Whether you’re competing for loot against other mercenaries or running for your life from a deadly chicken, there’s never a dull moment in the Vicious Circle.
Vicious Circle is a newly released multiplayer FPS, but one that certainly isn’t afraid to stray from the norm. It’s a game that takes on many interesting and unconventional elements and adds them into an online shooter. The result is a bombastic and chaotic shooter that can be described as anything but dull.
The game is an interesting blend of PvPvE gameplay with the addition of asymmetric multiplayer. As such it draws immediate comparisons to titles like Hunt: Showdown or Evolve. The game tasks you with entering into the Vicious Circle alongside 3 other mercenaries. Your job is to collect enough of the in-game resource found scattered around the map and flee to an evacuation zone where you’ll be whisked away to safety.
Only one mercenary can win, which is where the competitive element exists amongst players. Players can impact one another; shove each other, sabotage each other and even steal each other’s resources, although you can’t kill or damage one another. Whilst the mercenaries all compete to gather loot as quickly as possible, another player controls the monster whose goal is to wipe out all of the other players.
Add to this already chaotic mix the extra element of body stealing parasites controlled by dead players, and you have quite the crazy concoction.
On paper Vicious Circle sounds like a blast. It has a mixture of unique and truly intriguing mechanics that help differentiate the game from anything that has come before it. The inherent chaos that comes with player v player v monster v parasite gameplay is alluring to say the least and means there is always more to learn and new situations to adapt to. It keeps the multiplayer experience fresh and keeps every single player on their toes.
The problem with games like this is always balance. It’s so hard to make these games feel fun and fair no matter what the situation. There’s so many different variables that balancing the game becomes a monumental challenge. Different mercenaries all need to be equally powerful whilst still offering unique experiences. Power-ups should all feel fair yet satisfying and the monster needs to be difficult but not insurmountable. After spending some time with Vicious Circle, there may still be some balancing that needs to occur.
My introductory matches with Vicious Circle were often dominated by the monster. Peggy Sue, a gigantic and aggressive chicken, was the cause of much pain and suffering. That remained true even when I, a complete novice, was in control of the clucky gal. The developers admitted pretty early on that she needed some tuning down, and it was great to see how fast they managed to react to that need.
Vicious Circle is a game that will constantly receive updates, hotfixes and balancing. It’s great if the developers are willing to put in the work, but it does concern me that the real issue here will never get resolved. That’s because games in this genre will almost never feel balanced. You never know what team you’re going to be put into, or how experienced the other players are within the match. A team of mercenaries who refuse to cooperate on any level will likely always get stomped by a semi-decent monster and a more cooperative or experienced team will likely always overcome whatever obstacle lays in their path. This means that any given match may or may not be fun, balanced or winnable, dependant entirely on who you’re playing with. So even though the game looks, sounds and handles fantastically, I still find myself fatigued when actually playing.
It’s a shame balance issues exist because Vicious Circle otherwise has so much potential. It’s clearly made with a lot of love and has so many engaging ideas. But a multiplayer game lives and dies by its playerbase. And it makes me wonder if cool concepts and interesting ideas will be enough to encourage players to stick around, or if they’ll instead give it up and go back to playing more consistently balanced, traditional multiplayer games.
For those brave enough to venture into the Vicious Circle you can find it on Steam.