The genre of fast paced, arena type FPS games exist in a corner of esports that hasn’t really taken off since the earlier days of Quake. Diabotical is a free-to-play game that recently concluded its closed beta, for which I had an opportunity to play and will share my thoughts on the game so far.
Diabotical began as a Kickstarter project in 2016 by The GD Studio and managed to surpass its stretch goals, with 6,951 backers pledging £168,314. I must say I hadn’t heard anything about this game until early 2020, but looking on their Kickstarter page and what they were trying to achieve — it ticks all the right boxes:
“Diabotical in a nutshell:
- The best bits of the genre, improved and fine-tuned by ex-pros
- Classic and new game modes for both solo and team play
- Plenty of cosmetic customization
- In-house engine, multi-user map editor and modding support
- Extensive community and esport features”
You would think that the fact that it has taken them a lot longer than they probably would have anticipated — would not be that encouraging. Given the hit-or-miss nature of crowdfunded games — I think it shows the opposite. They did not simply opt for an ‘early release’, putting out a game that is nowhere near ready, but rather stuck with it and actually went into their closed beta, with a game that is within striking distance of being completed.
With a free-to-play, micro-transaction based monetization model — I think this will be significant to the success of the game. Games are far too often released before they are ready, under the ‘early access’ banner, as if that is a good enough excuse for all the bugs and problems and it definitely compromises the success of the game.
Having played the closed beta my first impression upon loading into the game, is just how incredibly responsive the game is. There is not a trace of input lag or delay in how the game plays. The cartoony look and feel to the game emphasizes game play over everything else, allowing for an incredibly high skill ceiling. The Diabotical twitter bio states that the game will be:
“Acting as a spiritual successor to Quake, Diabotical is here to give you fast-paced, action-packed arena FPS game-play.”
They certainly succeeded, to me Diabotical feels exactly like Quake 3. New engine, models and look, but the essence of the game feels very much the same. One thing in particular that they nailed, which is such a big part of the game — is the movement. It’s not easy to master and has a significant skill ceiling that rewards practice. The guns are identical to Quake 3, as you would expect and all feel the same.
The closed beta allowed players to play in three different game modes, the first being the “Weebow Instagib 5 vs 5”. Basically your traditional “Instagib” type game mode, where only the rail gun is available and it’s 1-shot 1-kill.
The second was “Wipeout 5 vs 5”, a team death-match style game mode — where players spawn with all the guns and armor and when you die you wait for the round to end and this repeats.
The third being the “Arena 1 vs 1 / 2 vs 2”, where the maps are smaller and it is basically the same as the “Wipeout” game mode, but instead of one life you get two. I’m sure when the game moves ahead into open beta, the traditional 1v1 arena type game mode will be available.
Overall, my thoughts on the game are very positive. Fast paced arena type FPS games might not be for everyone and I think you’ll know very quickly if you like it or not, but given that Diabotical will be free-to-play, my advice would be to give it a shot! Although with such a small studio behind it, I doubt Diabotical will be a huge esport, but it can definitely offer something to the space. I believe a key to the success of Diabotical will be the community involvement. Like in previous versions of Quake, community created maps and game modes were huge contributing factors to the replayability and longevity of these games.
Closed beta ended on 23 March 2020 and open beta is estimated to go live around one or two months from this date.