Free-to-play FPS Diabotical is another strong attempt to revive the arena shooter

VIDEO: Highlights from Diabotical's instagib mode. 

New on the Epic Games Store this week, Diabotical is a free-to-play arena shooter in the style of Unreal Tournament and Quake—the maps feature jump pads, elevators, and portals, and there are machine gun, shotgun, rocket launcher, lightning gun, plasma gun, and railgun equivalents. One difference: Everyone in Diabotical is an egg-shaped robot. No headshots here, only shellshots.

I played a few rounds of Diabotical's free-for-all mode this morning and it was fun, but I was really just being polite and trying the standard experience before switching to what I really wanted to play—instagib. Like in Unreal Tournament, instagib means everyone gets a slow firing one-hit-kill hitscan gun (a gun that hits whatever's under your crosshair when you click, which is why Diabotical calls it the 'Point'n'Click Rifle'). You can get a similar experience in one of my favorite games, Ratz Instagib.

While the shooting in instagib modes is always point-and-click, games vary when it comes to the details. As is tradition, hopping and strafe jumping in Diabotical makes you go faster, but it also includes a dodge move bound to Shift by default. It's like the dodges in Unreal Tournament 2K4, except you can't dodge off walls. I used it frequently, as the eggbots strafe fairly slowly and you can't redirect your momentum as easily as you can in Ratz. 

The reloading delay is also much longer in Diabotical than it is in Ratz, and a little longer than it is in UT2K4, giving it a unique pace. So far, I've found that even with the slower firing rate, one-on-one dances tend to resolve more quickly in Diabotical than they do in Ratz, where the character models are speedier and more compact. I feel like my movement has to be quite methodical in Diabotical, whereas I try to be erratic in Ratz. I'm not sure which style of instagib I prefer yet.

One thing I do prefer about Diabotical is how you gain elevation. In Ratz, you can launch yourself into the air by using your railgun's alt-fire while aiming at the ground. It's basically rocket jumping without a rocket launcher. In Diabotical, you have an unlimited supply of grenades (there's a brief cooldown after each throw) that can launch you or an opponent into the air. It feels pretty good to pop an enemy into the sky before shooting them.

Ratz might remain my preferred instagib shooter in the end, but Diabotical is free and people are playing it, which are substantial marks in its favor (Ratz doesn't have much of a population these days). Plus there's a whole regular arena shooter that I've mostly ignored so far, with team modes, ranked play, and a server browser. Like other modern competitive shooters, Diabotical also offers tons of finicky options to tweak—don't let the too-high mouse sensitivity and default crosshair in the video above fool you, that was pre-meddling. You can design whatever absurd crosshair you like, and tweak things like your mouse's "aim curvature." (I'm not entirely sure what that does but I'll have to mess with it and find out.)

I don't know if Diabotical will be the big arena shooter revival that Quake Champions hasn't been, but its creators at The GD Studio stand more of a chance than anyone else I'm aware of. EA's Rocket Arena didn't do anything for me.

You can download Diabotical from the Epic Store which, yes, is the only place it's available for now. 

Tyler Wilde
Executive Editor

Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley during the '80s and '90s, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on early PCs. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now, and PS1 classic Bushido Blade (that's right: he had Bleem!). Tyler joined PC Gamer in 2011, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. His hobbies include amateur boxing and adding to his 1,200-plus hours in Rocket League.