Damn. I really have my work cut out for me with this one. I've given myself the span of a fairly short post to try and convince you, dear reader, to give Rocket Bot Royale a shot. It looks like a browser-based game, and it is. It looks like it's probably not worth anyone's time except schoolkids playing on computers in the IT department during their lunch breaks. But goodness me, is there more going on here than meets the eye.
As I've made abundantly clear ever since I joined RPS, battle royales are my jam. I'll happily bulk out my Steam library with reams of half-baked ideas and clunky combat systems in the hopes of finding the next big time-sink for me and my squadmates to get lost in over the next several months. I fully expected Rocket Bot Royale to be left at the bottom of my most played games on Steam list after a few weeks, but after a few hours of play, I'm starting to think eventually it might arrive at the top. It's Worms, but with tanks. It's free to play. And I absolutely cannot stop playing it.
Rocket Bot Royale is a very simple 2D battle royale, with each match taking less than 5 minutes to play. You and 34 other players drop into the same side-scrolling map filled with random chunks of destructible terrain. Each player controls a tank that can stick to and drive along any surface, even upside down. You have a constantly replenishing supply of rockets which you can use both to fire at other players, and to propel yourself into the air by shooting at the ground beneath you. It's incredibly straightforward, and every bit as fun as it sounds.
Combining movement and combat into one mouse-click like this is a masterstroke of game design, as far as I'm concerned. I quickly understood that my rocket ammo was a resource, and to play well I'd have to make split-second decisions about how best to use this resource. Say there's an enemy tank stuck to a nearby wall like a spider, and it shoots a rocket at me. Should I shoot at the ground to propel myself out of harm's way, or should I shoot back at the enemy tank - or even aim for the enemy rocket itself?
I'm writing this post only a day after discovering this wonderful game, and I already feel like I've pulled off some spectacular moves thanks to shrewd use of my weaponry to dodge attacks and launch my own. Yes, it may not look it, but Rocket Bot Royale is a game that heavily rewards skill and clever plays. There are extra weapon pickups dotted about every map, and more will arrive via Worms-esque air-dropped crates over the course of a game. There's a cluster missile, a nuke that provides a much larger explosion, a homing missile, a shield that reflects all weapons for a short time, and quite a few more that I haven't yet come across. String together these different weapons appropriately, and you can pull off some magnificent plays that will make you feel nothing short of godly.
Here's one such play I made earlier that scored me a triple-kill. It took a whole team of first responders to unclench my arsecheeks after this one.
The colourful cartoony maps of Rocket Bot Royale should be instantly familiar to anyone who's ever played a Worms game. Unlike other battle royales, there's very little sense of care having gone into the creation of these maps. But there's a good reason: like the worlds of Worms, the terrain here is completely destructible. Shoot a rocket into the ground and it'll eat a huge chunk out of the terrain. Shoot a nuke or a cluster missile at a nearby wall, and suddenly it's unrecognisable. The worlds may be simple, but that's because they're meant to be a canvas for the crazy warfare that ensues. Over the course of a few minutes, the landscape becomes completely unique, mere pockets of landmass upon which tanks must perch and climb to avoid the ever-rising water level that acts as the game's closing border.
There's a whole little meta-progression system going on as well, where you can use the money you collect in each game to kit yourself out with extra weapons and perks like bonus health and damage for your next match. But I prefer to completely ignore all that. It's so much more satisfying to be the last one standing when you've had to beat several far more heavily armed and armoured tanks than yourself to get there. And with the ability to collect new weapons over the course of a match, nothing ever feels unfair.
Back in December I wrote a piece on the upcoming battle royale Rumbleverse, in which I talked about how the game will frequently make me chortle even at my own death. For someone who gets quite competitive with these sorts of games, that's quite a rare thing - but unlikely though it may be, Rocket Bot Royale is exactly the same. It may look like a game that's been thrown together without much thought, but you could - equally mistakenly - say the same about Vampire Survivors. With ideas as good and as simple as these, they don't need much embellishing before they become some of the most fun you can have with a computer and a spare half-hour.
I've been playing Rocket Bot Royale on Steam, but it's also available to play in-browser. Try it out. Do some jumps, explode some tanks, and prepare for my inevitable Game Of The Year recommendation in eight months' time.