Some of the early Steam reviews for new battle royale game Naraka: Bladepoint complain that all of the other players are bots. It sounds like an exaggeration, but they’re not wrong—assuming they’ve only played one match. Your first game of Naraka will definitely be against an army of AI muppets, and that’s even if you queue up with a party of other humans. For whatever reason, Naraka doesn’t communicate this to new players, some of whom reasonably assume that their first match is the typical experience in the game.
It’s not. In my second game of Naraka, I fought real players, although I still encountered some bots. It seemed like it was around 50/50 players and bots, but it’s hard to say. The third and fourth games I played seemed to be all or almost all humans. (It’s possible there were a small number of bots who got killed early while treadmilling against a tree or rock. The bots are very bad at magical martial arts.)
There isn’t a population problem in Naraka, which launched Wednesday. The concurrent Steam player count has peaked at 70,731 so far, so the bots are seemingly just part of the new player experience, not fillers for low player counts. Other battle royale games also ease new players into the experience with bot matches, including Spellbreak and PUBG’s mobile version.
The practice of sneaking bots into the first match is presumably meant to build up a new player’s confidence by handing them an easy win, but it’s making some players quit. One negative Naraka: Bladepoint Steam review was posted with around 54 minutes of playtime and simply stated that there are “too many bots.” The player who wrote that review refunded the game.
“First game and only bots? No thanks,” reads another review.
I was warned by another player that my first match would be a bot match, but I still found it unfun, and all it did for me is set false expectations for what the Naraka: Bladepoint experience is really like: being pincushioned by a gatling crossbow while someone else cubes you with a glowing purple katana. (I’m still getting a feel for Naraka’s battle royale martial arts, clearly, but I think I can get into it with more practice against real players.)
Naraka isn’t very welcoming in general. Along with the surprise bots, the convoluted menus and currencies don’t inspire warm feelings, and the sloppy English localization makes ability descriptions hard to follow. I was charmed, however, when I noticed a little heart meter next to the names of my friends, which filled by one pixel after our first match together. Mousing over it revealed that our “Intimacy Level” had gone up. Aw.
Right now, Naraka has mixed reviews on Steam. The bots are one repeated complaint, but some reviewers just don’t like its combat design or monetization (which I still haven’t unpacked), and some are disappointed by network latency or a lack of servers in certain regions, such as South America. We’ll have more impressions of Naraka: Bladepoint soon, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more bots, just in case they don’t go away entirely after the first few games. So far, it does seem like the bots are a temporary presence.