At first, the name Z1 Battle Royale may not ring any bells. Just what is this game, anyway?
Technically, it’s a new name and a few updates for a game that you may already know: H1Z1. And as the new name implies, this is a “battle royale” style game that is currently all the rage.
However, that leads to a natural question: is it worth playing this game instead of something like Fortnite? And does this re-branding effort hide a game that’s secretly a stinker?
All of these questions and more are answered in this review!
What Has Changed?
As noted above, this game has had many names. First, it was H1Z1. Later, it was H1Z1: King of the Hill, so named for one of its most beloved modes. The naming then went back to the simpler H1Z1 before being rebranded as Z1 Battle Royale.
The obvious question here is “what has actually changed?” And some of the answers may surprise you!
For example, some of the additions are just ways that the developer is trying to keep up with the Battle Royale gaming competition. This includes a healthy heaping of skins and, of course, loot boxes. And there have also been some new modes added that range from missions you get in match to daily and weekly challenges for hardcore players to chase down.
Some of the other changes, though, represent the game deliberately returning to form. For example, the graphics and lighting of this “new” game look more like it did when it first came out.
Many changes to weapons have been reversed, and you no longer get those handy “points of interest” on a map (outside of being told where the safe zone is to survive the encroaching gas).
In case you didn’t know, the “Z” in the game’s title stands for “zombie.” After playing a few matches, though, you might be wondering: where did all the zombies go?
Way back when the original game launched, the main draw was that it was a massive zombie survival game. Only a few months later, Daybreak added a “King of the Hill” mode that was basically a battle royale mode.
That mode soon became the most popular thing about the game, and now, the focus is entirely on battle royale. The zombie mode was spun off into a separate game subtitled Just Survive, but that game is no longer very active or even available on Steam outside of a test server.
The core gameplay of Z1 Battle Royale will be familiar to anyone who has played Fortnite or similar games. Either solo or with a team, you parachute into a map, choosing a landing spot that offers both maximum gear and maximum chances to survive. After that, you race to be the last person or team standing at the end.
There are some other familiar battle royale elements. This includes a massive cloud of green and poisonous gas that slowly closes in on the map. This forces players into smaller and smaller circles, ensuring that no game lasts very long.
And while they are in a simpler form than what you might expect (see my thoughts below), you have some familiar elements such as crafting things based on what you have found.
Unfortunately, the crafting system is disappointing by almost any measure: not only is it less robust than you would find in something like Fortnite, but it’s also far simpler than what the Just Survive game had.
All of this is in service of keeping the game very simple, which is something of a double-edged sword.
Keep It Simple
Many critics (particularly older critics) of Fortnite often bring up the same thing: “it’s all confusing!”
And, to be fair, it is. That game asks you to be an expert scavenger, crafter, builder, and shooter, and to become an expert while your digital life is on the line. That level of multitasking is a bit much for plenty of players.
However, I’m not sure if Z1’s simplicity is the answer to this issue. Instead of simplifying the crafting by a small margin, Daybreak dumbed it down by a huge amount. Instead of making weapons management a bit easier, they practically eliminated weapons upgrades and customization.
The end result is a game with nowhere to really grow. This seems metaphorically driven home by the fact that many of the re-branding changes were to make the game more like H1Z1 in its heyday. So, if you liked that game or this one on first blush, you’ll be set. But if you didn’t like it or get bored after mastering it, there may be little else to do.
Props where they are due, though: Z1 Battle Royale features vehicles as part of the mayhem. And even though physics go out the window when you get behind a digital wheel, engaging in some vehicular manslaughter makes this feel a bit different from the competition.
Ultimately, it’s tough to recommend Z1 Battle Royale. Some readers have already played this game in its previous incarnations, and depending on taste, may have preferred the old game better.
And those who never experienced the old game have likely played new and better battle royale games. That means that Z1 Battle Royale ends up feeling like a simple throwback, even if the core gameplay may have been innovative at one point.
Maybe the zombies never did leave the game. After all, the entire thing feels like a dead premise that developers just keep bringing back from the dead.