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Looking for a browser-based shooter to play on your lunch break at work or while at school? Mini Royale: Nations might be the game for you.
The free-to-play first-person shooter, built by Web3 game studio Faraway, adopts a Fortnite-esque cartoonish art style with fast-paced, run-and-gun, Call of Duty-like gameplay. And on top of that, the game lets users connect their Solana or Ethereum wallet to buy and use NFTs of weapon and character skins.
It’s a simplistic shooter, as the web-based approach suggests, but it’s still pretty amazing that you can hop on from nearly any modern computer for some competitive thrills. And the NFT elements are a fun sweetener, albeit not essential to the experience. Still, some quirks and hitches keep Mini Royale from being a consistently good time.
Run and gun
Mini Royale: Nations is relatively streamlined, with only two current play modes—team deathmatch and capture-the-flag—which play exactly how you’d expect if you’re familiar with other modern first-person shooter games. But additional modes are “coming soon.”
You can wield a total of 10 weapons in the game, with a variety of assault rifles, SMGs, a sniper rifle, and a shotgun—most of which you unlock off the bat. Before you drop in, you'll pick your loadout including player model, primary and secondary weapons, and a smoke grenade.
Once in-game, the weapons feel nicely responsive with manageable recoil, and have decently detailed models, while the maps are solidly designed and feel natural to explore. Early on, you're put into lobbies full of unskilled bots, which make your first few games exhilarating while you dunk on easy opponents. That said, it's hard to know when lobbies are no longer loaded with bots.
Mini Royale’s player movement feels a bit like Counter-Strike, with bunny hopping in the mix—but unlike in Valve’s smash team shooter, there's little skill to it here. Just spam the spacebar and you'll continue jumping at speed. Even so, I found this to be a fun and effective way to get around the map while using a close-range weapon.
That said, due to the relatively slim number of guns, it's very easy to figure out which ones will dominate. The AK47 and MK18 feel like the strongest weapons overall, as both have great short and medium-range damage. The SMGs are also effective, but you have to adapt your play style to get up close and personal—they're awful at medium range.
Meanwhile, smoke grenades render a truly pathetic puff of smoke, making them almost completely useless. Don't bother with them. The time to kill (TTK) mark for most weapons is super low, especially if you hit an enemy in the head. However, sniper rifles aren’t very satisfying due to a lack of one-hit kills to the chest, plus small maps that limit their use.
All of the maps are designed logically enough so that you can find your way around without having to use the mini-map or think too hard—perfect for a casual shooter game like this. Each map is also thematically different from the previous one, giving a nice sense of variety while playing.
That said, the spawning system is terrible. Depending on the map, you can potentially find an area to stand and spawn trap the opponents—in other words, just kill them repeatedly as they pop into the world. I once racked up 22 of my team's 30 kills from doing this. In other locales, you can simply walk into the enemy spawn point and mow them down. This definitely needs addressing.
While the gameplay has its flaws, Mini Royale is certainly still fun with a playful, run-and-gun attitude. However, I might only be saying this because I was stomping on the enemy so hard. Look, winning is fun!
The Fortnite-style aesthetic suits a browser game well, as it can look cartoonish and playful while not demanding too much from the device running it.
That said, while playing, I would experience regular latency spikes or frame rate drops. Often this would happen during an engagement with an enemy, resulting in me losing the gunfight. I'm playing on a powerful Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 Ti graphics card with over 100Mbps download speed, so this should not be an issue.
I asked a friend to test the game out on his 2017 MacBook Pro. It ran well enough, but he also experienced these spikes despite playing on a different Wi-Fi network with just under 70Mbps download.
By and large, the game can apparently be played on most computers or laptops—making it perfect for lunch break gaming or quick thrills nearly anywhere. However, the lag and frame rate issues are unavoidable in the game's current state.
It's also hard to look past the fact that whenever someone shoots you, they stand still. I'm unsure if I'm playing against bots or if the game engine struggles to render micro-movements that people make while shooting. Mini Royale also sometimes has player models looking the wrong way, which means that I've been killed by characters facing the opposite direction.
There are a few graphical glitches that you're bound to run into, as well. For example, sometimes when you equip your smoke grenade, your primary weapon remains out instead. That said, none of the glitches are completely game-breaking. They’re just annoying.
NFTs or not?
Mini Royale: Nations is totally free to play, with NFTs as an optional customization feature.
During testing, I connected my Solana wallet and headed to the Magic Eden marketplace to purchase a player skin and three weapon skins. This set me back less than $20 and added some spice to the game—I was no longer a default skin 'n00b.' The biggest benefit I saw was with my AK47 skin, which changed the iron sights and made it easier to use.
Another great feature is the free Ready Player Me integration, which lets you create an in-game character model based on a photo of yourself. I uploaded a photo and it quickly produced a pretty good recreation for me to use. The process is seamless, and it was so fun to see myself in-game.
Honestly, as great as this feature is, it makes you question if buying a character skin is actually worth it. But some players may be keen on owning their assets, of course, or may want more lavish designs. And once you've connected your wallet, you also have the option to join a clan to play in events for the chance to win in-game prizes or even Solana (SOL) cryptocurrency.
The Rise of the Endless Clan War ends Monday 8am EDT ⚔️
Equip your Endless Genesis for a 800% boost in raid progress, jump into matches with your Clan and place on the leaderboard to win Companion shards.
You'll need these shards for Immortal Fusion, coming in a few weeks. pic.twitter.com/zZVmeb0MVd
— Faraway (@farawaygg) May 6, 2023
Ultimately, Mini Royale: Nations can be frustrating. It has a good foundation with weapons and maps that are tailored to its target audience of in-browser gamers, but the latency spikes and weird graphical glitches—combined with a terrible spawn system—limit the fun.
This is a game I want to like. In my younger years, I know I would have loved playing Mini Royale on my lunch break at school, tucked away in the corner of the IT room. Its downfalls are glaringly obvious… but sometimes that's OK for a game that you'll only play for 30 minutes at lunch.