Apex Legends and Hunt: Showdown are naturally two of the inspirations behind Hyenas, the upcoming battle royale game from Alien: Isolation developer Creative Assembly. But as PCGamesN sits down at Gamescom 2022 with lead meta designer Christoph Will, it becomes clear that, despite taking pointers from the big, FPS multiplayer hits, Hyenas is not a survival game.
If this is your first time hearing about Hyenas, the premise is thus: in a miserable and highly capitalist future where Earth has been ruined by climate change and natural disasters, billionaires have fled the planet in enormous ships designed to house mountains of valuable artefacts and loot.
As a kind of astronaut Robin Hood, your job, within a squad of fellow, eponymous Hyenas, is to break into the ships, grab everything you can, and get out. Of course, other player squads will be there to meet you and fight to the death over the priciest morsels, as well as the billionaires’ hired NPC goons – using six different characters, all with unique weapons and abilities, as well as the game’s unique zero-gravity combat, you’ve got to battle it out to escape with your swag.
“It’s somewhere between Hunt and Apex,” says Christoph Will. “We have fast-paced, movement-based gameplay that occasionally uses hip fire and abilities, which is like Apex, but the way you move around the map and use NPCs is like Hunt. We’ve achieved the rare success of a zero-gravity system that feels good to play. It’s pseudo realistic. It’s not realistic zero-gravity, but it feels great to play.
“And our heroes are definitely unique personalities and have unique gameplay around them. Their abilities are unique and also their primary weapons. But it’s definitely more about movement than shooting. The movement demands more skill than the gunplay.”
This is what, potentially, makes Hyenas unique. Though it’s based on objectives and requires you to battle NPCs as well as players, like Hunt, and naturally features some fast-paced PvP like Apex and other battle royales, the high intensity of a game like Escape from Tarkov, and the focus on pure survival, is toned down. Will says the goal is to create something more forgiving and free-flowing.
“We didn’t want to be as punitive about death as a classic battle royale,” says Will. “It’s more about the objective of getting the most loot and getting out. We’ve been tweaking how often conflicts and encounters result in wiping out. We want a strong comeback mechanism. Generally you have a big PvP fight at the end of the match because we manage to keep enough teams alive so that at the end, there’s enough teams to converge and have a big fight, along with some of the NPCs. It’s not about survival. Survival isn’t the goal.”
Hyenas is also trying to distinguish itself from its battle royale competitors with its distinctive aesthetic and premise. Given the antics of Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone right now who wouldn’t relish the chance to loot a billionaire’s spaceship. Will says Hyenas is inspired by a classic, historic conflict, as opposed to any specific story.
“It’s less specific movies and more the universal story of disenfranchised people rising up against the rich,” Will says. “We want something that fuses that conflict. We weren’t thinking of anything specific, just something that resonates.”
Published by Sega, Creative Assembly is also partnering with a range of other companies and organisations to create the loot that you’ll find in the game – Rubik’s cubes, old Mega Drives, and a litany of other pop-culture mementos, you’ll find them all on-board the billionaire’s ships.
“We’re working with a lot of partners,” Will says. “You’ll find an Atari in there, lots of items you will recognise. But if we have something from Sega, we have to use it. And at the end of each game there is a clear winner – the team that gets out with the most.”
While you wait on Hyenas, which is due for release in 2023, you can kill time with some of the other best battle royale games, or perhaps some of the best FPS or best multiplayer games. PCGamesN is reporting live from Gamescom 2022 and will continue bringing you exclusives on all the big games revealed there.