From afar, there was always something appealing about Agar.io and the multitude of imitators that spawned in its wake. The idea of having a somewhat persistent arena to battle around in is a cool idea, but no game really felt like it built particularly interesting or deep mechanics around the concept. This is precisely what BarBarQ does, and it makes for a pretty neat experience, though it isn't quite what you'd want from an Agar.io-like.
In BarBarQ, players take control of barbarians as they wander randomized maps littered with collectibles, powerups, and-of course-other players. The goal in any particular match is to have your barbarian earn as many points as possible within a five minute match, but there are a couple different ways to pursue this goal.
The simplest way to increase your score in BarBarQ is by wandering the game map and picking up as many collectibles as possible, but this increases your score rather slowly. If you want to make quick jumps in your score, you can also attack and kill other players for a burst of points. No matter which method for point gain you choose, BarBarQ's control scheme remains rather simple, using a standard set of virtual buttons to move, attack, and use powerups.
As you rack up the points in a game of BarBarQ, your character also levels up and allows you to unlock new abilities. These abilities can give your character things like the ability to block, increased movement speed, special attacks, and even stat changes.
The only thing about these upgrades is that you are given three random ones to choose from each time you level up. This makes it so you can't just level up to spec your character in the same way every time, and have to rely on making tactical decisions in the moment every time you play.
Not quite an .io
Although BarBarQ feels clearly inspired by all of the .io games, there are some key differences here. Most importantly is the fact that BarBarQ doesn't feature permadeath at all. Whenever you die, you simply are given the option to respawn and continue fighting until your five minute match is over.
In line with this change is the fact that BarBarQ doesn't match players into random, in progress matches like other .io games might. Instead of starting with huge disparities in players depending on when they join the game, every match of BarBarQ starts everyone off on the same footing. These changes aren't necessarily bad things, but they do make BarBarQ feel quite a bit more like a run-of-the-mill arena battler rather than a neat twist on Agar.io.
The bottom line
When it comes down to it, BarBarQ feels more mechanically interesting but conceptually more dull than something like Agar.io. In providing a meatier combat and upgrade system, BarBarQ moves .io games a step in the right direction, but then takes two steps back by removing some of the core mechanics around what makes these kinds of games so special in the first place.