MOBA-inspired battle royale Eternal Return just hit its 1.0 release and left Steam’s Early Access, so it’s about time that we reviewed it.
Eternal Return‘s mixture of MOBA and battle royale is pretty interesting. A few shooters have tried introducing skills to the main gameplay, but not many of them have actually succeeded.
Just like any other battle royale, Eternal Return drops you onto the game map alongside two teammates, where you have to fight to the death with the opposing teams.
Developer: Nimble Neuron
Publisher: Kakao Games Europe B.V. (EU,NA,OCE), Nimble Neuron (Excluding EU,NA,OCE)
Platforms: Microsoft Windows (Reviewed)
Release Date: October 14, 2023 (Early Access), July 20, 2023 (1.0 release)
Each character has a specific set of items they have to build, which are needed to keep up with the increasingly powerful monsters that start showing up throughout the map, as well as the other players.
The map is segmented into various areas, and each area has specific materials on it, meaning that you will have to take a certain route throughout the map to find everything you need before zones start becoming blocked off.
The game makes it pretty painless to find items and even tells you in what area of the map they are, but it’s not always that you will be able to craft everything before an important zone gets blocked off, meaning that you will have to buy the item instead.
These crafted items are pretty faithful to the MOBA item trees, where you keep combining items until they become their best version. Your items can all reach a certain rarity (purple) by collecting things from around the map, but for their final step, you will need rarer items that drop from bosses or certain events inside the match.
This way of itemizing players works really well, and would be the highlight of Eternal Return if the gameplay wasn’t also fantastic. Making the player choose between spending credits, risking their life against a super strong boss, or fighting other teams to finish their build helps with keeping things tense.
Despite some characters having overlapping weapons, the entire cast of Eternal Return plays completely differently from each other. It’s easy to see that a lot of care went into actually making each character play like they belong in a MOBA instead of half-assing it with one or two unique skills.
Each character has a set of four skills unique to them, plus a weapon skill and a universal skill, with their kits ranging from simple and straightforward to extremely complex.
There’s a really diverse cast that will suit any playstyle you can think of; characters like Jan just run up to people and punch them, while characters like Adina are constantly switching between four elements that alter all of her skills.
What’s interesting is that it’s pretty easy to spot the inspirations for these characters abilities; William shares a lot of similarities with Draven from League of Legends, and Adriana does with Blaze from Heroes of the Storm.
I can’t say I mind it, though; I’m sure there are more of these similarities that I haven’t spotted yet, and I won’t complain about it; it makes sense to be inspired by good ideas. There are some titles that just completely steal ideas from other games, but I’d say Eternal Return is pretty tasteful when it comes to that.
Eternal Return‘s character designs are also very impressive; the cast is wide and varied, and their 2D art gets adapted perfectly into the 3D models. It’s rare that a game with so many characters has such good designs, but I can’t think of a single one I dislike.
Eternal Return has players joining the game in teams of 3, and if you read my preview for Farlight 84, you’d see that I complained a lot about that. Eternal Return did have a solo mode before its 1.0 release, but it was removed on launch.
Personally, I didn’t get to experience it, but this is a rare case where I actually don’t mind playing with a team. I still think every battle royale should have a solo mode, as the real experience will always be a glorious one person versus the entire world match, but it doesn’t bother me that much in here.
MOBAs are usually built around the concept of teamfights, and I enjoyed playing with a team in Eternal Return. Most of the time you’ll all be on different corners of the map building your items anyway, so you still get that thrill of surviving alone at points in the match.
I also complained in my Farlight 84 preview about death being completely meaningless, and unfortunately, Eternal Return is even worse about it. People don’t even fight each other for the first half of the game because it just doesn’t matter.
Any player that dies before a certain point just gets to resurrect after 30 seconds with all of their items. I’m still unclear on how looting dead players works, but so far I haven’t been able to grab anything important from someone that got killed.
This is terrible, and I will never be able to understand why modern battle royales keep avoiding the idea of letting a player die before the end of the match. It completely undermines the stakes of a survival game if death simply doesn’t matter.
For a free-to-play game, Eternal Return doesn’t even have any predatory mechanics. It has a battle pass and cosmetics, but they are mostly just character skins, which I’m completely fine with. They do play around with FOMO through season-exclusive skin packs, but it doesn’t really affect my enjoyment of the game.
Eternal Return‘s custcenes are voiced in Chinese, but the in-game dialogue is voiced in English. There are some very mixed performances in the dubbing, especially coming from Hyejin, whose English voice actress sounds like she is being held at gunpoint while reading off of a script.
To make matters worse, the characters never shut up; everything they do has a voice line attached to it, even reaching certain parts of the map. While some are charming, like Jackie, others are unbearable to hear throughout the entire match.
Something that I also complained about in a recent review was how prominent bots have become in free-to-play games. I completely understand having a few bots in a regular battle royale game; after all, filling multiple maps with 100 players at any time of the day isn’t exactly easy.
Eternal Return‘s matches have less than 20 players, so I don’t understand why the game puts you up against bots so frequently. Queuing alone is the easiest way to just play an entire match full of bots, even your teammates.
Going through matchmaking does let you play with real humans, but every once in a while you will be placed in a full bot match again, for no good reason. I wasn’t completely sure if I was playing against bots in Omega Strikers, but I am 100% sure of it in Eternal Return because the bots are completely stupid.
The bots for this game are completely braindead and just stand there while being walloped. They also barely build any items, and you can get a full legendary loadout before they even leave the uncommon rarity.
I find it really hard to believe that the game can’t muster up 18 players to fill a game, and while I do understand that it’s customary to play your first match against bots so the tutorial mechanics really sink in, I don’t think it should keep happening.
It’s infuriating to get into a match and immediately realize that the next 20 minutes or so won’t matter because the extremely stupid bots won’t even craft their items, let alone threaten your chances of winning the game.
The actual matches against humans thankfully don’t have any bots, so I can at least say that player matches are really fun to play. It’s just a shame that free-to-play games are terrified of having a queue longer than 20 seconds.
Overall, Eternal Return is a very unique battle royale; it has a lot of good ideas and fantastic characters with really diverse playstyles, but still falls for some of the trappings that other games from the genre do, especially when it comes to matchmaking.
Even if some of the things that I complained about might be a bit annoying, I still recommend that you try it out; it’s a surprisingly high quality title, especially since it’s free.