The Battle Royale genre was introduced to the world in 2017. Though games like The Culling, and H1Z1: King of the Kill were already a thing, Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds brought the exposure the genre was looking for. Now, almost a year later, a former challenger to PUBG has taken the crown for the most popular game of its kind. We get news about Fortnite and its Battle Royale mode almost every week as it breaks records and appears on new platforms. Many game developers are now trying to capture this light in their own bottles. But can they catch up?
My experience with Battle Royale has been about trying the different games that are up and coming in the genre. I’ve played some of Radical Heights and tried a match or two of Realm Royale. I’ve also played my fair share of H1Z1, PUBG, and Fortnite. Aside from The Darwin Project, there has not been one that I have gotten very deep into. Fractured Lands ended up being the next one on my list. I became curious when I learned it had a post-apocalyptic setting inspired by Mad Max. I am a huge fan of the franchise and own every movie along with the video game that came out in 2015.
The reason this is a preview is because Fractured Lands is still in Early Access; there are still missing features and loose ends. First, I want to discuss what makes this game different from the rest. Being inspired by Mad Max, this game focuses on the use of vehicles. You can start with either a car or motorcycle and look for items on the map to upgrade your vehicle. You will be looking for car parts as well as gear for yourself. With only 15 players in a match, you’ll be choosing a starting direction from a compass instead of dropping from the sky.
Gear for your character is very similar to what you’d find in a PUBG or H1Z1 type of game, such as: storage packs, guns, ammo, attachments and armor. The inventory system is fairly simple to grasp as I stored items with a left click and equipped what I had with a right click. As for the vehicles, you’ll want to search for better tires, armor plating, trunk storage, and ramming gear to go on your front bumper. Simple inventory management also applies to the vehicles as it only takes the push of a key while you’re facing it. Vehicle combat is encouraged, but it is not something that will work as they had envisioned since squads still are not an option. There is even a raised seat in the back of the car for potential teammates to sit in and fire at enemies. At this point, it boils down to a game of “chicken” most of the time, but I’m looking forward to see how the vehicle combat will evolve. The on-foot combat takes place from the first person point of view and everyone starts with a melee weapon.
I enjoy the tension of scavenging for parts in Fractured Lands more than I do in other Battle Royale games. There is something about parking your vehicle near a building, raiding it, and hopping back in and continuing on. Part of that tension comes from the fact that vehicles need fuel; it is a resource everyone needs if you intend to dominate the wasteland in that way. A strategy I applied to my gameplay was hiding my vehicle from plain sight, because seeing a parked vehicle outside would tend to draw people in. There was one time where I ran out of gas down the road from a house. Someone drove by and stopped to investigate my vehicle, but after trying to get the drop on them, I lost the gun fight. A vehicle could even act as bait if you place it in the right spot.
The very small count of fifteen players sounds bad, but after some time into the game, I did not mind it. It made me feel like I actually had a shot at winning a match since I happen to be terrible at these games. I am still unsure of how big the map is, but it never felt impossible to find other enemy players out there. The classic battle royale mechanic of a shrinking circle also does well in creating those inevitable encounters. When the circle shrinks to its smallest size it moves from one location to another which requires players to mobilize and stay out of the deadly storm rather than camping. I do not know if that is an actual mechanic or if it is due to players not finding one another quick enough.
Graphically, Fractured Lands could use some polish, but looks better than I initially expected in many ways. The sky box looks especially cool when you’re caught in the storm outside the circle. It is no sandstorm like Fury Road, but it has a sense of doom and gloom that won’t go away until you reach safety. The lighting also stands out to help create the atmosphere that the game is going for—more dawn and dusk instead of a bright sunny day. The structures were also more detailed than I expected; the houses and buildings are populated with furniture and other remnants of former life in this world. At one point, I found myself in a gunfight that felt straight out of a movie. It took place in the upper floors of an old warehouse that I could not help but admire how well-designed the structure was.
Player progression is a fairly simple concept to understand: play to gain experience and level up. With every level, you gain a customization item for your vehicle or character. My one issue with the customization is that you cannot change your hairstyle right away or even start with clothes. I started the game with nothing but a vehicle and a pair of briefs. The fascination with starting in nothing but your underwear—or lack thereof in many of these games—is something I will never understand. At least give me a shirt and a pair of pants. I did eventually unlock those things, but I felt it was unnecessary to have to unlock the clothes on my back.
As I still try to find my footing in the battle royale genre, Fractured Lands is one I have enjoyed my time with. My issue with the genre as a whole is what the meta-game comes down to in the final moments; I don’t know if it is something I will ever grasp. The fun part about trying games in this genre is to see what kinds of features and characteristics a game has that make it stand out from the big dogs. I love the atmosphere and setting of Fractured Lands due to being a fan of its influences. The focus on vehicle combat still feels like it is in its stage of infancy, but I cannot help but look forward to it as the game evolves throughout the early access phase. Fractured Lands goes on the short list of battle royale games that I have legitimately enjoyed.