Realm Royale Enters The Crowded Battle Royale Fray with Promise

Opinion by Mark Delaney,
Last spring, we ran a poll asking the community how many battle royale games you expected to arrive on Xbox by the end of 2018. The leading vote-getter was also our highest option, more than five, and off the top of my head, I think that's correct — or at least it would be if Firestorm in Battlefield V wasn't delayed until March. One of the most recent attempts to find its place in the growing genre is Realm Royale, the cartoonish survival shooter from Hi-Rez Studios' internal dev team Heroic Leap Games. Hi-Rez is the same company behind mythological MOBA SMITE and hero shooter Paladins: Champions of the Realm, each of which could fairly be called trend chasers.

One look at Realm Royale reveals the developer-publisher is once again hoping to be served its piece of the popularity pie. It's undeniably similar to Fortnite in color and style, but now that the game is in open beta with achievements to be unlocked, and being a huge fan of battle royale, I decided to give it a go over the past several days. After many hours with the game (but sadly no wins to show for it yet), I've come away with great impressions on Realm and believe it stands out in a few important ways that should help it make a name for itself.

Mount Up Wherever, Whenever

Perhaps the most noticeable difference in Realm is how you don't need to go searching for a vehicle or a shopping cart to get around faster. Every player is permanently equipped with a mount, such as a horse or a giant bird, and can get on it whenever they'd like to. This really changes the dynamic of fights, in my experience. For one, it extends them as the boundary approaches. Whereas before you'd want to call a momentary truce as both players run away from the approaching harmful fog, now you can delay that retreat for quite a bit longer knowing you have a quick and reliable mount out of town. Giving everyone this access means fewer disheartening deaths by way of getting caught in the fog.

Not Chickening Out, Chickening Back In

In other battle royale games, losing your life in two- or four-player modes will get you in Down But Not Out (DBNO) state, where you can be revived by a partner. In solo modes, this doesn't exist and instead you just die right away. Realm adds a comical but tactically effective element on top of all modes by turning downed players into defenseless chickens. Be you alone or with a group, losing all your health will turn you into a clucking bird for 20 seconds. Survive the timer and you'll be revived as a human again with partial health. It's reminiscent of Kill Confirmed mode in Call of Duty, but instead of picking up dog tags to confirm your elimination, you're tasked with chasing a desperate chicken around the map before it's reincarnated as a weapon-wielding foe.

Build Your Arsenal With The Forge

Perhaps the true highlight among Realm's unique elements is The Forge, sections of the map where players can take their collected shards and turn them into high-level weapons, perks, and health items. Duplicate and unwanted items found in chests are meant to be broken down into shards, and as loot is so commonplace, virtually everyone will have enough shards to craft some items, and those playing smartly will have plenty for the legendary tier items. This sort of play captures a lot of what I love about battle royale. It rewards players who play with a heads-up, well-considered approach. No battle royale game should feel like a guns-blazing shooter, and the tactical element of item crafting in this way is very appealing for that reason.

No Fall Damage Means You Can Leap Before You Look

Fortnite overcomes fall damage by letting you build safe structures that lead you downward. Blackout offers a perk that removes fall damage should you find it and activate it. PUBG, being the most serious of the genre leaders, doesn't have any system of overcoming fall damage. Realm's take is different from all of these and it's pretty simple: there is no fall damage. It seems so simple and yet it really works for the way the game plays. Topographically, the map is very much like Fortnite's, but without any building component, it would quickly become annoying if you slid down a hill and took huge damage, so Hi-Rez just does away with the notion entirely.

A Class-Based Approach to Battle Royale

Another way Realm Royale stands out is in the character selection screen. With the fantasy theme to the game, the four classes of Mage, Assassin, Warrior, and Hunter add tweaks to the usual genre style of giving everyone equal footing. With four classes to choose from, players can get slight but noticeable advantages with specific items, such as the Hunter being deadlier with the bow and arrow. These bonuses work well within the game because just having them doesn't mean anything if you don't acquire the items in your round.

I say all this knowing full well we have some battle royale detractors around TA. I think Realm has carved out a comfortable corner for itself in the increasingly crowded field of battle royale. It manages to simultaneously simplify elements of other games, like how it removes all fall damage and base-building, while also making the experience deeper and unique to itself in important ways, like The Forge and the everpresent mounts ready to ride.

There are still problem areas, of course. The game is still in beta so I've seen a few bugs, one of which was to my advantage when a hiding player's shadow was shown on the wrong side of the building they were hiding in. I also think the directional audio needs some work. Having a Stealth 700 headset has been the difference between life and death many times for me in other battle royales, but in Realm it doesn't seem reliable enough yet, like noises just get lost in the shuffle and I can't always tell what's coming from where.

Overall though, these are growing pains I'd expect and my time has much more often been fun, even as I'm still chasing my first Crown Royale. It offers the tension of any of the genre greats in the most accessible form I've yet to witness, and if you're still wary of trying battle royale or even decrying its merits, this might be the one for you.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a Boston native now living in Portland, Oregon. He has written for GameSkinny, Gamesradar and the Official Xbox Magazine. He runs the family-oriented gaming site Game Together.