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.

SOTG: Checking in on Old Friends

For Memorial Day weekend I ended up going to visit my Mother and as she lives in the same town as my best friend, I ended up paying him a visit as well. One game that we’ve been playing together for a very long time is Awesomenauts, but through the years we’ve picked up quite a few different titles that we’ve spent some time on. In that same vein, we’ve been picking up some of our old favorites, and I thought I’d use this fuel for a new round-up post. As I’ve only mentioned Awesomenauts to this point, I suppose that’s a good place to start.

Regular readers will probably recall my history with this game, but to briefly recap, I received the game for free via Playstation Plus when it first released in 2012. I played it with my friend and he loved it, picking up a copy for his Xbox 360. We’d play splitscreen when at each other’s houses, and eventually he got a PS3 and we’d play together online. I picked up the Steam version of the game at one point because I was frustrated that a bunch of new characters and features we being added to the game on PC and not the platform that it started on. Later, the game would get expansions and a new version called Awesomenauts Assemble was released for PS4. My friend and I came back to the game at this point, and though I already owned the expansions on PC, I had to pick them up again via a bundle purchase on Playstation. This was fine as I enjoyed the game and wanted to support it, but a little more frustration came my way when I learned that the title went Free 2 Play earlier this year on PC, and the console version has not followed suit. When we picked up to play this past weekend, there were a few more characters released and I had to drop $6 to get them. Apparently with the PC version being free to play means that there is an in-game currency that allows you to buy individual characters, while there are bundles to buy them all along with skins for real money. I suppose that makes it the same sort of deal but I think the virtual currency should make it’s way to console as well… going free to play will likely bring in new blood though I haven’t had trouble finding games anyway. Here’s the new additions since I last played (around the time Overdrive released).

I’ve managed to play a handful of games with some of the new characters and they seem about on par with what you’d come to expect from this 2D MOBA.

I’m not disappointed with the game all that much. Owning it on two platforms gives me options but honestly I play the game because my best friend loves it and we’ve put a lot of time in.

You remember H1Z1? Yeah I talked about it way back when, I was there when it first came out, playing what would later become Just Survive. I remember when they added the Battle Royale mode. It was fun and something new and different, but now BR clones are a dime a dozen and the most popular ones are PUBG and Fortnite. By the time H1Z1 was split into King of the Kill and Just Survive I had already uninstalled the game, and I haven’t really kept up except for hearing that JS is about dead and Battle Royale was coming to PS4. I never played PUBG but it seems like the same sort of shit, and Fortnite’s BR mode is garbage. It’s too light and kiddie for my tastes, and though I’m sure PUBG is great I don’t want to pay to play it. Enter the H1Z1 PS4 Beta. It’s free to play and it’s the same Battle Royale that I remember, but then it’s been clearly worked on for a long time. Much has changed to this point, but the game looks and plays pretty much the same as I remember.

I think if I am in the mode for some Battle Royale, this is the one I’d play just because I don’t have to think much and I don’t have to pay for it. So win/win.

The other Hi-Rez title that I used to play quite a bit has seen some changes as well. Paladins got a bad rep in recent months by trying to do some cash grabbing, but it appears that the UI and the character customization has changed a bit too. The card system isn’t anything like I remember, having set cards for champions and only the ability to raise points in your build which in turn makes the card’s rarity change. It’s a dumbed down version from what existed before, but perhaps the streamlining was good for newcomers.

That’s really my only complaint. It looks great and still runs perfectly. I still have the game down pretty good as well, as my score below will attest. There are a handful of new champions but I’m not sure about map changes. There are some different modes that I don’t recall, but as I said there have been many changes in the year or so since I last played. One thing that stuck out was the season pass sort of thing that the company does with Smite, where you have to essentially buy in to receive rewards for playing, but the rewards aren’t exactly guaranteed unless you grind out some games. So yeah, a bit cash grabby, but I’m not going to give it to them.

Still a fun shooter in short bursts.

The granddaddy of Hi-Rez titles for me, and it’s been a year since I played this one as well. That’s one thing, playing MMOs or persistent account games like MOBAs/CCGs/BRs is that you have to spend a lot of time to keep up with the patch to patch changes, new characters, shifting metas, etc. I was shocked to see how much just the UI has changed in a year:

I didn’t take much in the way of screen shots, but my bff and I played a few rounds the other night and won them all. Between this game and Paladins I also had a shit ton of rewards given to me when I logged in, and the only reason I can think of is because I’ve played other Hi-Rez games in the meantime? I have been playing Hand of the Gods: Smite Tactics and even recently tried out Paladins Strike. I assume some cross promotion exists, and maybe there’s even some sort of welcome back rewards, I’m not sure but I had 100s of notifications between the two games. I’m not complaining by any means but it was a nice surprise. I’m looking forward to playing more of these games, as the itch still hasn’t been scratched.

Finally, I’ve been getting in some time with MTGA as well. Still not doing great at it though. My mind has been so wrapped up in EDH for the past year and a half that I don’t really look at other formats all that much. Since I’m going to GP Vegas during the middle of this month, much of the events going on are drafts. I have never drafted in MTG. As such, it seemed like a good time to try it out, as this past weekend there were Dominaria drafts going on. So I paid my entry fee and got down to business. Things did not go well.

I didn’t get a single win, but I did learn a lot about the format. Sealed and Constructed are so much different than a draft, and in this case I ended up building a trash BR deck that almost won me a single game before the draft was over. I know now what I should have been focusing on, and I might do another draft or two before the Vegas trip, but as of now I’m still not that big on this type of Magic. I know that the event will have a lot of drafting going on so I’m sure I’ll participate in a couple, but I also don’t want to spend a ton over the weekend so I’m limiting myself. I think I might end up doing Battlebond again, but I’m really hoping to just play some EDH with random people from around the country. Speaking of, if you’re a regular and happen to be going to Vegas that weekend, drop me a message and maybe we can meet up!

That’s all for this time.

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.

State of the Game: Let’s Call Them RDA’s

It’s been a minute since I pulled out a round up post, so I thought I’d do that this fine holiday. The last time I checked in I was finishing up Destiny and Resident Evil VII, and it’s been quite some time since I wrote those games off to move onto something new. My recent posting history has been fairly balanced between pieces on individual games, the Humble Monthly write ups, and my MTG series, but I still manage to play other games and not really talk about them. Not long ago, I posted a poll to see which “time intensive” game I’d play next. I have so many, and there were several other options not presented, but these were ones that had been in my library for a while but not completed:

As you can see, The Witcher 3 took the top spot in the poll. I was cool with this, because it’s been a game I’ve been wanting to give a proper try. Those of you who participated in the poll are probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned playing it yet, so I thought this was a good time to explain. I bought the game on my PS4 because it happened to be on sale with the expansions. I figured I’d want to be able to get the full experience, so it was a no-brainer purchase. So many people raved about what a great game it is, but despite a couple tries at it, I just don’t concur. It seems interesting enough, it runs well enough, but it just feels so wonky. I don’t like the combat, I don’t like Gwent, I really don’t like anything that I saw. I honestly believed that Fallout 4 was the better open world RPG that year, and I still feel that way a couple of years later. So I uninstalled and tried not to think about the wasted money. I feel like I’m going to have a much better time with either FFXV or ME3, both of which I want to dive into soon. I haven’t put aside the time to devote to either just yet, having dipped my toes into each and liking what I saw. They just control so much better than the Witcher. This isn’t the first time a shitty control scheme turned me off of a series. I’m hoping that Red Dead Redemption 2 fixes the ailment.

So what have I been playing? I’m still doing my rounds with a multitude of lobby based games, including SMITE, Paladins, Battle Islands Commanders, Minion Masters and Clash Royale — the latter 3 being part of an emerging genre I’m going to start calling RDAs, or “Real-Time Duel Arenas.” You can go ahead and spread that around. I’ve also played a bit of a game that was given out for free during Humble Bundle’s Spring Sale called Dungeons II which I have rather enjoyed. Lastly, I’ve picked up a couple more free to play games on the console to play with my best friend, as PS4 is our only way to play and he’s on a tight budget these days, so free to play is the way to go. Those titles are Marvel Heroes Omega and Skyforge — two games I’ve mentioned here on the blog before, but I was playing them on PC, and solo. Which is probably why I never got all that far. Still, I have found that I enjoy them and they feel great on the console!

SMITE has been more of the same, though I’m not playing it as regularly the past couple of weeks due to spreading my time around elsewhere. I’m nearing 60 Gods mastered and have just been plugging away at quests when I get them. It’s starting to get to the point that I don’t crave playing it as much as I used to, and that’s what happened with League of Legends a couple of months before I started up with SMITE (which has been over a year now, by the way). I’ll keep it around and play it often enough but less often than before. Paladins has been keeping my interest and breaking up the monotony of having only one game to play with your buddy. SMITE is great, but playing the same game day in and day out (on the days you do get together) gets old. I think we’ve retired Awesomenauts too, but Paladins has seen steady play.

RDA’s have started to become a thing, and I’ve covered them here with increasing frequency. I’m sure just like with MOBAs before them there will be a lot of copies and a lack of innovation for a time until the few remain and another new sub-genre emerges. Still, I have been becoming more invested in this style of game, mainly because of the dueling nature of it. In MOBAs or other team-based games you have to worry about yourself, but also try to work with your team to completed objectives. In these dueling games, you only have to worry about the opponent you are facing. Bite sized rounds also means more time to play multiples, and though some rely on time-locks to keep you from playing non-stop you can find those that don’t have these limitations. Obviously I started with Clash Royale, which I think just might be the originators of the concept (correct me if I’m wrong), so let’s check in there first:

I’ve finally gotten over the hump and have solidified my place in Arena 9. Like other choke points before it, I was teetering on the verge of staying in Arena 9 and dropping back down to Arena 8. I kept tweaking my decks trying new strategies and listening to what guides and others had to say, which ended up hurting me for a while. Finally, I picked my style of deck and put something together that I can say works pretty well most of the time. Well enough that I got over that hump and am currently sitting at my highest ever trophy total. I still don’t have all of the cards yet, as new ones keep being added in, and the meta shifts quite a bit between the Arenas. This is what my deck is looking like at this point:

I like the “Hog Cycling” style of deck, where the majority of the spells are cheap and your main win condition is using Hog Riders often. I was trying to avoid using E-barbs because people tend to complain about them pretty loudly, but they are a good form of defense and tend to help with counter-pushing. I just recently added in the Log as I finally pulled one from a chest, and am currently working on leveling my Dart Goblin to level 7 so that I can use it to replace the archers, as I think for the elixir cost it will actually benefit the deck. I know trading out Arrows for the Log did. I’m not getting 3 crown wins every time with this deck, but it has been winning pretty consistently, even against some of the hard to counter Golem and Royal Giant decks out there.

In Minion Masters, I have settled on this deck, and this Master. I haven’t been playing it super regularly, but when I do I’ve enjoyed it. The Early Access is plugging away and keeps being enhanced. I’m still not as committed to this because it’s not in full release, but I look forward to that day. Not having to upgrade cards and not having a time limit on rounds makes this game play differently and I enjoy the nuance. Wonder how far they will go with things before release?

Dungeons II is a modern version of Dungeon Keeper. It plays nearly identically, save for the little intro that played more like a traditional RTS (perhaps other bits of the game will as well) but the first couple of levels felt so similar to Dungeon Keeper, but in the best way possible. If you enjoyed that game, you’ll enjoy this one. Hope you got your free copy! There isn’t much else to say there. Here’s pictures instead:

I also picked up a copy of the newly released game Killers & Thieves, which is from the same company as The Banner Saga. Not sure if I mentioned it before, but I did back The Banner Saga 3 on Kickstarter a few months back, as I own and have completed the first two games and really enjoyed them. It basically just got me a pre-order copy of the game. Anyway, K&T is made by one of the developers from Stoic, who was coding this game as a side project and almost completely alone. It’s got that great hand-drawn art style, some interesting ideas behind it, but as many people will mention in the reviews, there are some basic settings and tutorials that are not there yet (but are supposed to be patched in soon). Turns out that the reviews are right, and though I don’t mind a bit of a learning curve, I didn’t get to far into the game without feeling like I’d rather wait for it to be patched a time or two before I get further. At the end of the day, it’s a Thieves Guild management sim, and it seems to do that fairly well. The heist bits were entertaining, but a bit frustrating. I honestly think it will benefit from some patches, and I’m hopefully that it turns out well, but at this point I wouldn’t outright recommend it.

Lastly, I picked up both Marvel Heroes Omega (the newest rebranding of the popular MMO-lite from Gazillion) and Skyforge for PS4, as I was looking for something new to play with my friend. He’s not terrible at the games that we already play, but sometimes the competitive nature of those games get on our nerves. There are times when it’s nice to play some co-op too, so I wanted some titles we could check out together, and because I was already familiar with these it seemed like a good idea. MHO just went into open beta so anyone with a PS4 can jump in right now. Founder’s packs are still available and usually come with a hero or heroes and skins. They aren’t too over priced, and you do get enough in-game currency to open up at least one character from the get-go. Apparently it’s not too much of a grind to open up others, but otherwise it’s the same exact game you already know. Apparently couch co-op is also available, so that’s pretty cool. It runs well and the controls are intuitive. I think we’ll be putting some time into it.

Skyforge hasn’t been played as much. We were trying to get through the tutorial bits today so that we could finally group up, but it takes some time and he’s not exactly an experienced MMO player, so I’m sure the systems seem a bit complex to him. Once we do get a chance to play I think we might have a good time with it too. They both feel oddly more at home on console, just like SMITE and Paladins (for me, that is).

I think that’s it for this round, nearly 2k words later. Adios.

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.