Islands of Nyne might not come close to Fortnite or even PUBG in the battle royale stakes. it has got a fair bit going in its favour: weapon mechanics that any CS:GO player would feel right at home with, a Gun Game-style mode before matches start, and a neat, clean interface.
Most importantly: there's Australian servers.
Islands of Nyne landed on Steam's Early Access program earlier this month, although screenshots and videos of the futuristic battle royale have been kicking around for the better part of a year. It's perhaps best described as a faster-paced battle royale for Counter-Strike or Call of Duty fans, with a shorter time-to-kill, smaller arenas and, for now, only 50 players a pop.
The developers plan to have support for 100 player matches by the time Islands of Nyne leaves early access, which is scheduled for sometime next year. They're also aiming to include death cam replays, three maps at launch, custom servers.
Mind you, there's enough in Nyne already to set it apart slightly from the battle royale crowd. And being a long-time Counter-Strike stalwart, let's start with perhaps the best feature of all: a decent pre-game warmup.
At the start of every match, you're thrown into a terminal on a low gravity planet somewhere. It's basically the same as every other pre-game lobby, except everyone spawns with a weapon. There's infinite ammo, and infinite respawns, and you'll kick around in this environment until 50 players join or the match is forcibly started. That's handy for low population servers, like Australia, although I haven't had too many problems getting games quickly.
Games themselves are pretty fast too, not just because of the smaller map and player size, but also the lower time-to-kill. A full game can be done in about 10 minutes if there's a lot of conflict. The first couple of plasma zones move fairly slowly and leave plenty of room, but from there on the playfield shrinks substantially.
Another pleasant surprise: the training lobby. A game that takes inspiration from other shooters wouldn't be complete without somewhere to practice your recoil and refine your aim, and the training lobby Nyne has already is well suited for that. It's a super-futuristic shooting range, with all the weapons you could want, a wall specifically for training recoil control, and targets at multiple distances that respawn quickly.
Given that a lot of players coming into Nyne would be coming from other shooters, it's perfect for getting your sensitivity down pat.
Everything you need at a glance.
And even though the game is in early access, the interface is nice and clean as well. Everything's immediately accessible at a glance, and there's no huge delays in equipping or dropping gear. You can drag and drop attachments from one gun to another at any time, and there's a decent mix of assault rifles, pistols (including a desert eagle), SMGs, bolt-action sniper rifles, a great throwing knife, throwable grenades, and a very usable UMP-45:
The recoil on that is good enough that you could comfortably hold onto it for the entirety of the game. And while we're talking about things that are neat, here's how the in-game map pops up:
Honestly, whoever came up with that deserves a payrise. It's not viewable all the time, although that's not a disadvantage — it encourages players to be more aggressive, constantly hunting for information, and that generally results in a better overall experience.
That said, you can get a bit of extra help by finding equipment once you land in the arena. Finding a helmet will bring up a compass and more HUD icons, including a green highlight indicating you're in the safe zone. Most of what's available beyond that is armour for different limbs, as well as a personal shield that protects everything but your head from a single shot.
The arena itself is pretty lush, with a ton of trees for cover and a variety of different battlegrounds across the arena that offer intriguing challenges of their own. There's a few ruined castles in certain places, a town by the water with some old pirate ships, and even a Colosseum-esque landing zone.
There's a few customisations available already too. Special skins, like the ones above, are purchasable with real-world cash. Everything else comes through loot crates, however, which are only purchasable through in-game earnings. The description notes that some of those skins are "marketable", indicating that Nyne is building for a secondary skins market much like CS:GO and PUBG.
They're all cosmetic items at least, which puts to bed any concerns about Nyne going down the pay-to-win route. And that's great, because just about every other feature I've seen is the kind of thing I'd want other battle royale games to adopt, if they hadn't already.
Islands of Nyne is going for ~$34 ($US25) on Steam right now. It's in a surprisingly good state, and I've even enjoyed matches on the NA server despite the obvious ping differential. The only main problem is really whether other Australians get into it, which might not happen given it's not really an impulse buy at that price. But it's already good fun, especially if you're annoyed by all those obnoxious forts in Fortnite, and you want something faster paced than PUBG.