Vicious Circle is the newest video game from Rooster Teeth Games. Branded as an uncooperative multi-player experience, Vicious Circle is an asymmetrical shooter set in a colorful and campy science fiction universe inspired by pulpy and retro comics. Broken into mercenaries and a giant mutant chicken named Peggy-Sue, a group of five players takes to the map to collect nuggets and escape.
With only one winner at the end of each map, Vicious Circle provides mercenaries with gadgets hidden around the map that when used allow them to steal nuggets from others. You can work together to kill and avoid the chicken, or you can turn on your friends. While you can’t damage them, the first to 75 nuggets can win if they can escape, and with different gadgets available, stealing their loot and dropping their count can help you win the game. The game also features an interactive environment, allowing you to lock doors as you pass through them, screwing over your opponents by blocking their paths forward which could lead you to an easy escape for you and death by chicken for them.
In addition, Vicious Circle offers up a different experience than other asymmetrical shooters in that there is no permadeath. Instead of having to spectate or leave the lobby after the big chicken murders you, you respawn. But you don’t respawn as the mercenary of your choice. Instead, you come back into the games as a Little Dipper. With movement mechanics that let you move quickly and virtually no health, your new objective becomes stealing the body of one of the mercenaries in play.
At this year’s Rooster Teeth Expo (RTX) our team got the chance to playtest Vicious Circle. Walking into the booth the three of us got the chance to ruin each others day by stealing wins from each other in the last minute, killing each other with a giant egg, and dashing any hope of using the evac point. Check out our experience below and find out what all three of us have to say.
1. What mechanics stand out to you?
Quinn: Throughout the map, there are various items you can pick up that are meant to screw over the other players. The game is described as an “uncooperative shooter” and it is very accurate. The fact that you can’t harm each other but can use the environment or various gadgets/items to play dirty and thwart the other players just makes this game dastardly fun.
Kate: The uncooperative element of Vicious Circles keeps you on your toes and also forces you to learn the map. But my favorite mechanic of the game were the movement mechanic variations between each playable character. Stealths, teleports, a Reinhardt-esque charge, and dashes all offer different experiences with each character and a level of learning to the game. Since your reentry into the game competitively forces you to find a mercenary and possess them as the Little Dipper, you might just end up with a character you’ve never played before. While learning their powers and shooting styles is important, mastering their movement can make or break your standing in the game.
Matt: The competition among the players without being able to actually hurt anyone is very interesting. There is so much going on that you just need to keep your head on a swivel. I was also a very big fan of the when you are killed by the Chicken you respawn as a little alien known as the Little Dipper that you can hunt down other players and take over their bodies.
2. Chicken or Mercenary, which one did you enjoy playing more?
Quinn: I had the most fun playing the monstrous chicken who’s out to kill all the mercenaries. As the main baddie, you can die but you get respawned very quickly so gameplay is very quick and dynamic. You also have a double jump so you can get to high places that the mercenaries can’t. From on top of the buildings, you can jump down on the mercenaries and surprise them. It’s quite satisfying when you hear other players scream because there’s suddenly a mutant chicken descending upon them from the heavens.
Kate: The mechanics to each playable class are extremely different, and even the movement mechanics between each mercenary left me picking one and sticking with her since we only had a one round of five matches to play. That said, my favorite to play actually wasn’t mercenary or chicken, but the Little Dipper. When you die, you’re respawned in as an adorable creature with tentacles that grab onto objects and slingshot you across the map. Moving around the map with this little guy was so much fun and the joy of ruining an opponents time as they are about to evac is undefeated.
Matt: The mercenary was the best for me with the Little Dipper being second. I did not enjoy playing as the chicken monster that much. It is a larger character that had movements like a tank-ish character which I really struggle at and do not like playing. I can see people really enjoying playing the monster as your goal is relatively simple of just kill all the characters, but for me, I couldn’t get used to the speed of the character movement.
3. How were the controls?
Quinn: The controls were easy to learn and very fluid. As someone who doesn’t play mouse and keyboard, it was really easy to get used to the controls and become competitive rather quickly. Even so, I’m excited that the game is going to be fully compatible with game controllers.
Kate: They were simple, standard for most shooters. While that doesn’t sound special, this is key for shooters and helps new players – either to PC play or the game type. In addition, I’m really excited that Vicious Circle will have controller support on day one. Even though I’ve been playing PC for some time now, there is an ease with the controller the amount of time I play.
Matt: They were your standard PC shooter controls. The controls were very smooth and tight, at no point I felt something was off or any sort of delay.
4. What set Vicious Circle apart from other asymmetrical shooters?
Quinn: The way Vicious Circle makes itself different from other asymmetrical shooters is through the very fast-paced gameplay and the entire premise of the game. You can die, whether you’re playing as the mercenaries or the chicken, but you’re never down and out for the count. The game is really good about getting you back into the game as quickly as possible so that the gameplay is constant. The fact that the game is both cooperative and uncooperative makes it stand out. The mercenaries don’t stand a chance against the chicken by themselves, but together, they can kill it easily. At the same time, the mercenaries are trying to screw each other over because there can only be one winner at the end of the game.
Kate: There is never any downtime. The fact that you cycle through different types of characters, from the Mercenary who is your traditional hero class, the Little Dipper after you die, or the big chicken, Peggy-Sue, means that you never have to debate leaving a lobby. Instead, Vicious Circle regards you for learning every characters movement and damage mechanics in order to get the most of the game. With that, the game isn’t over until we’re all Little Dippers, or one of the Mercenaries escapes, making the replayability and immersion in the game. There was never once a moment where I detached from play. I was always aware and became more competitive as the matches went on.
Matt: The “you are never eliminated” feeling of the game. No matter how bad you start or how many times you die throughout the round you are always just one good well-timed play from winning the round. If you are struggling as the chicken at some point you will know where everyone is going to be so can close or if you die as a mercenary you can take over someone else’s body to get back into the game so at no point you are ever truly out. This also makes it very beneficial to know all the characters and their abilities because you will play as all of them whether you want to or not.
5. What was your favorite part of the playtest matches?
Quinn: The best part of the playtest matches was that no one knew what they were doing. We were all fresh and learning the controls together. This made it so that no one had a huge advantage. But it was also interesting to see how everyone began to form their own play styles. Some people used brute force against the chicken, some snuck around to avoid both the chicken and the other mercenaries, or some people (like me) specifically drew the chicken to other players before teleporting away.
Kate: The best part of the playtest was discovering all the ways I could screw over my opponents. I never once worked with anyone, opting to go for the nuggets and lead the chicken to people. I was nugget hungry – and even if it meant I was a Little Dipper a lot of the time, it made the game an amazing experience.
Matt: The best part of the playtest match was how competitive the rounds ended up being despite no one having played the game before. Each round no one knew who would win and with all the different mechanics that allowed no one to ever truly be eliminated, it was really fun and enjoyable.
Vicious Circle is set to release in August of this year, with a beta coming sometime before that. In addition to the existing four mercenaries that the game will launch with, there will be free and regular updates which include new additions to the roster, new maps, game modes, gadgets, and monsters. There will also be a free seasonal battle pass for the game, and with in-game rewards Vicious Circle has everything working in its favor to be the next big thing.
It’s astonishing that the game has been made by a small developer team, and as Ron LaJoie said during the playtest, “without crunch.” With killer creature design, different mercenaries which push the players to learn how to use their powers to the fullest, and a cyclical style of play that never makes you think about leaving your lobby, Vicious Circle is a must-play.
Vicious Circle released on August 19th, 2019 and available on Steam.