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Game Analysis: The evolution of Squad Busters

Game design expert Jakub Remiar takes a closer look at the tweaks Squad Busters has undertaken as it preps for its global launch
Game Analysis: The evolution of Squad Busters
  • Supercell’s Squad Busters is currently in soft launch with a global release at the end of the month but many changes happened throughout previous beta builds
  • Supercell CEO Ilkka Paananen has previously stated that the studio has killed over 30 games with Squad Busters being the 6th game to launch globally

Supercell’s Squad Busters is currently in soft launch and already has a global release date set for May 29th. The game will mark Supercell’s sixth release after numerous other titles never made it to launch due to the high standards the studio sets.

With the game's global launch coming at the end of the month, product and game design consultant Jakub Remiar takes a deep dive into the title's previous beta builds and what magic has been worked to get the game ready for primetime.

Supercell's Squad Busters is set to make its global debut on May 29th. This marks a significant milestone as it's the first game to be globally launched after Brawl Stars, which was introduced six years ago. It's worth noting that many games in the Supercell portfolio didn’t reach this stage during those six years, including Rush Wars, Hay Day Pop, Clash Quest, Clash Mini, Clash Heroes, EverDale, BoomBeach: Frontlines and Flood Rush. is still in its soft launch state and waiting for its turn.

Old character progression
Old character progression

There have already been two closed betas for Squad Busters, and the game has changed radically. The current build changed mainly the character progression. Before, it was a straight unlock journey, which was rather scripted, as seen in the image above. Currently, you merge these four stages of shards, starting from baby form and going all the way to ultra form, with a 10 to 1 merge conversion ratio. They are upgraded through just shards that you find in chests. Upgrading characters and completing book quests gives you portal energy for the squad journey, which scripts your content unlocking of different maps and other new characters. You can also buy a lot of shards in the shop and even unlock completely new characters. The gating mechanic on progression is chest tickets, which you need to use in order to open a chest. Otherwise, you can play just without getting rewards. It's the best currency sink in the game currently.

Current character progression
Current character progression

The star drop system from Brawl Stars was also added into the game, proving that Gacha mechanics are indeed superior, as Brawl Stars removed them at some point. This system is powering the chest opening now, where each click has a chance of upgrading the chest rarity. This also nicely connects to the streak mechanic, whereby being in the top five, you get a direct bonus in the form of better chances of chest rarity upgrade and more shards. This essentially makes the streak saver the second-best gold sink in the game. By putting one more additional layer of randomness into the chest system, this creates a very satisfying opening experience full of anticipation, where there are not only random rewards in the chest, but also random rolls of rarity upgrade before the actual opening.

Battle bag was also added, which adds consumables into the game, where players can now reroll the initial characters they get from chests during gameplay and open these character chests without even having gold to begin with. There are even more powerful consumable keys, such as the Fusion key, which straight out gives the player a fused character from the chest. This could become a big concern for ranked play by Supercell’s competitive community by being a direct “pay to win” mechanic, but we shall see it in full effect after the Global launch happens. Mega units were also added as "consumable" characters, which can appear in the chests if the player has them in their inventory. All of these mechanics and the new upgrade system really increase the overall spending depth of the game to outstanding levels.

Personally, one of the bigger challenges that still remains is the PvP incentive. PvP itself is very chaotic, especially towards the end of the game, where there are big squads of characters against each other. But why even fight in PvP, as the reward for PvP is gems and some coins instead of direct power absorption from your enemy? Of course, you get a free chest key, which means one gold-free chest of a new character, but you need to find that chest and walk to it, which means you are now weakened after the fight and vulnerable to other players. This breaks the usual snowball mechanic of consuming your opponents in similar io-type games, which then feels like it's not worth it to start the fight at all as you only get a kill reward if you kill the last enemy character, which is now desperately running from you with all the turbo boosts he has left. This is even more amplified by the fact that your main goal is to end up in the top five to keep your streak, as there are no significantly different rewards between the top five players.

If we compare this to Floodrush, the other game that Supercell killed last year, units were summoned on the battlefield; similarly to Clash Royale, through taika energy, players spend the taika bubbles and pay the unit card cost, and then the unit appears on the battlefield. This can be done at any time, changing the combat dynamic compared to Squad Busters, where you can get new squad units only through chests and can’t summon multiple units very fast. In Floodrush, summoning multiple units during the fight was normal as you collected the taika bubbles from the dead enemy units on the battlefield.

This chest conversion in Squad Busters slows down the power transfer of a defeated enemy into my squad so much that it is basically necessary to just fight enemy players near a chest all the time. I think this whole PvP setup will be iterated later when some of its limits will become more obvious on a large player base scale. Still, the team of Squad Busters has already solved harder problems during the two beta iterations, so they are well positioned to solve this last shortcoming as well.


Edited by Paige Cook