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The RPS Advent Calendar 2021, December 7th

A Dog build is for life, not just for Christmas

We're rounding out our first week of the Advent Calendar with a game that'll let you chill out a bit. Listen, and you can hear what sounds like a fight going on. But an adorable one, with lots of cricket chirping.

Butter my crumpets, it's only bloody Super Auto Pets!

Alice0: Super Auto Pets is an auto-battler, building on the ideas of games like Dota Auto Chess and Teamfight Tactics where we buy, upgrade, and arrange a team of units then watch hands-off as battles against other players unfold. Here, those 2D battles are simplified to 1D with our teams arranged in a line, and the murderwizards are replaced with cute animals. Sounds simple and looks cheerful, but don't be fooled: it's delightful to master.

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It has a wonderful absence of things I don't want in a video game right now: it has no plot to remember between sessions, no grind to catch up on, and no pressure to play at any particular pace. What the auto-battler does have, beneath the simple setup and colourful art, is a complex system of synergies, combos, weaknesses, and opportunities. Like Ollie, I've been delighted discovering this web of interconnected abilities, the theorycrafting behind builds, and having to react as my best-laid plans run into other players' plans and the capricious will of RNG. I've won with mega-buffed teams, I've won with fiendish combos, and I've lost to teams who looked like they shouldn't work at all then revealed tricks which made me laugh aloud.

One element I'd like to highlight: how much Super Auto Pets expands on the shopping side of auto-battlers. A pleasing number of abilities and items manipulate the shop, making the financial game sometimes as satisfying as building my animal army. This dovetails nicely with how gentle the pace is. With asychronous matchmaking, it has no round timers, no hurry to buy. I can umm and ahh over decisions as long as I like. I can quit a run in the middle and return to it the next day. Hell, I can even continue that same run on my phone.

It's generous as hell too. The free-to-play base game is plenty to enjoy in itself, and the paid expansion offers no advantage because matchmaking pools are separate by default.

Super Auto Pets is both complex and casual, and I appreciate this energy right now.

An animal battle brewing in a Super Auto Pets screenshot.

Ollie: I'm sure there are a great many sentences I've uttered when talking about Super Auto Pets that have never been uttered before by anyone. Gems such as "Jeez, that Dodo-Hippo synergy is amazing", "Nothing makes a Peacock angrier than staring at an Elephant's arse", or "There's always just one fucking Cricket left at the end, isn't there?" stand out in my memory in particular. And all of those were uttered within just my first couple days of playing this adorable and honestly quite ingenious little autobattler.

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