With the runaway success of “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” the battle royale genre is seen as the next big thing.
Other studios have thrown their hat in the ring and found success. Now, newcomer, Outpost Games, is entering the fray, but they have a different take on the category.
Instead of copying the concepts of “PlayerUnknown’s Battleground,” the fledgling studio is coming at the battle royale from an entertainment angle.
“We didn’t want to feel like we are chasing a trend. We wanted to do something that was universal and timeless,” said Wright Bagwell, CEO of Outpost Games. A veteran who worked on Electronic Arts’ “James Bond” and “Dead Space” games, he said, “We have to stop thinking about gamers as consumers and think about them as performers.”
That led them to the creation of “SOS” and the Hero platform. “SOS” takes the battle royale genre and turns it into a reality show. It pits 16 contestants against each other and places them on an island full of ancient ruins and monsters. The goal for each player is to escape within the 30-minute time limit and the only way to do that is to get one of the first three relics in order to win a seat on the chopper that will ferry them to safety.
What happens between can be chaotic, constructive, funny and thrilling. It all depends on the personalities of the online competitors. That’s what separates “SOS” from other games in the genre. Before players are even put on the island, they are introduced reality show-style to the audience and rivals watching the stream. They give a brief 5-second blurb about themselves to show their personality and the game highlights history between players if they’ve encountered each other before.
The game will highlight if one player betrayed another or other past deeds to add context to the game. It’s a nice touch that pushes the reality show vibe.
From there, it’s basic survival. Players venture into the dangerous island of La Cuna and they’ll have to gather resources. They can find crudely made knives in canisters. They can break through vines to get to a first-aid kit hanging on the wall. They’ll find lockpicks that can open secured crates. Players may even find headlamps so they can venture into dark caves.
Eventually, they’ll run into other players and this is where they’ll have to make a decision. They can be like some reality stars and say, “I’m not here to make friends” before stabbing them in the face or they can team up to improve their chances of survival. Keep in mind, because “SOS” lets three people win, a trio can work and escape together.
Going in a group instead of heading solo is more beneficial anyway because the island is inhabited by monsters. They’re sort of feral humanoids that will follow players if they see them. Quiet players can get around them by stealth, but over the course of the 30-minute game, players will likely have to fight them.
The combat mechanics are simple with a block button and attack button. The monsters are tough if players aren’t armed. What’s bad about these encounters is that a skirmish can lead some players to become infected. That puts them in danger of becoming a monster, but two items on the island can save them. Players can find cures that remove the virus, or they can eat special mushrooms which staves off the illness temporarily. It puts pressure on players to get the mushrooms so that they can maintain the relic search or survive until the chopper arrives.
“SOS” has solid gameplay mechanics, but what’s more interesting is the social aspects. Bagwell said this is a title that needs to be played with a microphone or headset. (Players don’t need one necessarily but they put themselves at a disadvantage.) To survive, players will have talk to each other. That can mean coordinating an attack on a monster or persuading teammates to handover an antidote instead of giving it to a friend. Scarcity, threats and need put players in pressure-packed or absurd situations.
For example, if two people are sick and one person has antidote, they can demand the two perform a rap battle for the cure. In addition to talking face to face, they can also chat via walkie talkie, but they have to be careful because a rival could be listening in on plans and set up an ambush.
Aside from playing each other, players will also have to engage with the audience or at least try to. The Hero platform lets viewers directly impact “SOS” in two ways. In the first, players will get feedback on how they’re doing in the virtual battle royale through icons on the screen. Being a fan favorite affects the second aspect of audience-controlled gameplay: The crowd decides what items are dropped via chopper on the island.
If players are lucky enough to find a flare, they can use it and a chopper drops package. The contents is decided by the crowd. It can be a weapon, health or a trap. It all depends on the whim of the masses. If the audience sees a player as a villain, they can vote to send an exploding bomb. The rub for all this is that players won’t know what is sent until it lands on the island.
The game almost feels like “Lost” combined with “The Hunger Games.” It’s a compelling concept that could catch on if players decide to stream the game on Twitch or another service.
“SOS” is scheduled to be released early 2018 on the PC. Players can sign up for the beta here.
Published at Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:00:27 +0000