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October 2023

Battle Shapers

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Action
Developer: Metric Empire
Release Date: 2024


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PC Preview - 'Battle Shapers'

by Cody Medellin on June 6, 2023 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Battle Shapers is a blazing-fast, sci-fi FPS roguelite in which you shoot and smash your way through swarms of corrupt robots.

We've seen the combination of first-person shooter and roguelike enough times that the idea isn't too exciting without some kind of gimmick to catch a player's attention. The developers behind Battle Shapers seem to know this and decided to add multiple gimmicks to make things enticing.

The development team seems to have nailed down the basics of the roguelike genre. Each run might not provide a wide variety of robots to shoot down yet, but the room configurations and rewards are different enough that it takes some time for repetition to set in. Just about all of the power-ups are temporary, as the only thing you'll carry from run to run is currency. While some of the things you buy are permanent upgrades, most are unlocks to increase the chances of an ability or upgrade appearing in a subsequent run. Overall, there's nothing too revolutionary or new here, as it follows genre norms.

Where things get interesting is with the aforementioned gimmicks, as Battle Shapers takes elements from three different games to make the overall experience feel distinct. The first title is Overwatch, and that's apparent with the game's overall look. From the character designs to the use of bolder colors and a setting that isn't a typical postapocalyptic technological hellscape, this title could've been an offshoot of the multiplayer hero-shooter. That feeling also comes through with the gunplay, which despite the marketing, isn't that fast-paced. Guns are more interested in delivering a slower stream of bullets or punctuated shots, versus the expected bullet barrage. While you can dash around, that ability and a few others are tied to cooldowns to make their use even more measured.

In a move that seemingly counteracts that, the gameplay has also adopted some traits from the 2016 iteration of Doom. Almost all of your encounters take place in large monster closets, and some of them contain a trap that harms everyone regardless of affiliation. From grinders to flame shooters, there's something to help mix up the shooting requirement of clearing out a room before you can finally reach the door to access the next area. The more notable element is a final hit mechanic, where you can punch enemies that glow purple to get some shield power back. Just like that game, it introduces some strategy and thought to the gunplay as you determine whether you're better off setting up enemies for that shield boost or blasting them away.

The last thing Battle Shapers takes some inspiration from is the Mega Man series. This isn't a complete copy of those mechanics, as we haven't seen if you can get something totally new for beating a boss, but you get a sense that some of those ideas have been adopted. That starts with your actual core build as you determine which basic abilities you want from the start of the run, like simple dashing or using claws to build damage for a bigger final blow. The abilities you pick up in the field also loosely fit in this category, like having shockwaves that bounce off walls or one big explosion emanating from your body. Their cooldown-related uses mean that you can't spam the area with these abilities, and their introduction means that you'll forget about them for a few battles before remembering that they exist, but they are nice to have.

There's potential for all of these elements to change up the approach of a first-person shooter roguelike. However, it's going to take some time to see if that's the case, as Battle Shapers is currently much more difficult than expected. The trap rooms make each run more treacherous because you'll find yourself unaware of their presence while moving around, so some deaths will seem to come out of nowhere. The actual towers are spacious in terms of room numbers, so you'll need to grind things out or luck out to reach the boss, let alone see if that Mega Man-style influence is shared when you defeat bosses. We really need more than the demo to see how everything works together over an extended series of play sessions.

While imperfect, there's some promise being shown for Battle Shapers for Steam Deck users. The default settings give it a mostly High preset, which results in a game that runs at a very unstable frame rate. Depending on the scene, you can go as low as 22fps to briefly reach 60fps, but the game tends to hover close to the 30-35fps range. Battery life from a full charge can get you a little over two hours, but tweaking the settings should squeeze more life before a recharge is needed. The only issue with the build so far is instability on the Steam Deck, as we experienced some hard crashes after selecting a tower and going in for the first battle. That gives you a few fights in the opening prologue but not much more. Considering the pre-alpha state of this demo before it goes into Early Access, this is a positive result.

So far, Battle Shapers looks to be an interesting first-person shooter roguelike. The roguelike mechanics look to be standard, and the initial high difficulty level makes it very apparent that players will need to grind for better items and powers. That said, the mix of influences from other games looks to make it a fun romp once you get going, and it also proves to be just enough to have players give it a longer look. Battle Shapers looks to drop into Early Access around Q3 2023, and we look forward to following its progress.

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