Attempting to break into the battle royal genre is an unenviable task, yet that’s exactly what Zodiac Interactive is intending to do with its upcoming game, RAN: Lost Islands.
Announced as part of the China Hero Project (a Sony-backed initiative to empower Chinese game developers), RAN has been confirmed for the PlayStation 4, though it will come to Steam first with a closed beta planned for next month.
Before going hands on with the game, there was some unavoidable skepticism. Much like when MMORPGs and MOBAs rose to prominence, there has been no shortage of battle royale games since the genre’s rapid rise in popularity, though only a few of these have really managed to come out on top.
What instantly sets RAN apart is its historical setting. Playing fast and loose with what we know of the 16th century, Lost Islands presents a fictional showdown between the Ming Dynasty, Japanese Shogunate, and European Empire.
Focusing on this time period means that firearms are still in their infancy. You’ll come across muskets, pistols, cannons, and more exotic gunpowder weapons such as the blunderbuss, but there’s also a large spread of melee weapons up for grabs.
Lost Islands checks off all the battle royale essentials. 100 players wind up on a shattered peninsula of islands, each spawning in their own rowboat. Completely unarmed and with only the clothes on your back, you’ll spend those first few minutes rowing to shore and maybe even picking off an opponent or two using the wee mounted cannon on your boat.
Tarry too long, however, and you’ll get swept up in a tsunami – RAN’s own take on the contracting ring that pushes players closer together, raising the tension well into the final minutes of each match.
In the meantime, you’ll be scouring the islands and their many settlements for items such as weapons, armour, and consumables. The better gear you have, the better your chances are at surviving, unless you find yourself ambushed or ganged up on.
Fighting at long range feels similar to most third person shooters, just with much longer reload times for RAN’s primitive weapons. Up close, you’ll hack, slash, dodge, and block in a dance that can feel scrappy, yet with a certain logic to it. A good comparison here would be the Mount & Blade franchise and, yes, you can ride horses too.
We enjoyed what we played of RAN: Lost Islands and it definitely seems as though developer Jolly Roger could carve themselves a small niche within the genre. However, this depends on how they flesh the game out between now and launch: how intuitive its progression systems are, how Zodiac Interactive plans to monetise RAN, and how long console players will have to wait in order to get their hands on it.