“Well, crap,” I mutter, as I begin to run. It’s far too late of course. My pursuers have seen me and are now riddling my backside with bullets as I try to duck and weave among the environmental cover that’s slowly deleting. And then I see it: my salvation. Around another player’s corpse is a Hack pick-up with a circle on it. I quickly slide into it and pick it up, cackling with glee as I transform into a giant ball and bounce away from the squad chasing me.
My laughter stops as I turn around and realize, to my horror, that every one of my pursuers has the Ball Hack as well. I continue to flee but I can hear the quiet thumps of their murderous bounces keeping pace with me.
If you’ve ever played a battle royale game before, then the goal of Hyper Scape is an old song and dance by this point. Players begin each match by dropping onto a battlefield with nothing to their name, forced to survive by any means necessary–whether that’s searching for the best weapons, hunting and killing enemy players, or avoiding and hiding from fights. As the match progresses, the battlefield shrinks, increasing the likelihood of firefights breaking out amongst the survivors. You win by being the last one standing.
None of which is to say that Hyper Scape doesn’t bring its own sense of style to the battle royale genre. For one, being the last one alive isn’t the only way to win; you can also be crowned the winner. The game spawns a crown onto the battlefield when the survivable area shrinks to its final size. Nabbing the crown puts you on everyone’s radar. If you die, you drop it, but teams that manage to hold onto it for 45 seconds automatically win. It’s a pretty substantial contribution to Hyper Scape’s frantic battles and encouragement to fight quickly, not just efficiently.
It’s in this emphasis that Hyper Scape finds its strengths. The game’s vertically-influenced environment and quick loot management all contribute to fast and fun fights, but Hyper Scape is also held back by that same environment and collection of weapons and Hacks (the latter of which is a choice-driven take on hero abilities). It all combines into a battle royale game that has great moments, but ultimately feels like it relies too much on randomness to lead to satisfying victories.
Season 1: The First Principle
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the analysis, though, it’s worth pointing out why we’re reviewing Hyper Scape now when the game’s been playable for a few weeks. As of August 11, Hyper Scape has left beta and officially launched. The date also marks the start of the game’s first season, titled The First Principle, which makes several changes to the game and adds new content–all of which is worth taking a look at.
With the start of Season 1, Hyper Scape has also officially been released for Xbox One and PS4. I’ve yet to try the game on PS4, but I didn’t notice a drop in quality when transitioning between PC and Xbox One X. So I’m comfortable with saying that the console version of Hyper Scape works. Regardless of where you want to play, Hyper Scape thankfully launches with cross progression support so your account follows you from system to system.
Season 1: The First Principle adds a battle pass, daily and weekly challenges, and tons of new rewards to unlock which are just what a game like Hyper Scape needs–it’s only got one map for its two modes, solo and squads, so there’s just not enough there to keep playing the game every day without an additional incentive.
Here’s the thing: I don’t like Hyper Scape’s battle pass. It’s got a free track and paid one, which normally would be fine except that nearly half of the items (12 of the 33) on the free track can’t be accessed unless you have Prime Gaming, which requires paying the $13 USD/month for an Amazon Prime subscription. So, if you want to complete either the free or paid track, you need to drop some cash. You can ignore it, of course, but the battle pass highlights that you’re missing items if you don’t have Prime Gaming, which feels a little predatory.
Certain rewards on the free battle pass track will only unlock if you have Prime Gaming.
Though maybe it’s for the best. Most of Hyper Scape’s in-game rewards are weapon and character skins, emotes and sprays, and new characters–and they’re all kind of meh. None of the weapon or character skins are particularly exciting; it’s your standard affair of simple recolor options. The emotes and sprays at least allow you to add a bit more of your own personal style to your character, though it’s rare to find opportunities to paint the walls with a cute design or interact with your teammates with silly movements in the midst of a battle royale game that’s as fast-paced as Hyper Scape.
The new characters are really the only reward worth pursuing, as they do have an impact on your personal experience with the game, albeit one that is pretty insignificant. None of the characters change the gameplay, but each has their own personality and sounds off with unique one-liners and quips when they pick up weapons or Hacks, ping a location, or make note that they’re under fire or wandering away from their squad. There’s not much variety in the spoken lines for each individual character, though, so each one gets old real fast and switching between them constantly is really the only way I can maintain my sanity.
To put it bluntly, these characters are shallow; most seem to be completely defined by their culture or profession. There’s no backstory or reason to like any of them, so I’ve ended up disliking pretty much all of them. Of the black characters I’ve unlocked, there’s an athlete, a “street-smart” journalist, and an artist. There’s also bubbly streamer girl Noor, strict mom Myrto, and “a big punch in a small package” Cruz. If you like accents, there’s Scottish Burns and Japanese Takeshi–the former is described as “brains and brawn” and the latter is a fanboy for the character you get at level 100 in the paid battle pass track. And who could forget the “shy and awkward” white boy Adi, who gains confidence with a gun in his hands and tells his competition to “git gud.” There are more you can buy in the in-game store, but the lack of depth in the characters I currently have isn’t making me eager to spend real-world money to meet more of them. These characters feel like someone trying to check off a diversity list, not create well-written individuals.
I think, “containing dark depths” is the deepest character development I’ve found in Hyper Scape so far.
It wouldn’t be too much of an issue if it wasn’t for the fact that Hyper Scape has a story now which provides context for just how bland and stereotypically written each of the characters are. Season 1 fleshes out the game’s world with lore by noting the relationships between certain characters and adding Memories, which you unlock by discovering Memory Shards that are hidden in specific places in-game. At season start there are two Shards to find for the two Memories to unlock, with a new Memory and additional Shards scheduled to be added to the game every week. For how difficult these Shards are to find, the Memories they unlock have a poor pay-off: just a wall of text that isn’t all that interesting. So far, there’s nothing further fleshing out the characters or revealing what threat they’re coming together to stop–it’s just a bunch of boring backstory about how VR became popular in Hyper Scape’s version of Earth, leading to the creation of the battle royale called Crown Rush.
Yes, Hyper Scape is a battle royale game about playing as someone who is jumping into a Ready-Player-One-meets-Sword-Art-Online virtual world to play a battle royale game.
Without a doubt, the best new additions with Season 1 are the new weapon and Hack. Between the two, I like the new Magnet Hack more–it allows you to set a device that attracts all nearby targets. This adds a welcome method of controlling distance between you and an enemy, and also opens up new ways for you to use Neo Arcadia’s environment to your advantage. For example, you can use Magnet to pull someone off a roof or outside the safe zone or into your teammate’s shotgun. The new Dragonfly assault rifle isn’t as impactful. A semi-automatic rifle with a decent scope, it offers you the choice of a firearm that falls in between the close-range automatic Ripper assault rifle and long-range bolt-action Phantom V sniper rifle, but I haven’t encountered a situation where I’ve needed something like that. I either want the speed of the Ripper or the range and power of the Phantom V. But I don’t have any issues with the Dragonfly; it’s a well-balanced gun that doesn’t negatively impact the in-match meta in any significant way.
It’s also worth noting that Hyper Scape is running into the same problems that pretty much every live service game does in its first few weeks of launch. I’ve had numerous game crashes, moments of lag, and dropped parties. I’m confident that hotfixes are in the works, but it’s worth noting that my game crashed and kicked me out to the lobby about every third game and I encountered stuttering and moments of lag in practically every match.
Outside of those aforementioned additions, Hyper Scape is pretty much the exact same game we had during the beta. In short, if you played the beta, your overall opinion of the game is unlikely to change even with the new content. But if you’re looking for the long version, keep reading.
Hyper Scape possesses a variety of weapons, each of which is diverse enough to offer different playstyles. There’s nothing wildly different about any of them in comparison to most sci-fi shooters (if you’ve played a first-person shooter before, you can identify how most of the guns work as soon as you pick them up), other than the D-Tap, the weaker of the two game’s pistols, which incorporates a lock-on targeting system that allows you to curve its shots. There’s some good sound design behind Hyper Scape’s weapons, too; you can identify what’s being shot at you via the noise that each gun makes.
Though the in-match meta is fairly balanced, some guns are just better. A lot of fights take place in enclosed spaces, lending greater utility to Hyper Scape’s only shotgun, the Mammoth MK1, as well as the automatic Ripper assault rifle, SMG Harpy, and LMG Hexfire. You pretty much want to have at least one of the four on you, as going without seems to put you at a disadvantage.
Pretty much the exact same thing can be said about Hyper Scape’s Hacks, the game’s version of hero abilities. As opposed to attaching specific abilities to certain characters, Hyper Scape has 11 different abilities that you can pick up and equip. You can only hold two at a time, and since each Hack can accomplish different tasks, you can curate very different builds based on what you pick up. But like weapons, there are some Hacks that just seem ideal for success. The most important use of a Hack is to run from a fight you can’t handle with your guns alone, which emphasizes the ones geared towards traversal or escape, like Slam (sends you flying into the air to then descending in a new location) or Ball (transform into a protective ball that allows you to bounce away from any fight you feel like you can’t win). Even after playing Hyper Scape for several hours, it’s rare for me to run into someone who doesn’t have Slam, Ball, Invisibility, or Wall equipped as one of their Hacks–all of which are best used to run from a losing fight.
I like running with the Ripper and Mammoth MK1, but I’ll sometimes shuffle the Protocol V into my loadout.
This leads to a bit of a stagnation in Hyper Scape’s in-match meta. You can win with any combination of weapons and Hacks, but there’s definitely a path that has a higher chance of success. And in something like a battle royale, where loot is random, this can occasionally lead to matches where the odds are stacked against you from the beginning if no one in your squad managed to find the weapons and Hacks that can lead to an ideal loadout. Randomness is only fun if it doesn’t screw you over right from the start. You should feel like your squad stands a chance no matter where you land on Neo Arcadia. You technically do, of course. How you move is just as important as what weapons and Hacks you have equipped, and there’s something to be said about actual skill when it comes to first-person shooters. It’s also worth pointing out that most of the guns feel balanced in their respective damage output and fire rate; none of them feel too overpowered. But since so much of Hyper Scape’s battles take place inside multistory buildings, it lowers the usefulness of weapons like the Protocol V and Dragonfly (both of which excel in battles that occur outdoors) in comparison to guns like the Mammoth MK1 and Ripper (that handle well whether you’re inside or out).
Whereas most battle royale games have horizontally built maps, Hyper Scape takes place on the vertically-focused Neo Arcadia. Most buildings are at least three stories, and stairways and jump pads ensure you almost always have a means of accessing their rooftops. Many battles in Hyper Scape quickly transition between the ground, the tops of buildings, and midair–you have to be just as aware of an attack coming from above or below you as you do from the front or the back.
Hyper Scape definitely leans towards a faster pace, a speed that’s certainly encouraged via its mechanics. Diving into a crouch from a sprint will fling you forward in an aggressive slide, and a double jump and ledge grab allows you to more easily maneuver around the map in comparison to most battle royales. Sprinting, sliding, climbing, and using navigation-based Hacks (like Teleport) to parkour around the map is joyful fun. There’s a real sense of momentum to your movements as you catapult yourself through the air and over or around obstacles–I think I’ve gotten a bigger adrenaline rush from expertly pulling off several impressive movements in quick succession to escape a battle than I have winning one. When it comes to navigating the immediate area, Hyper Scape does a lot to make you feel like a superhuman parkour expert.
However, it’s difficult to know where you’re going once you’ve finished up a fight or looted all the buildings around you. Outside of the major landmarks, most of the buildings and locations in Neo Arcadia all look exactly the same. Even after hours with the game, I still have to open the map to check where I am–I can’t reliably identify my location based on my surroundings, which can be a big problem if I’m being shot at and trying to figure out where to run. Everything is just vibrant white, soft grey, and shiny blue. Granted, this makes it easy to spot enemies, as they’re highlighted with a red outline when you aim at them that really stands out. So the map design helps in that regard, but it’s all too monotonous to aid in exploration and navigation.
I like Hyper Scape’s hub area–it’s cool how you walk between the battle pass, online marketplace, tutorial area, and Crown Rush instead of flipping through menus.
This is a huge problem with how zone closure works in Hyper Scape. Instead of the closing ring seen in most battle royale games, in Hyper Scape, individual zones slowly delete themselves over time. This deletion sees environments slowly transform into a dark blue shade. It’s a cool-looking effect, but it ultimately makes everything in the environment look even more similar, making it incredibly difficult to get your bearings while you’re trying to reach a safe zone–occasionally while you’re also under fire and need to consider avoiding bullets as much as escaping the deleting world. An arrow at least points in the direction of the nearest safe zone, but a straight path to safety is not always the best one.
Thankfully, even though you’ll be frequently stopping to look at your map in Hyper Scape, you won’t have to do the same for loot. Hyper Scape forgoes an attachment-based system when it comes to improving your arsenal for a system that’s far simpler. Say you find and equip a Ripper; finding and picking up another Ripper will improve the stats of the one you’re currently holding. This system applies to your Hacks too, allowing you to lower the cooldown and increase the offensive potential of your special abilities by discovering copies of the ones you already have equipped.
With no grenades or healing items in Hyper Scape (you auto-heal after staying out of combat for five seconds), and since there are no extended mags or damage-enhancing hop-up attachments to consider, the time spent in your inventory is practically nonexistent. The only time I’ve ever opened my inventory was to drop one of my weapons for a teammate I’d recently revived–it was near the end of a match and there wasn’t time to go looting.
Speaking of, Hyper Scape has a rather nifty take on the revive mechanic that’s been popping into more battle royale games. It might be my favorite version yet. When you die in Hyper Scape, your weapons and Hacks explode out of your corpse–along with your digital Echo. In this form, you can’t interact with items other than pinging them, but enemies can’t see you. If your living squadmates manage to kill an enemy player, they can interact with the corpse to bring you back to life.
When it comes to navigating the immediate area, Hyper Scape does a lot to make you feel like a superhuman parkour expert.
This gives dead players something to do; you can scout ahead for your living squadmates and actively contribute to ensuring your team wins its next fight so that you can be revived. Even better, the dead body that’s used to revive a squadmate typically has the deceased’s weapons and Hacks still nearby. So you’re usually not coming back completely naked. This isn’t always the case, of course. You may be respawned on a body that’s already been looted. And at that point, you’re just at the mercy of the game’s randomness. Were you paired up with good teammates who will share loot with you, or do you have to go find weapons and Hacks on your own and hope that enemy squads haven’t looted everything?
Randomness is key to battle royale games, but Hyper Scape leans a little too much into it. The game has solid weapons and hero-like Hack abilities, but you’re at the mercy of being lucky enough to get what you need to have a higher chance of winning. The battleground doesn’t help in this regard, since it’s difficult to know where you’re going and make a plan about where to loot next without stopping to open the map. At least the individual moments in Hyper Scape are fun. A match could be ruined by the randomness working against you, but that doesn’t stop moments like turning into a ball and trying to out bounce three enemy balls any less fun in how ridiculously silly it is.