Since the vast success of Fortnite and PUBG, it seems every man and his dog wants a piece of the proverbial Battle Royale pie. Sometimes though, it is possible that a game can seep through the cracks and provide something a little different to the norm, reinvigorating an oversaturated genre once more. After spending many hours battling it out as one of the 100 players to drop from the sky in Realm Royale, I believe I have found the game that provides variety within the Battle Royale genre.
Realm Royale is a free-to-play, 100-player Battle Royale game developed by Hi-Rez Studios, the minds behind hero shooter Paladins, with Realm Royale proving a spinoff to that very mighty shooter and at one stage running as an additional mode within Paladins itself. Now though, it’s a worthy standalone title that has recently entered into its third season (second since arriving on Xbox One) of content, and it’s just begging to be played.
To explain Realm Royale in the enticing way it deserves would be to call it Fortnite without all the building nonsense. Now that statement is likely to have split audiences with Fortnite fans no doubt keen to tell anyone who will listen that building is an important feature and an integral sign that you’ve been able to ‘get gud’. However those of you, like me, who found it a nuisance will discover Realm Royale is the game you’ve been waiting for.
The gameplay itself is a rather simple affair. You choose from one of four unique character classes including the Warrior, Assassin, Mage or Hunter, before heading down into battle from a blimp/pirate ship hybrid starting vehicle – you know, like the plane from PUBG, or the Battle Bus from Fortnite, just in the design of a blimp/pirate ship.
Once you hit the ground it’s time to run, scavenge, hide and shoot your way to survival against 99 other players. Like the many other Battle Royale titles out there, Realm Royale has three modes, with Solo, Duo or Squads available for a single player, two player teams or four player teams respectively. There is a tutorial included to show you how everything works, but whether you decide to give it a go or skip it entirely, you won’t be any better or worse off with Realm Royale proving a doddle to pick up and play.
Back to the ground though, and when you eventually set foot on the battlefield, your task is to hunt through the many buildings littered across the expansive map to find and open treasure chests containing weapons, potions, skills and abilities, giving you the fighting edge you need to earn the coveted Crown Royale.
As the game goes on, players are pushed towards a highlighted area of the map thanks to a shrinking safe area, with any player caught outside the safe area quickly engulfed by the encroaching blue wall known as The Fog, losing health at a rapid rate until they eventually die. Those inside the safe area are left to fight it out until only one remains.
So far, so Battle Royale.
What makes Realm Royale different however are the unique character classes, the Forges that you can utilise around the map, and the fact that being shot and ‘downed’ isn’t the end.
Starting with character classes though and, as mentioned before, Realm Royale has four unique classes. The Warrior is your close quarters combat specialist that prefers melee weapons such as swords or hammers and has class abilities that are geared towards those. The Assassin is more of a long-range expert with rifles and stealth being a speciality. The Mage is the better choice for those who favour magic powered weapons with Staves being the preferred weapons of choice, whilst the Hunter is all about the Bow or the Crossbow.
Now it’s important to note that regardless of character choice, it is entirely possible to play with any weapon you can find, and in no way does the character affect the weapons you find. If you wanted to play as a Warrior but go on a killing spree with a Staff, then there is nothing that is going to stop or impact you. The benefit of using your characters ‘favoured’ weapon however comes from the abilities you earn by levelling up. As you play matches, XP is earned for playing, eliminating and the finishing position. Levelling up will then see you unlock new core abilities – for example at Level 16, the Mage can unlock Strength of Stone which allows the player to deal 300 bonus damage if all 3 shots of a Stone Stave connect – and whilst a Stone Stave can be used by any character class, this particular weapon ability can only be unlocked and used by the Mage. Each character has similar abilities, with unlockables available for Weapons, Movement and in-game skills.
Next up is the Forge, a fantastic gameplay feature, with one usually found at each of the many key landmark locations. Forges are indicated by a golden marker on the map, and once you arrive at one, players can use it to craft a new weapon, a new ability, a perk, some potions, or to revive eliminated squad members should you be playing Duo or Squads.
Doing this however will cost shards and to earn shards, players must destroy other items found in chests. Things constructed in the Forge aren’t cheap either, however should you be crafting an ability or weapon, you are at least guaranteed something of Epic or Legendary quality, which is always a nice bonus should you be heading into the final 20 survivors of any given match.
The Forge isn’t an entirely friendly or helpful feature of each game however as the moment you begin crafting, a timer begins in which you must wait for your item to be made, and in this time any other player can also see that you’re forging, painting a target on your head. The rewards of course are great, but often the risk can be deadly.
The most impressive feature for me however is in the form of the chickens. Chickens may sound like a completely random thing to include in a Battle Royale game, but they are here for a reason and anyone who has already played the previously mentioned Paladins will be well aware of the potential to turn characters into chickens.
In Realm Royale, chickens are taken much more seriously, and should you be ‘downed’ in a match – which is done by losing all of your health – then you’ll turn into a chicken. Being a chicken however is essentially the ‘Last Stand’ of Realm Royale, with players allowed to return to human form with all their equipped weapons and perks should you be able to avoid being eliminated. Get eliminated as a chicken however and its game over, at least if you’re a solo player. For Duos or Squads, it still means elimination, but whilst there are still surviving members on your team a trip to the Forge could see you return should a Resurrection be purchased. Once again, returning to play from a Resurrection will also see all previously equipped perks, abilities and weapons gifted back to you, and after respawning as a chicken, you’ll be required to once more survive the allotted amount of time – usually around 10-15 seconds – before returning to human form and continuing the battle.
This makes for a fantastic competitive edge during the later stages of a game and can even be the turning point in a tight battle.
Another defining feature of Realm Royale is the sprinting, or lack of. In each match, instead of sprinting away from enemy fire, or jumping into a vehicle to race off, players must utilise movement abilities equipped by the character or utilise your mount if you want to move around at anything other than walking pace.
Whilst the game is free-to-play, it’s well worth noting that the Battle Pass is a fantastic way of earning new content that can’t be obtained by any other means. Therefore whilst it is possible to earn new items through the free version, it’s the paid version that nets the nicest items such as new loading screens, new trails when jumping out of the airship, unique skins for your characters and new mounts.
The thing that will split gamers the most however is the A.I. and the fact that should there not be enough players to fill the 100 slots – which is rarely an issue should you enable cross-play – you’ll instead find A.I. controlled bots filling the remaining slots not occupied by players. This is done to ensure each match is always 100 players, but whilst it’s great to see no match ever falling short of players, it has to be said that the A.I. are hardly challenging and should you find yourself one-on-one with a bot-controlled opponent, you’re going to net an elimination 9 times out of 10.
That’s not going to be a negative in everyone’s eyes of course with Battle Royale titles often proving challenging even if you’re a genre veteran, but it would still have been a bit better to have seen a little more challenge from the A.I. opponents.
If you can look past that slight niggle however, then the fantasy themed land of Realm Royale on Xbox One is certainly one that’s worth visiting. With plenty of loot ensuring no player is ever short of items when the true battle begins, there is never a game that feels unfair. It’s simple to understand, it’s easy to pick up and play, and overall this is easily one of the best Battle Royale titles on the market.