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Steam's latest big hit is a little game about stuffing a huge backpack full of magic items

 A fantasy character with a huge backpack.
A fantasy character with a huge backpack.

I've been wondering when a game might finally tear me away from last month's indie Steam hit, poker roguelike Balatro. Turns out it's Backpack Battles, a PvP-ish (I'll explain that in a second) autobattler about playing inventory tetris with a bunch of magic items. It arrived in early access on March 8, and within two days it sold over 100,000 copies, according to its developer, Furcifer.

After playing a few rounds today, I'm not surprised about that huge sales total, or about the "Overwhelmingly Positive" scores on Steam, or its peak concurrents: over 35,000 players today. Backpack Battles is a ton of fun, so easy to get into that it doesn't need a tutorial, and has such lightning fast gameplay you can blast through a dozen matches on a work break.

You begin by picking a class from some fantasy archetypes like ranger, berserker, and pyromancer, and then you stand in a shop and buy things to put in your backpack. You've only got a few available slots at first, but that's okay: the starter items aren't all that impressive. Spend a few coins on a wooden sword, a sack of rocks, and healing potion, then step into the arena to fight another player.

But you're not really fighting another player. You're fighting against a build another player recently made. Sit back and watch your character and their character fight, based on the items you're carrying in your backpack. Is the fight too slow? Crank up the speed and it'll fly by in a flash—but it helps to keep an eye on how your items are doing and where your weaknesses are. Win or lose, you head back to the shop with a few more coins to buy and sell more stuff—including more backpack slots to stuff that stuff into.

I started with a frying pan that works well as a low-damage bludgeon, but discovered that if I placed food items into my backpack around the frying, it did additional damage. So, I loaded up on bananas and leeks and peppers, which meant my pyromancer was actually more of a deranged chef. Other items can buff each other when placed together, like the fireballs my pyromancer generated each round could enchant a dagger I bought into doing heat damage.

Backpack Battles
Backpack Battles

Certain items, if kept near each other in your pack, will combine, sometimes surprisingly. I bought a friendly smiling blob named Goobery because it had healing properties (also it was just cute), and put it in my pack next to the pepper I was using to make my frying pan more formidable. A round later while I was shopping, Goobert ate that pepper, and became Chili Goobert, which increased its healing powers and buffed the activation speed of all my heat-related items. Hell yeah! Who knows what else Goobert can eat?

Winning 10 battles against the ghosts of other players lets you increase your rank so you'll face higher ranked players in the next round, and there's also a survival mode where you can see just how far you fight before you're defeated. And there are so many items in Backpack Battles it's almost ridiculous. In just a handful of matches I've already discovered hundreds of shop items to stick in my pack, not just weapons and shields, but squirrels, hedgehogs, multiple Gooberts, and horned winged rabbit named Wolpertinger who will do more than give you a buff, it'll give your buffs a buff.

There's a free demo to try before you buy, but once you try I'm pretty sure you'll buy. Backpack Battles is fast and fun and I think it's gonna be my new breaktime game of choice. It's only 13 bucks if you do decide to nab it, and it's 10% off on Steam for the next 10 days.