When you think of “battle royales”, the first image that is conjured up in your mind is probably Fortnite. The second is probably a tie between Call of Duty Warzone and Apex Legends. These games have a ton in common outside of their basic game mechanics, and it is those similarities that have largely defined that specific genre.
Other battle royales have come and gone in between, but they either didn’t have the gameplay to keep players engaged or didn’t have what it took to exist alongside those giants. I played a game recently that labels itself as a battle royale, and might just have the style, gumption, and gameplay to carve out a little space for itself in this genre that has been dominated by the same games for so long.
It’s called Eternal Return, and it’s an isometric MOBA/battle royale that got a healthy dose of anime for good measure. It won’t be for everyone based on its anime-forward designs alone, and it certainly won’t court the Fortnite or Warzone fanbase into another live-service title, but it is one hell of a game.
Let’s take a look at it in this review.
Making Something New
Eternal Return was developed by the South Korea-based studio Nimble Neuron, and it was published by Kakao Games Europe. Nimble Neuron’s only other project is the mobile game Immortal Soul: Black Survival, which appears to be a visual novel/survival game that carries many of the same concepts and even characters as Eternal Return. However, Eternal Return is exclusively a PC game available on Steam, so it is mercifully NOT a port of a mobile game.
Thank god for that.
In addition to being a title with focused development for PC rather than a roughshod port, Eternal Return has quite a lot going for it. It’s not all good, but what’s great definitely outweighs the not-so-good.
If you’re a weeb, Eternal Return is probably already on your radar.
The unmistakable style of the Japanese art form is on full display throughout the entire experience with all of its associated quirks fully intact. Especially unrealistic female body proportions and skimpy costumes. Make of that what you will.
Outside of those quirks, Eternal Return’s world and cast are wonderfully realized, with solid design work and excellent animation bringing the handful of cutscenes to life. Every new character of which there are quite a few) has a distinct personality and visual appeal in addition to their gameplay ramifications.
One curious thing Eternal Return does is jump back and forth between what sounds like Japanese voice acting (I’m not familiar enough with the languages to be able to tell if it’s Korean or not, I apologize for my ignorance) and full English voice work. This happens several times within the first hour of gameplay, and it’s more than a little bit confusing. I’m not sure if that was a design choice or just an oversight of the game’s development, but it definitely seems like something that should be one way or the other.
The MOBAttle Royale
After a brief intro cutscene and a few tutorial segments to introduce you to Eternal Return’s mechanics and characters, you get free reign over the game’s menu. There’s the obligatory “Store” tab since this is a free-to-play title, but we’ll get into that a little later.
For now, let’s talk about the actual experience of playing Eternal Return.
As of this review, you have to play every match with a team of 3 players. I prefer to roll solo in any game whenever possible, especially in a game like this where tactics and strategy can be very important. That’s not possible here in Eternal Return, though from the Steam reviews it seems like it might have been at some point. I understand why teams of three are being pushed, but having the option for solos would be nice for an admittedly small subsection of players.
It’s just that getting tactical with players who don’t have mics or seem willing to take hints or any kind of direction isn’t really conducive to having a good time.
Despite getting ganged up on while my teammates wandered more than once, there is a lot to like about Eternal Return. The moment-to-moment gameplay will be extremely familiar to anyone who has played a MOBA, and the crafting system that is layered on top is very intuitive and not at all confusing. The resources you need are always on-screen, loot points have those resources marked with a yellow triangle, and you don’t even have to sift through menus to craft. Just press Z, and whatever you need at that moment will be crafted after a short animation. It’s really well-designed, and I never felt like I ever needed more fine control over what I was crafting. The boost in armor or damage after every craft was sufficient.
Filling Out the Roster
You’re provided with a healthy selection of unique free characters to choose from at the beginning of every match, but you’re probably going to want to peruse the store for cosmetics, items, and the insane number of extra characters.
I’m never a fan of microtransactions or in-game stores like this, but I try to evaluate them as unbiasedly as possible. In the case of Eternal Return, the in-game store is…. Fine.
You have your usual assortment of cosmetics, bundles, loot boxes, battle passes, all of the things you would expect from a game like this – and the prices seem to be more or less in line with other popular games. Whether or not any of this will be worth it to you will depend on how much the game grabs you, but I’m getting sucked in based on the characters alone.
Maybe keep your wallet far away when you play this one.
Standing Out From the Crowd
I’ll admit I’m a sucker for anime, so Eternal Return already had me invested based on its look. So, when I came to find that the game is also pretty fun and intuitive, I was pleasantly surprised. Nimble Neuron definitely has something going here, and they seem to be committed to adding content and supporting the game for quite some time. That’s a great thing, and I hope more free-to-play games take cues from Eternal Return.