One of the most anticipated blockchain games is finally here in early access: first-person extraction shooter Shrapnel touched down in the Epic Games Store last week.
It’s a compact sliver of gameplay from the unfinished Avalanche-based shooter, but one that already shows immense promise as a game poised to compete with the heavyweights of the online shooter genre.
Neon Machine announced Shrapnel’s early access debut last Friday and held a brief online session for media and content creators, which Decrypt’s GG attended.
But the real action gets underway today at 4pm ET when the servers are pushed online for a three-day stretch of competition with $100,000 worth of SHRAP token rewards up for grabs. That’s when thousands of Extraction Pack owners can start playing Shrapnel as they compete for crypto tokens and potentially help shape development ahead.
Decrypt’s GG got a first taste of Shrapnel nearly a year ago with an early multiplayer demo at the Game Developers Conference, but it was a simplified build that the team says was its first attempt to start bringing its vision to life. This early access edition, Shrapnel Training Exercises (STX), presents the complete gameplay loop of survival and hopeful extraction.
Immediately upon dropping in, you’ll see that Shrapnel is still far from what could be called a complete game. While one chunk of the futuristic Japanese map resembles the iconic Shibuya setting that inspired it, most of the world is “gray-boxed” with flat-colored surfaces.
In other words, the world has been built but mostly not yet filled in with detail. It feels a bit like playing Mirror’s Edge from way back when, particularly when sprinting. It’s fast, clean, and smooth as hell, but there’s a lot of visual finesse that’s not here yet. You can catch a brief stretch of STX gameplay footage embedded above.
Amazingly, that’s not a detraction—or a distraction, for that matter. Once I saw the glowing green meteor strikes plunging down from the sky, and on-screen indicators showing extraction sites, I was ready to run and gun as I attempted to survive long enough to make it out alive.
Inspired by Escape from Tarkov and other non-blockchain extraction shooters, Shrapnel tempts you with its tricky balance of risk and reward, with both in equal measure.
For example, you can hurry to the first dropship and get the hell out of Tokyo, but then you’re less likely to find rare loot and equipment to take with you and into future matches. Sticking around is a gamble, though, because you may well be killed before you can escape with your findings—and there’s no respawning in this shooter. You’re one and done.
Likewise, the glowing Sigma chunks that emerge from fallen meteors are actually beneficial, not only imbuing you with special powers but also playing into the leaderboard battles that are kicking off this week with a heap of SHRAP tokens up for grabs. But each Sigma drop site is sure to attract other nearby players, again potentially putting you in harm’s way.
It’s that sort of give and take that already lends Shrapnel a compelling hook, even though the game isn’t fully formed.
Beyond the unfinished visual elements, the matches I played were sparsely populated. This is probably due in part to being a limited session, but the developers told me that the map is limited to just 12 players at present due to wanting to accommodate players from around the world without too heavy of a load.
Shrapnel also currently lacks the ability to hold onto extracted loot across sessions, and the one current map and playable character feel like a tiny snippet of what’s ultimately planned for the game. Likewise, the NFT elements—which players can use to create and sell in-game content—are not yet integrated, nor is the SHRAP token.
📢 STX1 – Launch alert!
WEN? Our first STX event (STX1) begins on Feb 8th and concludes on Feb 10th.
🏆Gear up for an intense competition with an STX1 prize pool of US$100,000 in SHRAP thanks to @RNGFoundation – extract Sigma, and dominate the leaderboard!
🎖️Unlock exclusive… pic.twitter.com/0vLgR0onjN
— SHRAPNEL 🔺 (@playSHRAPNEL) January 29, 2024
What’s impressive is that despite everything that’s not yet built or refined, Shrapnel already feels like it has a strong core in place. Buying an Extraction Pack now effectively means paying $20 or more for a demo that’s only playable in small stretches, when the servers are online—and that’s for a game that will eventually launch in a free-to-play format for anyone to jump into.
But that shift is well off in the future. Shrapnel’s promise is already evident, and from everything that’s been shared to date, buying into game now means that players can benefit from helping to battle-test the game as it hopefully evolves into the kind of blockchain game that has a real chance of crossing over into the mainstream.
Edited by Ryan Ozawa.
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