The Battle Royale genre is on the cusp of explosion. With Fortnite and PLAYERUNKOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG) in top spots on most streaming platforms, and making money hand over fist, everyone is taking a run at the genre. We’ve seen already existing franchises announcing the standard 100-player BR modes. There has even been a glut of asset-flipped copies of PUBG looking to cash in. Battlelands Royale tries to set itself apart by being built from the ground up as a mobile-friendly game that takes teachings of all the other games and evolves on them for mobile play.
Battlelands works to keep games quick, lasting a maximum of about 5 minutes. It does this by dropping player countdown to a maximum of 30 per match, and the circle starts closing quickly. With a smaller map size, this means fights come quick and frantic. The game itself also drops the third-person over-the-shoulder perspective for a twin-stick shooter isometric view. The left side of the screen is for movement, and the right side is to aim. Your gun will auto-fire at it’s fire-rate when you are aiming in a direction.
This also plays a little with the isometric view by offering visibility limitations for areas covered in grass. You can become invisible until you either exit the grass or someone comes close enough to you in the grass. This makes ambushes very satisfying to set up, and quick to go wrong. There have been a number of times I’ve thought I had the drop on someone only to have another person sneak up behind me in the grass and take me out before I sprung my trap.
The game reduces the number of guns to a sniper, shotgun, revolver, and auto rifle, giving every gun the same ammo pick-up icon so you never have to sit around managing an inventory of ammo. Each weapon handles different and fits different playstyles. You can even find a rocket launcher if you manage to snag a supply-drop during the match.
You will find med-kit, armor, ammo, and weapon pickups scattered around the map. Standing in them fills up a progress ring around the item and when the progress ring is full you collect the item. You don’t have an inventory so all items are either collected or left behind. While these rules could seem to limit the game they really work to streamline the experience for fast matches and even faster restarts. Eliminating another player will also cause them to drop a small med-kit so you can keep pushing on fights as people start to fall.
Another consideration for ease of use is the removal of a moving vehicle over the play area to parachute from. Instead, as users are loaded into the game you click a map of the play area to set where you will drop. When the match fills up another 10 seconds of prep time roll, and then you find yourself jumping into the world and parachuting a short distance before you land at your chosen destination. You can move with the parachute if you see your drop zone is a bit crowded, or simply maneuver to land on a gun to be ready for a fight. It takes the spirit of the mechanic and retrofits it in a smart way for mobile.
Battlelands Royale features a full battle-pass style premium pass with extra cosmetic unlocks for your character. You can unlock new skins, emotes, and parachute styles. Emotes play on victory screens and when you eliminate someone, making sure you don’t have to be vulnerable to style on someone after taking them out. The game has a very cartoony aesthetic similar, but different, from Fortnite. I appreciate that it tries to come up with its own style in a genre that is increasingly filled with asset-swapped clones.
The one place this game gets a little samey is with its menu design and typestyle. It couldn’t be any more Fortnite than when you are browsing the menus and seeing the Fortnite font used for everything. It wears its influences on its sleeve, but for a genre that seems to be constant iterations on the stuff that already worked for someone else, this game seems to do enough to make itself its own game. The gameplay feels new and unique, while the menus, emotes, and the font is so Fortnite it hurts.
All in all this game is a fantastic example of how to make a battle royale feel unique and different on mobile in a world where it could simply have asset-flipped Fortnite and called it a day to try and rake in some money. The controls handle well, the gameplay is fun and frantic, and match times stay low. If you have a hankering for a quick BR game on mobile, this will certainly do the trick.