Battle Shapers is a roguelike FPS that continues to impress | Hands-on preview

by on August 3, 2023

After playing Battle Shapers back in June, I came away feeling incredibly impressed with how fast, fluid, and well-made it felt even at that early stage. Now just over a month later developers Metric Empire have tightened up the gameplay, added a new biome and new enemies, and I’ve once again come away dying to play more.

Set in the city of New Elysium Battle Shapers casts you as Ada, one of the titular Shapers, an android warrior charged with defeating the corruption that grips the city. In true roguelite fashion this means battling through randomised arenas until you reach the boss – currently still the Volt Colossus with a handful of new tricks – and then doing it again. There will be three bosses in the full game, but right now there’s just one.

Battle Shapers 01

The biome he controls is different though. In the previous preview I battled through a handful of pretty but unremarkable rooms with a definite hyper-future feel. It was all bright colours and neon lights as far as the eye could see. While the revamped Gravity Gardens are still that to an extent, they now have a lot more greenery. Basically a huge hydroponics district, it’s covered in overgrown vegetation and gloriously verdant colours.

To compliment it there are new enemies, as well as new weapons for you to get to grips with – but only if you’re lucky enough for them to spawn. In the nicest possible way, Battle Shapers is a Frankenstein’s monster of a game, with ideas of its own mixed in with concepts and mechanics cherry-picked from the best in the genre. Or genres, plural.

For example, while the randomised upgrades at the end of a level have a distinct Hades flavour in how they’re presented and how they affect you, the weapon system has more than a hint of Dead Cells, with weapons you find in runs scattered into choices in Ad’s hideout between runs. Progression sees you fighting through rooms to reach Junctions, which give you a choice of which way to go but which, refreshingly, don’t lock your path. You can finish a room and return to the previous Junction to tackle the other direction if you want to.

Battle Shapers 02

At first I found the Core system a little confusing, but after a while it becomes easier to understand, Ada has two cores to choose from, an Adamant Core and a Strike Core, and they function like classes or build frameworks. The former is for defence and survivability, powering things like Ada’s forcefield move that can block projectiles or knock enemies backwards out of your path. It’s incredibly useful for getting out of tight situations, but it also feels fresh because it’s part of your kit; it’s not something you have to swap out for different abilities.

The Strike Core is, as you’d expect, more offensive, giving you abilities that enhance your manoeuvrability. If you favour fast-paced, frantic, up-close action this is the Core for you. I had fun with both, but while the Adamant Core is great for staying alive, there’s a slow-time ability tied to Strike that was just too much fun.

One thing Battle Shapers does exceptionally well is provide a sense of purpose. This isn’t just mindless blasting, hoping for a good drop so you can trounce the boss. Even failed runs yield rewards in the form of permanent weapon unlocks and upgrades, and you’re always being rewarded during runs, from currency drops and hidden chests, to upgrades, utilities and new weaponry. Seeing the word “RETALIATION” appear on-screen is a great motivator, too, as it means the boss of the biome has enhanced its minions with one buff or another to help take you down.

Battle Shapers 3

Ultimately the only thing I really felt Battle Shapers lacked was voice acting. I’d love to hear Ada converse with her sidekick and guide, Meemo, a cute little robot that offers support and guidance as Ada works her way through the legions of enemy bots. It’s a very minor gripe though when there’s so much other stuff to love.

The final boss of the preview section, Volt Colossus, is a tough customer and feels tougher now than when I beat him back in June. I beat him first time then, when this time it took me three attempts and a bit more swearing. That’s fine though, because it still wasn’t insurmountable and I didn’t mind fighting my way back to him because it offered more opportunities to find gear and enhancements for Ada’s Cores.

Battle Shapers is, forgive the pun, shaping up to be great. It’s got a gorgeous aesthetic, likeable characters, addictive gameplay loop, and tight, polished gunplay that come together with difficulty that already feels very well-balanced to deliver a frantic, exciting FPS with some very cool roguelike mechanics. Once again, I’ve had a taste of Battle Shapers and I’ve been left wanting more.

Battle Shapers is expected to hit Steam early access during Q3, 2023.

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