Battle Royale. 20 years ago, a beloved, disturbing film. Today, a heavily saturated genre of video games. Players Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG) opened the floodgates for the popularity boom and Fortnite skyrocketed off of that, raking in an estimated $203 million as of May 2019. Some titles in this vein make a splash — see Apex Legends from EA Games — but hardly any indie title Battle Royale games stand out. And then there’s Super Animal Royale.
I played Fortnite for abooout 10 minutes before deciding I wasn’t interested. I played more than my set aside hour of Super Animal Royale and paid a one-time price for the full early access game. Now this might sound like an oxymoron, but hear me out: it’s a sleek, silly little Battle Royale that doesn’t feel like a trend-chaser, but a fun idea that’s been well executed thus far.
As an early access title, that leaves room for a lot of growth in the right ways, something rarely seen in Steam’s budding indie sector. There’s only one real mode to the game, but you have a choice of multiplayer solo or linking up with three friends to play. The matches can be up to 64 players at once, slowly being picked off until one animal reigns supreme. Even minimal concepts like this can fall apart under a bit of scrutiny, but that hasn’t been the experience here.
I’m going to take aim at the elephant in the room wearing a t-shirt here: microtransactions. Like it or not, they’re a tool in a developer’s arsenal to fund the project and monetize free-to-play games. I, like many, don’t believe microtransactions belong in games for which you’ve already paid (such as your average AAA video game). Here’s what I like about Super Animal Royale: it’s a player versus player system, so cosmetic items and different types of animals are desirable. Everyone wants to individualize!
While Fortnite, a free-to-play game, requires payment to access content and unlock skins (same with Overwatch), this adorable death match doesn’t have ANY payment plans. The idea is that, as you play matches, you find new weapon skins and clothing items, plus earn DNA points to unlock different species of various animals. Super Animal Royale costs $12.99 up front, but you don’t necessarily have to make additional purchases on top of that. A founder’s edition typically costs just under $26, which includes 10 cosmetic items, an orange username denoting your founder status, and the full game soundtrack by Jake Butineau.
Though this type of game tends to be difficult for me, I’ve played only the standard edition and have managed to unlock some cute cosmetics and weapon recolors.
Plus, the developers often tweak the game to make quality of life improvements and drop new content! Little things like allowing presets for different species or clothing combinations are steadily introduced and announced on social media regularly.
The Year of the Super Rat has begun! 🏮
Collect Lunar New Year cosmetics, save your favorite Super Animals with the new preset system, and share ammo with your squadmates using the upgraded inventory UI.
— Super Animal Royale (@AnimalRoyale) January 23, 2020
New items and skins are always being introduced, and on top of everything, the game’s Twitter is very engaging. This truly feels like an experience being made for enjoyment of play instead of using psychological manipulation to “turn players into payers.” It’s also super easy to jump into! As mentioned, I’m out of my element in Battle Royale, but I’ve survived until I was just one of three players left, which is surprisingly gratifying! Plus, the item drop rate is pretty forgiving, even when you’re eliminated really early on.
Controls are a liiiittle lethargic, but the lack of high speed action is made up for with scavenging for resources and hiding in post-apocalyptic swamps, shopping centers, forests, and more. It would be more nerve-wracking if it weren’t so cute, sneaking around like a little fox James Bond!
The community around this game seems small, but friendly and open. The waiting room usually devolves into a little dance party and amusing shenanigans. I asked what users thought of the game thus far in between sessions. Text bubbles disappear too quickly for screencaps sometimes, but the general consensus was that Super Animal Royale is easy to jump into, simple yet fun, and easy to spend hours playing. I personally found the gameplay loop satisfying enough to spent nearly two hours on it my first time, despite never really breaking past the last five players left alive. It’s an adorable, inviting death match. Wait times are minimal and it’s just good, simple fun, no nonsense or soft sells. The developers know how to handle an early access game and it has impressive polish and UI design for something still technically in beta form.
Overall, Super Animal Royale is worth a shot, even if you aren’t a big fan of Battle Royale!