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Eternal Return's Upcoming Full Release and What to Expect

1 Jul 2023

Eternal Return is having its official 1.0 release on July 20th. Published by Kakao Games, Eternal Return is an isometric multiplayer online survival battle arena game. In the beta, it featured 64 characters, a loot-and-craft system, and both single and squad based modes.

I was decently surprised to to see this press release email land in my inbox. The game has grown significantly since I played it, which at the time featured a significantly smaller roster.

The basic gameplay loop was as follows; you are dropped at a random spot on a map, and you collected item components from either the general terrain or from PVE enemies on the map. At whatever point was best for your character’s strengths or build progress, you proactively or defensively fight other players, with victors claiming more character levels and the loot from their enemies. Like many battle royale games, safe zones get smaller, although in Eternal Return the safe zones vary between games.

As someone who had a decent amount of high-level experience in the MOBA genre (specifically League of Legends), and some exposure to PUBG and Apex Legends, I technically wasn’t a stranger to this game’s genres, and the character kits were relatively easy to pick up if you tested yourself against bots.

However, I’d say that even if you were an average-to-above-average MOBA player familiar with ranged kiters, all-in burst assassins, bruisers, and tank kit prototypes you’d find in a lot of MOBA games, what did feel like a pretty large curve was the pathing you’d need to take while building up your kit.

This was caused by two major factors. Firstly, unlike say Apex Legends, where generally any place could drop your basics, the item building in this game is pretty reminiscent of the MOBA genre where different classes would use very uniquely different items. That is to say, it would generally put you pretty behind if you were just to build whatever was in conveniently in front of you without a plan. A sniper prototype character can’t make too much use out of a tank item, or a burst assassin wont have much use for an auto-attack enhancer.

As such, you do need to devise a gameplan for your pathing in the arena, as certain item components will only drop in certain areas. This is doubly amplified if you’re playing in a squad, as you need to plan out a “combined pathway” for your squad, including decisions for how much you can push fragmented item collecting versus getting caught out by a congregated enemy squad.

Another aspect of the game that was also a bit less intuitive, even for someone not completely new to MOBA fighting systems, was power spike relevancy. In League of Legends (and even more so for DOTA2), long game phases where you interacted with minions in predetermined areas and turrets slowed down full-blown engagements. In Eternal Return, although you have very early gathering phases per the general Battle Royale genre, the time between “chill” to brawling could be wildly variant depending on what characters you were playing versus enemy characters.

If you’re the type of player who does like to do a lot of research before jumping into something, memorizing general “early-mid-late” categorizations of characters isn’t inherently the toughest. But a lack of knowledge could result in some relatively one-sided hard stomp experiences, and this only gets amplified more in squad modes.

With that being said, being able to jump into the action earlier than later is, in my prediction, a good aspect overall for the game’s success, with earlier action making battle royales a lot more popular than the MOBA genre for younger gamers.

Having discussed some of the aspects of the game that seemed daunting at the start, the flip-side of both of those aspects is the fact that if you are a multi-monitor gamer, or someone who is open to looking up guides, the game’s overall learning curve to achieve the skill floor is a lot less restrictive compared to both the titan MOBAs. The fact that Eternal Return is a hybrid between MOBAs and Battle Royale also makes the pacing a lot faster, both in-game and between matches.

I’m not discounting the acquired taste of traditional MOBAs – a lot of beautiful strategy and nuance exists in setting up vision relative to lane states, in terms of picking and counter-picking step by step versus your enemy team, and 120+ picks of champions all but eliminate rock paper scissors in a 5v5 match up. However, there is a reason why traditional MOBAs are seeing a decline in the Western market for young audiences versus the Battle Royale genre. Battle Royale allows you to get into the action a lot faster, and a shorter match length mean that even in the case of an early loss, you can jump right into the action again much more quickly.

I’m not absolving Eternal Return of potentially frustrating snowballing. However, comparatively speaking, you’re locked into a 30 minute match on average for League of Legends even including surrender scenarios, and 35 minutes for DOTA2. On the other hand, per Eternal Return’s Battle Royale element, instead of one winner and loser, there’s far less time spent playing “on the backfoot.”

With all the analysis on the accessibility and how it feels to try the game out, the game’s ceiling based on my experiences should also be decent for your average video game enthusiast. I will admit that I did not play and study this game nearly as in-depth as I did with MOBAs in League of Legends. But between the combinations you can form with 64 characters, pathing and looting RNG variability, and the game-state constantly shifting based on which squads or individuals are picking up kills at variable pacings, I would imagine that this game will have a lot of replayability even for those looking to really sink their fangs into a title for their free time.

I do have a gap between the last time I played and now as we approach Eternal Return’s official release, but in terms of what I do want to see hopefully improved with the official launch compared to the version I played, I do hope the matchmaking formula is a bit tighter. It obviously didn’t enjoy full release numbers at the time, and due to its hybrid genre doesn’t enjoy the same player base size as established games. But per Kakao Games’ press release’s email tagline that included “a fresh start for new players,” good matchmaking will be crucial. A cleaner UI to accompany the game’s vibrant and heavily anime-stylized graphics will also be crucial to giving the game a triple-A polish.

Overall, the game is pretty polished, free-to-play, and easy to pick up, void of pay-to-win monetization that plagues many modern multiplayer titles. I’d recommend you to give it a try if you’re in the mood for a fast-paced PVP experience that does not demand hours to get into, but has a decent amount of replayability.

All images and video courtesy of Kakao Games