Last year I vacationed in Scotland with my family, and it was an awesome trip! I got to see so many amazing sights and take a break from all the routines I’d settled into, but some habits didn’t die easily. I confess I suffered minor withdrawal from not having any Team Fortress 2 to play for three whole weeks, especially when stuck in a hotel room after an exhausting day of hiking the highland countryside. Luckily I found a free-to-play cartoony mobile shooter called The Respawnables, and it scratched that itch until I was back in the states.
As that title screen demonstrates very obviously, this is one of those mobile games full of microtransactions and social media pimping, so look out if you’re one of those folks who need to get 100% completion in whatever you’re playing. To be fair Respawnables keeps enough of a leash on its ads that they aren’t overly annoying; the menu screens may assail you with reminders that there are all sorts of cool weapons you’re yet to unlock, but during the actual gameplay you’re free to gun down your enemies without interruption.
And said gameplay is actually very polished; the third-person shooting controls are intuitive and require you to use the left joystick to move and the right buttons to fire, reload, and throw grenades. You can choose from three different control schemes in the options menu, each was good in its own way and it took some time to find the one I preferred. There’s no crouching, sprinting, or jumping, and the guns will soft lock-onto enemies after you hit them with a bullet, which is a necessity in a mobile shooter. I mostly played against offline bots, where the main goal is to score points via killing players and picking up their dropped medals. It’s very difficult to lose since the AI will only pickup medals on accident, but the extra-curricular ‘missions’ kept me logging in.
Missions are more like achievements, such as “Get 5 kills in under 1 minute with the shotgun”, and you’re rewarded with Gold for every five completed. Gold is the premium currency, but Respawnables is actually pretty generous with it, at least in the early game which I never progressed past in my three weeks playing. Gold and cash can be used to buy weapons or cosmetics, and many of said cosmetics affect the player’s stats. The hat, vest and pants in my screenshot each grant +2% max health, since I’m a health junky in everything I play and my weapons felt perfectly good at killing without extra stat buffs. I never used grenades because they cost in-game money to keep stocked up, though at certain levels the game will grant you five of a certain type for free so I still got to try them out, and I found them overly hard to aim.
Speaking of arsenals, Respawnables has a lot of different guns. They’re decently expensive to unlock, but I still had five of them after two days of playing so I think it’s fair in its progression. The choices are extremely varied, from hitscan weapons (like blunderbusses and dual pistols) to projectile explosive launchers (like grenade launchers and RPGs) to gimmicky stuff (electric Elysium railgun, Ghostbusters-themed plasma cannon). Most of the weirder ordnance is part of tie-in promo packs for some product or movie, and your enemy bots will showcase these weapons for you so that you can see what you’re missing out on. Personally I was quite happy sticking with the early-unlocked shotgun as it kills almost anyone in a single close-range blast.
Every few rounds you’ll get one of these beefy mofos, they have 3x as much health and their weapons hit like a truck but you get cash for killing them and I liked how they changed the dynamics of the deathmatch by feeling like a mini-boss of sorts. The bots in general weren’t particularly good and it was rare for me to end a match without topfragging and topscoring, but Respawnables comes with multiplayer for those looking for a real challenge. And if you’re new to the game, you’re going to be at a severe disadvantage due to all the crazy firearms and stat boosts your opponents will have unlocked.
There’s an extensive stat tree, most portions of which require Gold to unlock, that straight-up buff every single aspect of your character. While this puts newer players at very clear disadvantages, I could still score kills by using the aforementioned shotgun so I couldn’t feel too frustrated. Never got even close to winning a round though, but it did its job of keeping me entertained.
The game comes with almost a dozen maps, with a new map unlocked every 5 levels. As I only reached level 10, I spent most of my time on the starter map Sandtown, which was very close-quarters and led to fast-paced, exciting matches. Level 5’s ‘Rocket’ map was bomb-silo themed and made better use of verticality with catwalks and staircases. Level 10’s ‘Royal Garden’ disappointed me due to recycling loads of content from Sandtown and barely felt different as a map. Right now you can play the limited-edition Christmas map ‘Snow Village’ which I found too open; most of my time was spent ambushing and killing solitary bots because the map didn’t herd players into the same chokepoints like what happens on Sandtown. So overall I’d say map design is not one of the game’s strengths.
While we’re on complaints, I do have to point out how badly the game nickel-and-dimes its playerbase for weapons and cosmetics. It didn’t effect me personally because I was looking for an offline time-waster to play for exactly three weeks, but if I were remotely invested in my account I’d have been pretty annoyed at the sheer volume of content that was never-again available because I wasn’t playing during specific events. As this website shows, there are loads of weapons that you could only get during one-off events, and many of them are among the best in the game.
But ultimately it succeeds in its goal of being a fun and playable shooter for mobile phones. The animations, artstyle, and music are solid and the offline experience will keep you entertained for a few hours at a time. But I certainly would not recommend trying to invest yourself in the multiplayer unless you spend $20 for the Battle Ram in that above picture.