PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds blew up gaming this year with its take on the nascent Battle Royale genre. We’ve already seen a couple of developers throw their hats into the ring, but Outpost Games’ SOS: The Ultimate Escape is one of the more interesting takes on the genre we’ve seen so far.
SOS: The Ultimate Escape seeks to turn every player into a performer by giving players an audience of fans and an incentive for entertaining them. The gameplay may feature Battle Royale mechanics as its foundation, but it’s designed to be a lot more social. The basic premise is that each player is a contestant in a reality TV show along the lines of something like Survivor. You put together a look for your character and each match starts with a reality TV style intro of the various cast members (players) and you can use this opportunity to get into a persona and give the other players an idea of what they can expect when they encounter you.
Once you’ve entered the match, the goals are fairly simple: find one of three relics located on the island, signal for your helicopter ride out by using a flare gun, and escape. Since there are 16 players and only three can get out, it behooves you to form alliances and try to work together to escape, but if things get complicated, the temptation for betrayal is real. You can meet up with two other players early on and find yourself in a friendly, cooperative group, but if another player outside of your group finds a relic and escapes, well what then? In the best case scenario, only two of you are getting out alive.
The players aren’t the only thing you’ll need to worry about on the island. There are deadly monsters that can infect you with disease. These monsters also carry the relics that you’ll need to escape the island, so gearing up through scavenging for weapons and ammo, medical supplies, and so on is key to your survival. The game is full of tons of neat little details. You can switch radio channels and speak to people listening in to coordinate as a group or even meet up with other players you hope will be friendly. You can offer up items to other players that they can take directly from your hands. If you pay close attention, you can track other players through the foot prints they leave in the sand (which are a lot more noticeable if they’re bleeding, of course).
At the end of the day, though, your most powerful asset in SOS is your voice. Communication is all short range and weapons are mostly close combat types, so working together with others to share resources and find strength in numbers is a huge advantage.
It goes a bit beyond that, too. If you’re a great entertainer, the game has a built in audience system called Hero that lets spectators react to the things you do in game. Earning these reactions gets you Fame which is something the game considers when matching you up in your next show. The most entertaining players are matched up together to make things interesting for those who leverage the game’s more social design elements. The audience can also have a material impact on the game by voting on what to include in a supply drop when a player shoots a flare gun. Maybe you’re hurt and desperately in need of medical supplies, so you appeal to your audience to help you out, potentially changing the course of the game.
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the kill-on-sight gameplay Battle Royale games tend to focus on, so I think Outpost Games may be onto something here by combining the exciting survival gameplay with social features that encourage at least some level of cooperation.