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July 2022

Super Animal Royale

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Modus Games
Developer: Pixile Studios
Release Date: Aug. 26, 2021


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XSX/XOne/PC Preview - 'Super Animal Royale'

by Cody Medellin on June 17, 2021 @ 12:45 a.m. PDT

Super Animal Royale is a top-down multiplayer survival shooter for up to sixty-four adorably murderous Super Animals.

For all the methods that battle royale games use to differentiate themselves from one another, they tend to share one main gameplay mechanic: perspective. Whether you're using supernatural perks in CRSED: F.O.A.D., magic spells in Spellbreak, or engaging in the pure melee combat of the upcoming Naraka: Bladepoint, all of these games give the player either a first- or third-person, behind-the-back/over-the-shoulder perspective of the match. Super Animal Royale does things differently, but it isn't the only thing that it does differently enough to grab your attention.

First released on Steam Early Access in December 2018, Super Animal Royale follows a template that few battle royale games have strayed from. Whether you're playing solo, in a duo, a four-person team or a large 32-person team, 64 players drop in from the sky when they want, and they land on a large island filled with different biomes and landmarks. While they have a melee weapon always at their disposal, they need to procure weapons from the field in addition to ammo and defensive items, such as healing drinks and armor. Players can also ride on vehicles if they wish to traverse the area faster. The goal is to stay alive and outlast your opposition, but you'll always have to be on the move due to a cloud of poisonous gas that threatens to envelop the battle area over time.

As alluded to earlier, the major difference is in the perspective, as Super Animal Royale takes the form of a top-down, twin-stick shooter. It's advantageous to see more of your surroundings this way, but the developers have counteracted this. Hiding in bamboo forests is a viable tactic, as players can only see you if you're in their line of sight, and the same goes for hiding behind buildings and doors. It provides the game with the strategy that genre fans have come to enjoy, but the twin-stick nature also makes it more accessible to those who normally aren't interested in the genre due to the traditional first- or third-person viewpoint.

Super Animal Royale does some other things a little differently from other games in the genre, at least mechanically. There may not be a jump feature, but you can perform evasive dodges if you want to avoid getting hit. You can plummet straight to the ground instead of falling gracefully, and you won't lose health because of it, but you will be stunned for a short while upon impact. Instead of finding new armor when its energy runs out, you can repair it; healing in general can be performed without staying still. Also, the game limits you to two projectile weapons to go with your melee weapon and throwing weapon, so you're forced to be a little picky about what you get.

The shooting and movement make combat feel great, and the other changes are good enough that you'd like to see them implemented in other battle royale titles. It makes for a very solid shooter mechanically, but one of the main reasons it seems to have attracted so many players on PC is because of how adorable it is. After all, you are playing as and shooting at a bunch of animals dressed up in various costumes, and they're holding weapons in their stubby arms. The rest of the game plays upon that theme with a slew of ridiculous things like being able to kill enemies with a pool noodle and running them over with a hamster ball. The silliness of some of the items works well with the seriousness of the combat.

What also works is how generous the game is when it comes to letting people get cosmetics. Super Animal Royale still contains the usual things, like a season pass that you can level up for goods and stores that frequently change their inventory and take two different forms of payment. There's also an overall player level that keeps giving out stuff when you reach specific milestones, and that doesn't reset when a new season starts. Achieving other feats — like opening up the secret lab or breaking X amount of boxes or even cutting up grass — also grants you more items, and even though some are still locked behind costume DLC packs, there's still enough here to come up with a sharply dressed animal. Furthermore, the game keeps giving out DNA strands for various animals, and with the amount of both animals and species/color variations available at the outset, unlocking everything becomes a never-ending quest.

There are currently a couple of issues in the preview build. The first is Xbox-specific in that the game's initial loading time is quite lengthy. That doesn't occur on the PC release, so Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S owners currently have to wait before they can play the game. The other issue is more universal: the lack of an instant queue feature. Both PC and Xbox owners must leave a game, enter the main menu, queue up for another game, and wait for a decent amount of time before a match starts. The presence of bots ensures that people aren't waiting very long time for a match, but when compared to other games, it feels slower to jump from match to match.

At the moment, Super Animal Royale is doing almost everything right for a battle royale title. The basics work fine, but the quality of life touches make it feel more refined than some of its contemporaries. The twin-stick shooting mechanic makes it more accessible, and the generous rewards make it easy for those who don't want to pay to look good in the crowd. The game is hitting a full release in September across all platforms, and with cross-play and cross-progress available, you should give it a shot now if you have an Xbox One, Xbox Series X or PC.

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