Amid the cries of battle left and right and the chaos all around you, you don your mask and feel an overwhelming surge of power course through your veins. In an instant, you are no longer who you once were. You are now Sunder, harbinger of doom, driven by relentless rage. With your mighty claws, you tear through all who dare to stand in your way, but just when you think you’re unstoppable, something else glistens in the distance – a flash of blue, an icy breeze.
Standing before you now is Issia, patron of “noble cruelty”, graceful but deadly. Now face-to-face with another Primal in the middle of the battlefield, who will reign supreme?
Such is the premise of Super Evil MegaCorp’s Catalyst Black, and that’s only the beginning.
Table of contents:
CATALYST BLACK VISUALS
This epic new battleground shooter from the makers of Vainglory features gorgeous graphics and stunning character designs that, due to the fast-paced nature of the game’s combat, you might not have the chance to fully appreciate when you’re in the heat of battle. Before each match, players can choose their Loadout in terms of weapons, accessories and Masks, which lets you pick the Primal you want to transform into in battle.
These Primals look absolutely stunning, and each one has its own unique look, set of abilities, and backstory. Seeing them in action is even more exhilarating, thanks in large part to the game’s smooth, vibrant visuals and gorgeous animations. The music – created by none other than Joris de Man of Horizon Zero Dawn fame – also goes hand-in-hand with the adrenaline-pumping vibe of the game, as does the top-notch voice acting and the sound effects.
All these definitely added to my enjoyment of the game from my very first match alone – and it was an absolute delight.
CATALYST BLACK GAMEPLAY
Catalyst Black lets you take your pick from five different game modes: Slayer, Hydra, Eventide, Flag Hunters and Colosseum. The last one is a PVE mode, while the first four are for PVP. I’ve only unlocked the Slayer and Hydra modes so far, but they’re enough to get me hooked.
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In particular, the most basic game mode is Slayer, and it lets you engage in a rowdy free-for-all with other players on the map. You can team up with friends online, but you can also drop in and out of a match anytime you feel like it. Battles are short but intense, and while you can focus on taking down your enemies and scoring points for your team, you can also just roam around the map to collect enough energy to charge your Mask, which lets you transform into a Primal in the middle of a fight.
This is where things get even more interesting. Transforming into a Primal gives you more strength, HP, and special abilities unique to that Primal. While they all have different specialities, my favourite so far is Jainx, with his intimidating horns and his glowing spear. He not only packs a punch with his long weapon, but he also causes a small explosion where his spear hits, dealing devastating damage to unwitting foes in the way. Plus, according to The Stranton Catalogue, anyone who puts on the mask suffers recurring nightmares that “leave the subject feeling weak, helpless and alone”, which is pretty eerie yet totally cool at the same time.
WHAT’S THE APPEAL?
What sets Catalyst Black apart from other similar games is that you can basically have any build you want based on your loadout. You can pick any primary and heavy weapon, equip any special accessories, or choose any Primal you want to turn into. The different modes also made the game feel very refreshing to me, and while the kind folks over at Super Evil MegaCorp provided me with a few in-game goodies for the purpose of this review, it doesn’t feel like the game is very pay-to-win thanks to the rewards you earn after each match.
There are also quests you can clear to nab those valuable rewards too, and they’re pretty easy to score. It all boils down to your skill, really, rather than the loadout you have, and in that kind of environment, you can enjoy fair matches with gear that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
It’s hard to find any real flaw here apart from the fact that I wish I knew more about the story apart from just the descriptions of the Primals. The studio has crafted such an amazing world and it’s a shame I couldn’t learn more about its lore. Why do they don these Masks? Where did these Primals come from? Exactly what are they and how did humans gain this ability to harness their power?
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Still, Catalyst Black is a true delight on mobile, with its AAA quality and its extremely accessible gameplay. There’s no steep learning curve or overtly long tutorial here – you can jump right into a match without having to tinker around with complicated controls. Plus, you get to Hulk out as an uber-cool Primal in combat without having to scale a high paywall – what could possibly be more awesome than that?
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