I don’t think the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds formula really needs a lot of tweaking. It’s what’s kept me playing the game while other, more specialized variants on the battle royale concept have fallen so flat for me (case in point: Fortnite, which, while enjoyable, just doesn’t keep me coming back the way PUBG does).
This is important context for the next thing I’m going to say, which is that I think that Ring of Elysium might finally be the game that will push me into another primary battle royale game.
It’s not a drastic shift from PUBG. It’s still a pretty big world with a wide variety of weapons, where you have to scrounge for supplies before rushing headlong into enemy fire (or however else you play, I guess). The differences are slight.
Instead of a plane drop on a randomized flight path, where player drop concentrations have to be noted by the number of parachutes seen after you leave the plane, Ring of Elysium streamlines the affair. Pre-match, all players have access to one world map, gridded out into squares. Pick a square to drop into, and everyone can see that the square is occupied. The frantic metagame of parachuting to different areas becomes a swifter, more formalized battle of fake outs and mind games.
The map’s traversal options are also broadened. Not content with just on foot or in-vehicle options, Ring of Elysium gives you a starting kit of a small weapon (either a pistol or a shotgun) and a traversal device: either the glider, the snowboard, or the climbing pack (which allows a player access to ziplines dotted across the map, as well as the ability to climb vertical faces).
These changes, coupled with a more dynamic storm zone (not simply a shrinking circle, but a blob that morphs over time toward the final zone) and a more interesting final confrontation than a simple “last man standing” (victory in Elysium requires boarding a helicopter, up a long ladder, in which there are only four spots available—first come, first serve, no leaving until it’s full) means that Ring of Elysium feels like a faster, deadlier and somehow more accessible battle royale game, but without the cartoonish feeling of Fortnite.
If PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a serious war movie, Ring of Elysium is a disaster film—goofy, over the top, but not without its own moments of pulse-pounding action that characterize the battle royale genre.
The introduction of different traversal mechanics, while not always perfect (the snowboard could use some more tweaking, and the glider is touchy to the point of being nearly guaranteed to crash if you so much as tap the nose downward), means that getting around the world becomes as much a part of the game as the gunplay. The terrain is no longer just a series of hills and buildings, but possible launch points for your glider, or slopes to gain speed on your snowboard. Playing with the climbing kit guarantees you more storage capacity, but at the cost of possible movement options—but getting to the top of the mountain with a fully loaded sniper rifle is the same no matter what gear you have equipped otherwise.
I never thought I’d say it, but Ring of Elysium might finally be the battle royale game to knock Battlegrounds off as my most-played shooter of this year. It feels like a breath of fresh air to PUBG’s more stagnant, esports-driven recent design direction. Ring of Elysium doesn’t seem to care about much of that. It’s just fun.
And there are monster trucks.
Dante Douglas is a writer, poet and game developer. You can find him on Twitter at @videodante.