Only A Piece of the Pie
Multiplayer games are a huge part of the gaming landscape. Plenty of current releases are online multiplayer-only, and for every huge success, we see many fall to the wayside. While everyone marvels over the success of Fortnite, they gloss over failures like LawBreakers and Battleborn. It's a hard market to break into, and it's even harder to stand out unless you have a strong premise. You need to set yourselves apart and supply content for people to dive into. Vicious Circle from Rooster Teeth Games has delivered an interesting take on 'uncooperative' multiplayer gaming but is it enough to stick around?
Characters In Vicious Circle
At the moment Vicious Circle has one game mode that is 4v1 where even as a group of four you're never truly working as a team. They each select from the four playable mercenaries; Blitz, Captain Boom, CR45H & BURN, and Zella. Each character comes with their own unique weapon and special ability to help them escape hairy situations. While each mercenary has a unique design and playstyle, they all share similar abilities. Escape abilities get you away from action quickly but all in different ways. Blitz teleports in a line allowing for fast yet predictable movement, Captain Boom gets an extra shield to survive running out of danger. Each gives you that opportunity you need to flee. It's just a matter of how you use it. While the character designs themselves are interesting the small selection is a bit disheartening. Aside from the firing style and special move though there isn't much discernible difference between each of the characters and learning that won't take very long.
Mercs aim to collect 75 nuggets from each arena, allowing them to evacuate. However, only one player can leave during any given round. There are sacks that you can shoot for nuggets layered around the map but you'll earn nuggets fastest participating in map events. There are two events that can occur, a giant sack of nuggets appear or Void Eyes appear in a room. As you're shooting at them they'll slowly drop nuggets.
You'll know where and when to be ready from map markers but that also means that it's predictable for everyone to group up there. This feels like a simple oversight that could work well to shake-up where each player's priority is. There's little to no chance of winning without going for these objectives, ending up at the same points of the map doing the same thing immediately forces each session into a repetitive cycle. This predictable repetition means that the game is exactly what you don't want a game to be, especially an online-only FPS, and that's boring.
Earn Nuggets in Vicious Circle
While collecting nuggets each mercenary will also have to avoid Peggy Sue, a giant mutant chicken. It's Peggy Sue's aim to simply defeat all other players. Peggy Sue is an absolute powerhouse with a melee, ranged attack that slows down the mercs, and a charge that pushes Peggy in a straight line. There are some places that players can move into to get away from Peggy as she can't fit but even then there is very little protection. There's a good use of sound cues as you can really hear Peggy as she stomps around the arena but if you get cornered you're likely dead. On top of her charge killing mercs on contact, her other ability is to see every outline through the wall. The only way to stay hidden from Peggy Sue is to remain crouched. This is actually a great idea, forcing the players to play fast and loose or moving through the world slowly with the hope of coming out the other side, it's with the next gameplay mechanic that this stealth is completely ruined though.
Getting killed by Peggy Sue isn't the end though as you'll return to life as a small alien named Lil' Dipper. Where the mercenaries are all playing an Objective game type and Peggy Sue is focussing on the chicken version of Evolve turning into Lil' Dipper is a zombie game type. The Lil' Dipper has a quick dash and can use its tentacles to latch on and draw itself to platforms while it's hunting down survivors. Unline Peggy Sue who can only see each mercenary when they're not crouching the Lil' Dippers can always see the mercenaries. While they're pretty weak in this form them swarming can add enough pressure that remaining players really can't do anything to avoid. Peggy Sue being able to see Lil' Dipper, and Lil' Dipper being able to see crouching mercs it removes practically every chance you have to hide. While there is one item in the game that will temporarily shield your true location giving enemy players to ability to find you anywhere in the map and anytime just doesn't work. This becomes apparent as the numbers stacked against you and the only way to evacuate is to be able to stand in a ring and wait for eight seconds to pass by.
Being a monster in Vicious Circle
Once Peggy Sue starts getting kills and the merc begin turning the game turns into a lost cause extremely quickly. The game seems to be dependent on the competency of the player of Peggy Sue. If they can get an early kill the tide will continue to turn as players start splitting attention between Lil' Dippers, collecting nuggets, and avoiding the heavy stomps of Peggy Sue. It doesn't feel as much that the game is well balanced, but that it's a seesaw that slowly tips from one side to the other getting. The game gets progressively easier for the monster and harder for the mercs. This lack of balance is even more glaring when playing in a round of fewer than 5 people which unfortunately already isn't uncommon. There doesn't need to be a way for the mercs to completely overpower the monster. However, having four out of five rounds where the odds are stacked extremely around you gives players a futile feeling.
There's conflict in Vicious Circle that has the game tripping over its own feet and it comes out to be a mess of a game. Each of the three gameplay portions has their own controls, objectives, and styles yet you need to be constantly thinking about how to take advantage of the one you're in. A useless stealth mechanic negated on the first mercenary death, that could be a real strength. The tipping scale of difficulty starting at 4v1 feels relatively balanced but that quickly slips to where absolutely nothing can be done. Even the win condition of the game doesn't line up with the gameplay. You spend 2-4 minutes sprinting around a map, because stealth is useless, only to hopefully collect enough nuggets and try to stand in place for eight seconds. The greatest luck you'll have playing Vicious Circle is to either be the monster and follow the Lil' Dippers around or hope that your chicken is inept.
At launch, this game has one game mode, four mercenaries, four maps, and one monster. This game mode is uncommon and while you can see elements from other games present as a whole the concept is unique just lacking in execution. It feels like the developers haven't fully fleshed out their ideas as of yet. In fact, it almost feels like you're hopping into Early Access instead of a full release. The flip side of this though is the number of emotes, skins, and quotes that unlock by leveling up your Battle Pass. There seems to be an imbalance in how much is present to create a community like other large multiplayer shooters versus the limited in-game content available to the player. Vicious Circles' plan for players to return is for the cosmetics, and not for compelling and enjoyable gameplay.
Vicious Circle Battle Pass Rewards
What Rooster Teeth Games has with Vicious Circle is a really interesting concept. A 4v1 game where no one is ever really on the same side combining elements of three different games. Features like taking over other players characters and assuming their roles forces players to experience every part of the game. The unfortunate part is that experiencing every part of the game is a brief process. A small roster of characters and predictable events limit the possibility of what's possible in each arena, causing the game to grow stale immediately. With limited content, even including the 2019 roadmap though you'll experience all of that content very quickly. Vicious Circle feels like a title released in Early Access but for a multiplayer shooter that needs players to survive a feature-lite release might just spell its doom.
TechRaptor reviewed Vicious Circle on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.
- Unique Concept
- Unbalanced Gameplay
- One Game Mode
- Focus on Cosmetics