Royal Crown is a battle royale game – a genre that involves short, sharp bursts of action-packed gameplay.
But it’s also an action-RPG – a genre that involves its own share of action, but also long, campaign-driven gameplay sessions where you have to gradually build up your character through looting and upgrading.
You’d think the two gameplay styles would be incompatible, but developer Line Games somehow makes it work.
The key Royal Crown’s success is its simplicity. For instance, while the champions that you can collect fit into all the usual classes – warrior, mage, healer, tank, etc – and have a completely typical range of attributes and skills, there are only 15 of them in the entire game.
You can’t upgrade them, either – though you can equip them with new skins, hats, and facial accessories like glasses and beards. That means you’re not going to spend your time summoning a vast army of heroes and levelling them up. You’ve got your 15, and that’s it.
Royal Crown’s gameplay is all on the battlefield, and it plays out in customary battle royale fashion. You start off in a steampunk airship that’s cruising at altitude over an island. It’s clear from above that this island is carved up into separate zones, like a giant jigsaw puzzle.
When you’re ready you jump out and skydive to your chosen drop point. And then you start looting.
You can chop down trees for timber, harvest papyrus and wheat, pick mushrooms, mine bright blue outcrops of rock called mana stone, and of course loot chests. These can be found in buildings, or scattered around the villages and open spaces.
Neatly, and in keeping with Royal Crown’s streamlined approach, you can pick up everything from a chest, or a fallen enemy, or a loot drop, with a single tap, and the game will automatically equip the gear that’s better than yours and disregard the rest. No time for comparing gear stats in the heat of battle.
For the first few minutes of a round the battle is never very hot. Most players concentrate on gathering gear and levelling up themselves and their all-important skills in the early stages, and it’s not unusual for two opponents to wander past each other, keeping their powder dry.
Equally, there’s no harm in throwing down if you’re confident you’ve got your opponent outmatched. There are monsters to fight with, too, but many of these are too tough to take on until you’ve levelled up.
The hard fighting comes later in a round, when the shrinking map channels everybody into the same small patch of blood soaked territory. Combat is fairly straightforward, with a basic attack, four skills, and a handful of potions and crafted attacks to deploy when you choose to engage with a foe.
Royal Crown distinguishes itself from other battle royale games like Fortnite and PUBG not only with its action-RPG top-down perspective and general terminology, but with its unique crafting system too.
You can use the materials you loot to craft stuff like runes, accessories, attribute cards, all of which provide buffs of various kinds. Plus, you can upgrade these, making them even more powerful.
You can craft potions and meals, too, magnifying the effects of any food items you scavenge by combining them in pies and soup.
While Royal Crown’s crafting system isn’t as complex and involved as it would be in a conventional action-RPG, it absolutely enriches the game’s battle royale gameplay.
Of course, you can choose to largely ignore crafting if you want to keep things breezy, limiting your engagement to opening up your crafting menu every so often and blindly crafting whatever’s available.
But over time you’ll inevitably go deeper as you learn which approaches you prefer, and there’s a whole ocean of stats and combinations to dive into if that’s your bag.
And as you go deeper you’ll also learn which parts of the map yield the best materials for your chosen approach, and which champions suit you best. Also which mode suits you best – you can play solo or in a squad of three, combining champions to make the best possible team, MOBA-style, and healing each other in the field at special healing points, located in villages.
Royal Crown won’t satisfy Fortnite purists, and nor will it scratch any serious action-RPG itches, but this casual and polished mash-up is a good introduction to both genres, and an enjoyable game in its own right. Check it out on Google Play (and the App Store).