Rapture Rejects promises heavenly rewards.
Have you heard of Battle Royale games? Apparently, they’re quite popular. Ever since PUBG popularised the genre and took the world by storm – with Fortnite subsequently coming in like a bloody maelstrom – developers and publishers have wanted to have a go at this viral genre. The latest on what is quickly becoming a dizzying list of Battle Royale games is Rapture Rejects. And at the moment it’s… fine. If a little worrying.
Based in the universe of Cyanide & Happiness, Explosm Entertainment’s absurd webcomic which released almost 15 years ago – God, does anyone else feel old? – Rapture Rejects released earlier this month in Steam Early Access. The game follows the same principle as most Battle Royale games. You and 49 other combatants start on a map with a pair of fists and the intent to scramble together enough equipment as soon as possible while surviving in a map which quickly reduces in size, squeezing you and your foes together.
However, Galvanic Games have added a few peculiar mechanics and a setting which will either win you over or forcefully push you away. The entire experience feels very much in sync with the absurdist style of that propelled the comics to fame.
Straight off the bat and knocking you squarely in the jaw is its theme. You’re essentially in purgatory, in a fight-to-the-death scenario which, if you’re victorious, will earn you God’s favour, salvation and a ticket straight through the pearly whites. The ‘story’ is about as subtle as it is comparable to Shakespeare but credit where it’s due, Rapture Rejects actually has a theme which suits the Battle Royale’s core mechanics: an omnipotent God forcing people to battle against each other while speeding things along with some divine intervention.
Then there’s the character creation, which is fairly bog-standard. A variety of hairstyles which don’t stand out as exceptional but serve their purpose? Check. Clothes and accessories which do the same? Check. The ability to enlarge two mounds on your chest or one on the groin depending on which gender you choose? Che- oh, hang on. That’s a bit different. In Cyanide & Happiness’ traditionally tongue-in-cheek way, Rapture Rejects allows you to accentuate a certain part of your anatomy – a roundabout way of saying you can have boobs and a dick.
Although bouncing genitalia is vitally crucial in any game, there are a couple of incredibly unusual mechanics which separate Rapture Rejects from its ilk.
First, Rapture Rejects is top-down and isometric, allowing you to spin your camera around 90°, which adds a peculiar element of fighting your camera as well as the opponent. Although touted as a way of making the Battle Royale genre more accessible, if anything it does the opposite. The fact that a game like Fortnite, where everyone and their cat has had a go, is so popular with such a wide variety of players proves that its accessibility trumps Rapture Rejects. The old adage stands true in this instance: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Also present are Look Out stations. By holding onto one of these for a few seconds, the map zooms out from your position, allowing you to have a good look at who or what is creeping near you. It ends up feeling like a consolation for the fact that first or third-person camera angles allow you to see far into the horizon. For the most part though this mechanic works, particularly for scouting out some sweet loot.
In its cartoony style, the weapons, items and armour are nice and silly. Guns like the gumballer rifle or a toaster full of knives are just a couple of the daft weapons available. Hopefully, Galvanic Games can continue in this manner.
Each weapon has two modes of fire, adding an enticing layer to Rapture Rejects’ combat. Your primary basic shot does what it says on the tin, but a secondary shot adds something a bit different to your battle. For example, the toaster full of knives allows you to jump over some obstacles, letting you flank enemies. The developers are obviously giving the weapons real individuality, allowing players to find one that suits them perfectly.
When it comes to actually shooting someone in the face, it’s clear that Rapture Rejects is still in its infancy. Glitches and lag are common as well as some loose, inaccurate shooting. But, for a game scheduled to release in 2020, it’s impressive that it’s stable enough to play. You won’t experience a ‘real’ game just yet as the player count for each map is around 10 people, which should be expected at this point.
The most worrying part of Rapture Rejects, though, is its monetary side. In order to play the game (outside of free weekends) it will cost you $20 which, when combined with an in-game store that looks primed for microtransactions and loot boxes, is a cause for concern. This economic model is common in games at the moment and while it can work, most of the times it comes off feeling exploitative. Galvanic Games will have to tread carefully, especially if they launch two years in the future when it’s entirely possible that the battle royale hype and associated acceptance of microtransactions may have died down.
It could go either way for Rapture Rejects. It’s entirely possible for it to find success as an approachable Battle Royale game if it manages to snaffle just a portion of the Fortnite audience. Although let’s face it, they’re not the only ones trying.