My favorite battle royale is dead. It died, officially, on January 27th 2022, at 5:00 EST, when Ubisoft announced that it would be shut down on April 28th. It was faster than Apex Legends, had more intuitive building mechanics than Fortnite, and had swappable abilities that allowed players to creatively change playstyle mid game. Yet, these abilities were simple and easy to learn, and the pace of the gameplay, while manically fast, felt rewarding. In its early days, everyone was learning, so it was a constant fight to improve the fastest day by day. It was glorious. And then it wasn’t.
Battle royale games are ubiquitous, and have been for the past five years, since the immense popularity of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) in late 2017. In fact, if you count the real original battle royale—the Minecraft servers that ran survival games—then this genre has been around for a decade now. However, the market has become saturated and predictable. Other than Fortnite’s building mechanics, and Apex’s MOBA-like (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) Legends (in-game characters), or the brief popularity of Fall Guys’ game-show-esque format, the genre has sort of stagnated. The gameplay of a modern battle royale is predictable, two-dimensional, and has too much luck involved for my taste. At least, that was the case until 2020. Then, the best battle royale you’ve never heard of, Hyper Scape, was released.
If you said Hyper Scape sounds like something a four year old in the world of Ready Player One might like, you would be absolutely right. It’s like a game designer was given five gallons of Dunkin’ coffee (no milk, no sugar), no sleep for three weeks, VHS tapes of Tron, and the unabridged Ready Player One book. And yet, Hyper Scape was so so fun. Sure, it hurt my eyes to look at the game for more than three hours straight, but that’s my fault for having weak eyes.
The gameplay, during its brief peak, was wild. Other than some notable imbalances in gameplay (aim assist, the hexfire weapon being overpowered on console, close quarters making some ranged weapons useless), Hyper Scape was shaping up to be one of the most interesting battle royales ever. Its differentiating factor (because every battle royale has one, and only one, of those) was its verticality. That is, the game was fully three-dimensional. You were likely to travel as much in elevation as in latitude, if not more, throughout a match. From teleportation and giant leaps, to walls or bouncy balls like Mei or Hammond in Overwatch, to double jumps and well-placed objects that made for intuitive parkour, the game was pure movement. Apex Legends, which is the next fastest-paced battle royale, has two features that slow the game down, both of which are my primary peeves with it. That is: you slow down when you take damage, and the time to kill (a measure of how quickly it is possible to kill someone) is extremely long. Apex’s high time to kill is due to the large health reserves of characters, and this makes for battles of attrition, especially late game. What I dislike about that, as well as the slow movement under fire of most characters, is that it makes individual skill less important in favor of group coordination, appealing to casual players while alienating those who like to show off. Hyper Scape was the opposite. In Hyper Scape, hiding was one option, but it was always better to run. Because of the speed of the characters and the intensely unimpeding map design, doubling back, direction changes, and long exciting chases were an essential feature of every game, one that left players’ hands trembling, whether they were the ones chasing or being chased. One of the most important aspects of the game was running away at the last second, something few other games even let players get away with.
Another highlight of the game’s heyday was the variety and quality of cosmetics, as well as the fact that there was no advantage or disadvantage to any one of them. Melee weapons, character skins, voice lines, emotes, and the whole rest of the usual lineup for skins were well done. They fit the established story and theme, and integrated well into the game-to-game experience, since they were designed in such a way that you would interact with your cosmetics at almost all times. Additionally, since they fit the aesthetic of the game so well, they never became intrusive or annoying. They were just a way to spice up the visuals without changing gameplay. However, the characters, which were another form of cosmetics in Hyper Scape, seemed to lack depth and story, which may have hurt the game.
But there’s a reason Hyper Scape is dead, and there are reasons nothing like it may come around for a long time. Ubisoft didn’t pay enough attention to the playerbase’s needs. As the initial peak player count petered out after release, Ubisoft failed to listen to what the remaining players wanted. Their patches, like rebalancing of weapons and abilities, came too little and too late, after the players who voiced the concerns had already left the community.
Additionally, Hyper Scape’s unbalanced nature made it difficult to enjoy as a casual player unaware of the better weapons. The short time to kill and frenetic pacing, which appealed so strongly to devotees like me, drove away people who just wanted to have a bit of fun after getting home from work. Unlike other games with a very unusual default play style, Hyper Scape did not have other gameplay options, nor did it polish its main gamemode to completion before release. The game became available in Beta, and launched fully a month later. Yet, even then, the weapons were unbalanced, and thus the highest level of competitors, as well as content creators, were put off from the game. Without content creators’ enthusiasm, it is difficult to survive as a game, unless the developer makes its survival an absolute priority. Ubisoft’s biggest success, Rainbow Six: Siege, had a similarly mid-sized launch and quick falloff, but since Ubisoft made a steady stream of new content, its player base has now grown to several times its count at release, and is planned to live another half-decade at least. Hyper Scape, on the contrary, was likely deemed a lost cause after its quick decline.
The last time I tried playing it, in October of 2021, Hyper Scape was less than a shell of its former self. The lobbies, small when I left the game in early 2021, had become miniscule. Only fifteen to twenty players would be on at a time, all devotees who fell on either side of the now enormous skill gap. In the week or two I came back to the game, I began to recognize names. This is not something you want from a battle royale, where, ideally, you’d play with a new set of 60+ players every game. The weapons had been balanced to a good state, as had the abilities, and there was even another new game mode. But none of that interested me. I just wanted to get a glimpse of the golden months of the game. Those months, however, have been lost forever. I doubt I will see days like those again, and because of the concept’s now proven failure, I doubt I will get to see another game like Hyper Scape either.
Goodbye, Hyper Scape, you were crazy, and I loved you for it.