to other BR games I’ve played. The “fog” will converge on a circular point on the map and you get to choose when to jump out and start you run.

Once on the ground you’ll want to head towards buildings that will contain loot. Instead of just picking up weapons of varying qualities, you’ll also pick up the skills specific to your class that will help you survive. Mages get fireballs while Assassins get smokescreens and the variety is a nice touch. I wouldn’t mind seeing a card system implemented ala Paladins where you could customize those skills further, but perhaps that would be limited to an account level? Could give an unfair advantage so perhaps that’s not the best move. A couple of things that set Realm Royale apart from the competition are mounts (though H1Z1 has vehicles you can find) that can be summoned at will, and the fact that when you die you’re not immediately dead. You’ll turn into a chicken and run around trying to survive for 30 seconds, at which point you will respawn as your human self to continue the fight. It’s a nice touch and rewards players for being more aggressive. Another nice touch is the ability to equip armor that makes you harder to kill. You can scrap items in the world for shards, and there are forges scattered around where you can use the shards to get ultimate abilities or weapons. The only problem here is needing to guard your forge for 60 seconds while a beacon shows everyone in the area that you are crafting something. I was able to make my ultimate weapon during my solo run and it was pretty sweet!

You’ll eventually die though, and during the few runs I have played so far, I managed to finish 20th when I duo queued and 10th during my solo run. I’m sure given enough rounds I’d be able to win one, and I haven’t felt that way during my time spent elsewhere. Overall I think Realm Royale sets itself apart from the competition pretty well, and given their player bases with their other titles I’m sure they will be able to sustain yet another session based game in their portfolio. I’d give it a whirl if other BR titles haven’t done it for you, or if you haven’t tried one because they’re all too similar. My only complaint to this point is that my 21:9 resolution isn’t available yet, but I’m sure that will come soon. Excuse all the black in the screenshots, thanks.

Thoughts on Paladins Strike

It’s been a while since I gave a new mobile title a whirl, and Paladins Strike was a game I pre-registered for so that I could check it out when it was available. As regular readers will know, I’m a fan of much of what the developers Hi-Rez Studios have created in the past, from the Smite franchise to Paladins, which this mobile title is based on. Smite Tactics is still a thing too, though I understand why people aren’t too keen on the company due to some things that happened with Tribes, etc. I wasn’t so thrilled myself about some of the monetization that was going on that Isey covered so well earlier this year. Honestly I hadn’t played it for a couple months before he had talked about this stuff and haven’t played it since then. At least they went back on the whole thing, and I’ve actually given some thought to playing it more often again, been in the mood to revisit some old titles I spent a lot of time on… things like League of Legends, Awesomenauts (actually played that one a little over the weekend) and Smite. Anyway, let’s get back to the main event!

Paladins Strike showed up on my Google Play store at some point a few months back and I ended up hitting the preregister button. I had forgotten all about it until I was notified that it was ready for download. I’ve had it installed for a bit but finally found the time this weekend to check it out and I was fairly impressed! The game plunks you down into a tutorial mode, and explains the above control scheme to you. I was wondering how they would translate the gameplay of a team based shooter to a mobile platform, but it seems to work well enough despite utilizing the touch screen. You’ll move your champion with one thumb and aim/shoot with the other. Extra buttons are present to represent the abilities of characters that you’ll already know if you played the full Paladins game.

As you can see from the above screens, this looks more like a traditional MOBA and not a first person shooter. Despite being set up in a different fashion, the rest of the game is nearly identical to Paladins. The characters are the same and have the same abilities, and though the maps aren’t the same, they do feature capture points and payloads to push, just like in the original game.

The menus and interface are spot on in look and feel compared to the original Paladins. There is a cheeky monetization system that might lure some folks in… some free spins for chests and things await, and you can of course pay real money to buy skins and things. I’ve been known to do these things in the past but I don’t see myself spending money on this one. It’s an interesting title, but not money worthy at this point.

I played a round after the tutorial and felt like the game ran pretty smoothly over Wi-Fi. I didn’t test on pure phone signal, but I assume you wouldn’t want to play it under those conditions due to lag. I felt like most people didn’t really try to dodge or move around much, our enemies just funneled into our team and were slaughtered over and over again. I can see where the game could be fairly competitive but hardware lag is probably a thing on some phones. It was fine for me but it’s always hard to say with all the hardware that’s out there. I’d check it out if you’re looking for something a little more involved on your phone, but otherwise you’re probably better off playing on PC or a console.

Thoughts on the SMITE Tactics Beta

Hi-Rez studios got its start over a decade ago. Many of you will recall a game called Global Agenda, and might even remember their reboot of the Tribes game, Tribes Ascend. It’s doubtful any of you played or cared about the above titles, neither did I. But along came the game that changed my mind about this company and their product: SMITE. Those who have followed my history with the MOBA genre in particular will know that I try most but only really dug into a couple. My obsession with League of Legends has given way to a love for SMITE, and I’ve played it seriously for about a year now. Hi-Rez hooked me with this game, but suddenly they started announcing new titles, and my interest was piqued again. Soon I was playing Paladins, and looking forward to the company’s expansion of the SMITE universe with their Tactics and Rivals games. The latter sounded like it was going to be a mobile title (of which they have one already called Jetpack Fighter), but it seems that development of that particular game has been put on hold. Tactics however, has been advanced to the closed beta stage, and I happened to receive an invite.

SMITE Tactics is a title that will appeal to those of you who like CCGs and strategy RPGs. If you’ve ever played the game Duelyst, you’ll understand the concept quite well. I didn’t think about it til right this instant, but it is also identical to Shardbound, which I wrote about last week. It’s card based. You have a deck, you have a leader the deck is based around. It’s true to SMITE and its own particular brand of lore, and many of the iconic Gods are present. The cash shop seems fair, the currencies are familiar. It’s something you’ll completely understand if you’ve played any of these types of games, but will appeal to you on another level if you already happen to enjoy the SMITE world. If you are unfamiliar with SMITE or this style of game, here’s a video of a couple rounds of my gameplay:

Overall I enjoy this game and Shardbound more than I did Duelyst, but to be fair I didn’t give the latter much of a chance. I enjoyed what I saw but I like the art direction and feel of the other two titles. If you’re interested, I’m sure open beta is around the corner, and it will likely be a Free to Play title upon release. It’s only available on PC, but if their track record is any indicator, it will likely end up on consoles as well.

Impressions: Paladins PS4 Beta

We heard about the newest title released by Hi-Rez Studios a while back. It was announced somewhere around the time that Overwatch and Battleborn were garnering headlines and instantly all three were compared to each other. People said a new genre was being born. Hero-Shooter was tossed around, and comparisons were drawn to MOBAs and team based shooters like Team Fortress or insert-title-of-one-similar-design-feature-that-can-compare-to-this-game-here. Having played all three titles, and not being able to think of any others that really compare, I’d still say that this game differentiates itself from the other two, just as they differentiate themselves from other titles they have been compared to.

Paladins is a team based shooter with Champions that have differing abilities and obvious strengths and weaknesses. It’s basically a MOBA. It’s basically Counter-Strike. It’s basically Team Fortress. It’s basically none of these. Depending on the game mode, objectives change. This is similar to all of the above. Each Champion has a different role. Flankers are like Assassins. Front Line are tanks. Damage is… hmm.. yep. Damage. And Support is, yeah you guessed it. This means team play is emphasized, and this is similar to all of the above as well. When it comes down to it, you can easily describe all of the games I’ve talked about so far, and you’d find similarities between them all. This doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy them all, and doesn’t mean they really need to be compared or that one is better than the other. But of all the games I’ve played that fall into this FPSMOBALITEWTFBBQ category, this is my favorite.

I’m not sure if it’s the art direction, because it’s cartoonish just like Overwatch, TF2, and Battleborn, but I’m attracted to it. The game play between them all is very similar, down to having plays of the game and shit like that, but I feel like the characters are cooler and have better abilities than Overwatch. Honestly being a buy to play title killed Overwatch for me. It just wasn’t worth the asking price. Nor was Battleborn, despite loving the shit out of Gearbox and their work, I couldn’t justify the cost when it really wasn’t all that fun to play. Paladins hits a sweet spot though, having a UI and systems that I’m already familiar with having played SMITE for a year now. The systems work just like they do in SMITE — Mastery is there, chests, the store currencies, it’s all so familiar that it clicked right away. Where things are different, is in the customization options. Not only can you make builds for your Champions, but there are skins for everything so you can really deck yourself out without having to use pre-made outfits. Builds are made with cards, which you can craft or earn via chests. Chest unlocks have come at a fairly rapid clip as well, so it feels more rewarding than SMITE did initially. These cards affect your Champions abilities in various ways, so you can really tweak your experience. At the end of the day though, this is still a shooter at heart — though it still touches on all the things I love about competitive PvP games from over the years. It’s different enough from SMITE or LoL for me to play it on the regular as well.

Paladins will be a Free to Play title, and judging by the already established business model it is very fair. Buying stuff with in-game currency is still possible, and if you feel like throwing some money at them you’ll be handsomely rewarded. Currently the game is in beta on PS4, but is also available on PC in full release, and Founder Packs are on sale for $15 on both platforms ($12 if you have PSPlus). You can only play in the beta on PS4 if you’ve bought in, but that also comes with all of the available characters forever. A new one has already been added since the beta went live, and if SMITE is an indicator, there will be new Champions added regularly. So far I’ve only played a little bit but I already feel right at home. I recorded my first PvP match to share with y’all, take a look:

I’m sure I’ll have more to report about the game as time goes on. If you happen to join in the fray on PS4, throw me a friend request: Built4Sin82.

Progress Report: SMITE

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about my progress in SMITE. It’s worth noting that the game recently celebrated its 3rd birthday, which means a celebration of sorts. Last I talked about the game, I mentioned having played through the Odyssey quest line and that was a fun way to spend a couple of months with plenty of quests and a bunch of cool rewards. Another co-op mode was added shortly thereafter, but as with the last one it rotated out of the queue fairly quickly. There was a special event for when the Celtic Pantheon was added to the game, and with that patch there was a new God “The Morrigan” and some new quests that netted more cool shit. This year the SMITE Fantasy League was free for all in that you earn Fantasy Points for playing rounds of the game. Like prior years you still get added goodies if you buy into it, along with the ability to vote on SMITE Pro League games earning you more Fantasy Points. Throughout the season you’ll gain points to gain levels which coincide with more rewards in a similar fashion to the way the Odyssey quests worked.

Victory — as in pay the man.

Another new Celtic God was just added with the latest patch, but the patch prior also opened up a new section of the game called “Adventures.” Again, for a small donation, you’ll be able to open up some exclusive items, and the new game mode is similar to capture the flag. I’m sure this one will rotate out as well. I think that about covers additions to the game and what I’ve been participating in.

I don’t play quite as much as I was in months prior, but I still manage to play a few games each week, usually with friends. I’ve still managed to play on some of the double or triple XP weekends, where you earn 2 or 3x everything (worshippers, favor, xp — though I’m maxed at this point) so that has helped with the progress. Just this evening I managed to get my 50th God to Mastery level 1, and that netted me a trophy I’ve been chasing for a while:

50 Gods Mastered!

There are a few other trophies left for me to earn for the game but the Platinum is finally within reach, a year later. I just need to Master twenty more Gods for the God Mastery 7 trophy, and then level one God to Mastery 10. I believe the last couple of trophies I need are for playing Conquest and the hardest of them all — to kill the entire enemy team with a single ability. I don’t understand how that one is a Bronze trophy… I just don’t see it happening. But I’ve managed all of the other feats, so I’m sure I’ll get it done eventually. The other one I managed to check off the list recently was for destroying 50 towers:

Take that, tower!

I’m glad that I’ve decided to stick with the game. It has been a fun experience, a great way to unwind after a long day and I absolutely love having at least one competitive PvP game in my rotation. Aside from the slew of games I’m already playing (or attempting to play) it’s nice to have that one standby that always entertains. Having the lengthy progression is a nice bonus that keeps me going, and though I’ve thrown some money at the game I’ve always felt like it’s been worth it. I felt the same way about League of Legends for years, but I think it’s safe to say that this one has taken over as my main game to play. For the time being I’m sure. I’m also sure that I’ll play League again, this isn’t the first time I took a long break from it. I’m also sure another game will come along to vie for my competitive whims too… and may have already done so. See my next post for more on that.