The term battle royale wasn't on too many gamers minds until 2017. Titles like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, Fortnite, and even Grand Theft Auto have gotten in on the money-maker. When Fortnite first introduced its battle royale mode, I even wrote a piece explaining how it seemed like a bunch of different companies were repeating each other. This has unfortunately continued to be the case, except some developers have gotten even more blatant about their rip-offs. The one I'll be talking about specifically here is Cliff “CliffyB” Bleszinski's latest title, Radical Heights.
Boss Key Productions is CliffyB's studio, which people may know as the creators of Lawbreakers, a game that tanked pretty badly. When Boss Key announced that they were finally shelving Lawbreakers on April 3, 2018, they also dropped hints about a new project. Four days after that announcement, they revealed Radical Heights, which is being styled as an 80's themed PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. A day after Radical Heights' announcement, it released on Steam's early access program. It's free-to-play for anyone interested, but many are finding it difficult to dig up even a needle's worth of excitement in this haystack.
Radical Heights suffers painfully from “released to early access too early” syndrome. There are all kinds of unfinished buildings and vehicles in the game. Rivers are ankle deep all the way through. Many animations are missing. Players can see the option to create male or female avatars, but can only create the former. Boss Key Productions even describes Radical Heights early access as “janky.” We can't say we weren't warned, but that doesn't make the jankiness any more tolerable. It's always going to be difficult for players to be excited about a title that is so clearly unfinished that it's boring to look at. Tack on the fact that Boss Key also just closed shop on a failed game and this is a knock-off of a now popular genre, and you've got some major problems.
Many gamers are well aware of how early access works at this point. A lot of them could probably see past the gray buildings, missing textures, and janky animations. The developer does this to get feedback and make the game even greater. Early releases also help garner interest and a playerbase for a game so those who jump in at launch have a better experience. Thankfully, we're all pretty good about accepting those positives and negatives already. If only there weren't that copy cat syndrome to go along with it.
It's unfortunately very apparent that Radical Heights is a late-stage attempt at cashing in on a major trend by also selling founder packs. Founder packs that, until people protested before launch, would have had pay-to-win opportunities. Battle royale games are doing extremely well right now, so who wouldn't want to make their own version? The problem is, the market is super saturated. Unless Radical Heights manages to bring a totally different style of gameplay or offers radically (see what I did there?) new character designs or settings, it just won't cut it. Players will very quickly get bored as they realize there are better options. It's tempting to jump on a bandwagon that is making other people all kinds of money, but it's important to remember you might be reaching for it too late and come up with just dead air.
Radical Heights does have a unique variation on the safe zone system crucial to battle royale games. It also has a completely different theme from its counterparts and has already been likened to Fortnite without the building elements. So perhaps there's a chance that it will fill a niche that was just waiting for someone to come along and fill. It could also fall flat on its face.
What do you think of CliffyB's Radical Heights? Do you have high hopes that it'll reinvent the wheel of battle royale games yet again? Or do you think it's a painfully obvious cash grab? Let me know in the comments!