Islands Of Nyne Battle Royale Alpha Impressions
Now that the gaming landscape is shifting decisively away from MOBAs and over to Battle Royale, you can expect to see a whole lot more titles landing on nearly every platform in the near future.
There's currently incredibly stiff competition between the two big dogs -- Fortnite and PUBG -- with Paladins about to jump into the ring later this year as well. At this point, it is beyond a foregone conclusion that some of the AAA studios are currently working on Battle Royale entries that haven't been announced yet.
In all that brewing chaos comes Islands Of Nyne, which actually dipped its toes in the Battle Royale waters ahead of all the others with a crowdfunding campaign, but is just now getting started ramping up on the alpha play tests.
Battling for Battle Royale Supremacy
At this point you should know what to expect from this style of game -- fall from the sky and pick a landing point, sweep the area for resources like locusts, and kill each other as the plasma field closes in to force players into a smaller circle of the map over time.
There's some interesting differences here, though. First up, you can kill each other in the maze-like waiting room, so there's something to actually do while waiting for the 50-person team to be built, unlike in Fortnite.
It doesn't really matter since it's not the true competitive part of the game, but there's no thought put into the spawn locations, so you can spawn right next to someone who is currently firing. This makes the lobby utterly nuts, but fun, and it makes more sense to actually give people some kind of gameplay here, since bored kids are going to shoot at (or tea bag) each other in the lobby anyway.
Islands Of Nyne features a more interesting setting and visual style than PUBG, taking place on jungle-filled islands with strong contrasts between thatch huts and ultra-futuristic buildings. The original Far Cry comes strongly to mind as you run across the lush island setting. Filled to the brim with vibrant color schemes, the cool spacey elements like the jump pads and teleporters also add in a little Unreal Tournament feel in there.
This particular closed alpha weekend is testing out 4-man squads in 50-player matches over a fairly big map, although the size and density are hard to properly judge or critique at this point. Only 35 people showed up in the first few matches since the alpha player base is lower than the other BR games, but as the night progressed and more people logged on, we more consistently had queues of around 45 players.
Due to the iffy player base, there's a lot of empty spaces and long stretches without running into the enemy, but overall, there's plenty of monuments and areas to search for gear.
Firefights are short and brutal in Islands Of Nyne. Even with full armor and shields scavenged from buildings, there's only a few hits till you go down.
Sniping seems to be the big way to go right now since you can hide behind the plant life or large rock formations and take people out by tracking their glowing outline.
The shotgun would probably be useful if you run across an enemy looting inside buildings in the small town sections, but I never actually got close enough to an opposing squad to ever need it, with all damage taking place over ranged fire in my matches.
In some ways this alpha build reminds me of the difficult FPS games like Arma or Squad, forcing teams to use sight and sound cues to determine the direction of enemy fire.
Along the way you'll try to stay out of obvious death traps, like a house on the water at the bottom of a valley where everyone can clearly see down to you as you loot for desperately needed gear.
Areas of Improvement
As a closed alpha in active development, Islands Of Nyne is incredibly un-optimized at this point, obviously, so there's some kinks and some places that could use touching up.
The chat system is implemented, for instance, but doesn't seem to actually work. You can input text, but it isn't displayed to the rest of the team. Voice chat works fine, though, so you can plan strategy with your four-man squad.
Overall the graphics are slick, although the death animation is really stilted and needs some major work.
The visual style and setting makes it feel like you should be doing some Ark: Survival Of The Fittest-style crafting, but sadly, at this point there's none of that on display.
That's perhaps my biggest complaint -- there's less overall to do than in Fortnite or PUBG, with no building or crafting systems currently implemented. There are lots of item types so far, though, like armor for specific areas of the body, energy shields, boosters, weapon scopes or silencers, and grenades.
Vehicles are slated to be added at some point, so that could really change the gameplay if they keep to the futuristic theme. Getting to a hover tank with a laser cannon could be a game changer if that's the direction they go, rather than just pickup trucks or humvees or whatever.
It's worth noting that the Kickstarter for Islands Of Nyne launched back in May of 2016 -- well before PUBG became a phenomenon -- but I'm not sure that's going to end up mattering.
There are two very clear titans of this genre defining the boundaries of Battle Royale right now, and dethroning either of them will be near impossible for an indie, even if they technically came to the party first. With a different take on the style, Islands Of Nyne might be able to do it, but only after some serious polish and upgrades.