by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
A Bit Late to the Party
Has a genre ever exploded as quickly and with as much bravado as the Battle Royale? Itís rare to see video games do something truly new and exciting, and itís even more rare to watch a brand new genre come to life, flourish, and engrain itself in the medium. Yet, so it was during the multi-year stretch that saw genre giants like PUBG, Fortnight, Call of Duty: Warzone, and Apex Legends claim their niches in the market. With these games absolutely dominating streaming services like Twitch and raking in Scrooge McDuck levels of money, itís no wonder that everyone wants a piece of the pie. The challenge, much as has been the case with MMOs or digital card games, is that each new game, if it wants to be successful, needs to give players a reason to leave the one they already play (or start playing, if none of the others have grabbed their attention). As time passes, being ďjust as goodĒ isnít good enough, and itís in this unfortunate domain that Hyper Scape lives.
Hyper Scape gives off a good first impression. While these types of games arenít known for their stories (and there isnít a story here, either), the game opens with a fairly engaging cinematic that establishes some lore and rationale for whatís happening. Itís very Ready Player One; in the future, a digital world in which players compete for fame and fortune has taken over entertainment as a way for people to escape the depression of their reality. Hyper Scape is that game, and as you first join youíll be greeted by a friendly AI that shows you the ropes and gets you set with a beginner avatar. Itís all very polished, and the gameís basic mechanics, namely weapon types and hack (more on those later) are explained well enough that I had a pretty good handle on things when I jumped into my first game.
This far-future cyber setting makes for a nice map, a sprawling cyber-metropolis with a satisfying mix of densities and building sizes. Itís designed with verticality in mind; movement is brisk, and double jumps make it easy to get on top of buildings for some high ground. The shrinking map, a staple of the genre, plays into the gameís digital lore nicely and succeeds in differentiating itself from the others of its ilk. Whereas the Battle Royale norm is a map that regularly shrinks towards a changing center-point, resulting in a playable area thatís always close to circular, Hyper Scape closes things off more asymmetrically. Instead of a moving wall, entire districts are randomly closed at regular intervals. Well, itís not entirely random- there are never two playable areas completely cut off from each other- but itís far less predictable and makes for more uniquely shaped environments. The visuals as regions close is satisfying, too. Instead of a force-field with a definite edge, regions slowly ďdisintegrate,Ē the buildings slowly disappearing into uncolored blocks. It doesnít really affect anything, but it looks pretty cool.
Unfortunately, the rest of the game is a mix of the overly familiar and the different-but-not-different-enough. If youíre at all familiar with the Battle Royale genre, youíre already familiar with the core of how Hyper Scape plays. Everyone drops into the aforementioned map at the same time, unarmed. Once you land at a place of your choosing, itís a scramble to pick up weapons, attachments, and hacks to start blasting. On these fundamental levels, thereís not much thatíll surprise you. While the map plays well, thereís nothing terribly unique about it. While the weapons cover a range of functions, they donít do anything particularly surprising. Dropping into the map looks exactly the same as it does elsewhere, and the two modes, solo and group play, donít bring anything new to the table.
A Few Twists
That being said, there are a few more twists up Hyper Scapeís sleeve meant to shake things up. Though, once a small bit of novelty wore off, I quickly grew apathetic (or annoyed) with their existence. The first big one is hacks. These perks, available to pick up like guns and weapon attachments, offer a wide range of abilities ranging from temporary invulnerability, to a jumping smash attack, to short-term invisibility and beyond. These abilities are more useful in team play, where squad-mates can create complimentary ďbuildsĒ to scout, revenge kill, etc. In solo play I found them to be less useful. In fact, they become more annoying than anything at the end of each game. Instead of a true fight-to-the-death, competitors in Hyper Scape are given an alternate path to victory. As the match winds down, a crown appears in a random location of the playable area. Killing everyone else is still an option, but players can also grab the crown and hold it for about half a minute to instantly be declared the winner. Itís here that hacks become more annoying. Itís not terribly fun to have the crown spawn close to one player, have them spam evasive hacks, and have the match end without much any of the other players could have done to stop it.
The other big ďtwistĒ that Hyper Scape boasts is the ability for Twitch viewers to impact the game. When I first heard about this feature, which lets viewers vote on events like enabling triple jump or lowering hack cooldown, I was worried that everyone who isnít a streamer would be at a disadvantage. It turns out this isnít really the case. For one, the events are on a fairly significant delay relative to voting. Furthermore, none of the events are really exciting enough to give anyone in particular an advantage or change up the core encounter loop. While this is good for balance, I donít see it being particularly engaging or enticing for viewers to participate in.
Hyper Scape is an absolutely fine game that I think would have been huge if it would have come out earlier. It does a lot of things right and not much overly wrong. Instead, it suffers from an overwhelming sense of familiarity that doesnít present much of a reason for people to play it over more established games in the genre. Even in the most crowded fields, thereís always room for another title to come and carve out a niche, but I donít see many compelling arguments to jump ship for Hyper Scape.
Follow us on Instagram for reviews, news and more.
Polished presentation, detailed map, original map-shrinking
Too many familiar features, unbalanced hacks, meaningless Twitch integration