Wait, we’re reviewing Rules of Survival now? I’ve never played a Battle Royale game before. I did read the Battle Royale novel, the Hunger Games, a couple of similarly-themed works (1) (2), and watched the film adaptations. I’ve also heard about PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Fortnite. I’m not so sure why I never got to touch them, though.
What perhaps piqued my interest would be the nature of Rules of Survival as a game. It’s not an uncommon sight in popular media for creators to jump on a particular “trend” or “hype.” That’s just how things work. So when people started to talk about PUBG, we all knew other titles would be developed in the same genre.
Interestingly enough, mobile caught wind of it, too. That’s the more surprising thing for me.
I could consider myself a skeptic when games such as Vainglory, Arena of Valor, and Mobile Legends capitalized on the popularity of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). And I considered myself disproven when Mobile Legends actually showed itself to be quite the accessible game.
And when even Overwatch can have a ripoff in mobile, why not the battle royale genre? Enter Rules of Survival. And wait, it’s a year old? Rhenn even got to play it!
A Mobile Divide
People in gaming get quite divided when it comes to titles like these. I’m too casual a gamer to understand the many dimensions involved in the matter. Some might say Rules of Survival pales a lot in comparison to its older contemporaries. The same could be said to Mobile Legends vis a vis its much older MOBA counterparts.
Though interestingly enough, I might consider Rules of Survival a good enough entry into the genre. It’s by no means a superior game, but it’s built to encapsulate the thrill of an arena in a compact mobile experience.
For a brief backgrounder, we have NetEase to thanks for the mobile multiplayer battle royale experience. Players can access the game on Android and the iOS since November 17, 2017. Popular demand eventually had the publisher bring the game to the PC. (We’re going to look at the mobile version for this backgrounder)
Fans of more established battle royale games at the time already caught wind of Rules of Survival when it launched. It’s when PUBG Corporation pursued NetEase with a legal action that had Rules of Survival garner international spotlight. Players might find this the culmination of what they find contentious about the game as well. PUBG Corporation said NetEase copied elements of PUBG into Rules of Survival and Knives Out (another of their games). As such, PUBG Corporation sought not only monetary damages, but for NetEase to actually stop distributing the games.
According to reports, NetEase responded by denying PUBG Corporation’s claims.
In fact, the situation got to the point where Steam actually took the game down from their servers temporarily last June. According to NetEase, the game now boasts more than 150-million players worldwide.
So what’s the game about, anyway?
Rules of Survival: The Basics
Gamers can choose from different modes to play. There’s are Solo and Duo variants, as well as the option to enter the game as Squads of four (4) or a Fireteam of five (5). Regardless of the setup, the last team or person left alive will be declared the victor. Another new mode called Blitzkrieg encourages more player encounters. This mode will have players land in a particular section of the map with basic armor, a backpack, and a pistol already equipped.
For now, there’s a selection of two (2) maps in the game, which is Ghillie Island and Fearless Fiord. The maps actually dictate the player count maximum for matches. Ghillie Island can hold up to 120 players, at a land approximately 4.8 x 4.8-kilometers. Meanwhile, Fearless Fiord can hold up to 300 (!) players and is 8 x 8-kilometers large.
- A match officially starts when all players get parachuted to different areas of the map. They can then start searching the entire map for medical kits, armors, and weapons – all of which get procedurally generated for each match. The game eventually introduced vehicles players can ride to quickly traverse the map, and they can even loot fellow players once their characters get killed.
- The game adds tension by “reducing” the “safe zone” of the map. Players caught outside the safe zone will continuously take damage until they move around. This mechanic helps guarantee the chances of encounters between players. Supply drops also happen randomly throughout a match, providing players with random items.
- When matches get completed, players can receive in-game currencies. The amount of money they gain all dependnet on how long they survived, how many players they’ve killed, and their level. These currencies can be used to buy special boxes that contain weapon or character cosmetics.
A Typical Mobile Game Experience
Mobile games earned a reputation for being repetitive, simple, and a bit too passive. Sometimes for their own good. Ragnarok Mobile’s auto-battle system earned the ire of a few players. And other mobile games have entire auto-walking systems too. When other players say mobile games take some of the complexity away from their heavier console and PC counterparts, they do make sense.
Sometimes they do this subtly, too. A lot of mobile games attach tricks to make sure you have a reason to stay in the game. Rules of Survival has these as well.
- Daily tasks exist for you to complete to earn gold coins. These range from logging in to playing particular sets of matches.
- You can be offered free opportunities to try premium options. Wheels of luck and lucky draws exist to offer you the allure of customizing your characters. Which brings us to…
- Of course, cosmetics. Aside from your characters actively wearing what they gather in the field, you can customize your characters. The better the costume, the rarer and costlier they are. Which brings us to…
Of course, microtransactions
In no way do Rules of Survival become a lesser experience because of its compact mechanics. It doesn’t diminish the experience either with its rather simpler approach to the battle royale genre. Though of course, one can’t deny, one of the reasons people don’t like Rules of Survival as much is its microtransactions thrust.
To my knowledge, I don’t think cosmetics actually offer any considerable advantage to players. Though for a character you’re going to stay with for the majority of your time in the game, costumes do seem a bit scarce.
Costumes you can buy without buying crystals, anyway. Like its other popular counterparts in other genres like Mobile Legends, Rules of Survival have plenty of in-game credit options, courtesy of a cash shop. In the mobile battle royale game, you can buy a variety of stylish costumes you can wear in matches.
Kudos to Rules of Survival‘s art team, too. The game places particular emphasis on its costumes and cosmetics. Sometimes you really get tempted to spend money to make sure your perfect soldier looks good.
This shouldn’t really be a big deal. Though I do pay a lot of attention to my character’s looks. If it’s tricky for me to even customize them on a basic level – as in, even with other types of clothing – it can get a bit “eh” for me. I’m big on customization. And when a game like this boasts quite a wide range of costumes, you gotta hope they give out some to you.
Pockets Have Limitations Too
Of course, Rules of Survival isn’t the “best” battle royale game. It certainly isn’t a perfect mobile experience either. The game possesses quite a few hurdles you might have to overcome as you play.
- Things feel a bit cramped. When you need to survive on an island against 119 (or 299) other people, complications happen. And what do you need to survive? Supplies. The game has plenty of weapons, ammunition, and utility items to offer. Though admittedly inventory management can be tricky. Your way to access the inventory is a small button, and you can’t pick up everything. Unless you’re willing to invest the time to return items you don’t need by manually clicking buttons… in a battle royale, then this can be a point of contention.
- Not only do you have to get weapons, but you also need control over your environment. Control in Rules of Survival allows you to crouch, duck, or even stand up. However, the same fingers you aim with will be the same fingers you tap to activate these stances. In speaking of,
- Touchscreen for aiming and moving might not be ideal. This might be me and my non-preference for shooters in mobile in general. Though it’s perplexing to have a shooter like Rules of Survival have controls that can’t get you to aim while attacking. Why? You use the same fingers for these tasks. Other players might say this lies in comfortability and experience. They might be right, as Rules of Survival do offer both first person and third person modes. On that note,
- Every choice counts. You need to make sure your fingers pursue the right choices because one small slip can give an opponent the half-second needed to point and shoot you. Aiming can be a pain, which can make each big encounter a potential messy firefight. Speed rules in the game. In speaking of,
- Lag might be a thing. Aside from your connection, your phone’s performance, of course, affects your speed. In a game where seconds count, a battle royale isn’t the best place to receive a text message.
Towards Two Years – What Now?
There’s more to a game than just a single review. And for Rules of Survival to last this long means it’s able to gather a substantial player base to maintain a considerable level of success. For all its worth, NetEase did a commendable job translating the battle royale genre into a mobile platform.