Battle royale games are all about randomness. After all, when your basic premise is dozens of players parachuting onto an island with nothing but their fists, the games are bound to be at least a little random. But what happens when you take away that randomness? Ring of Elysium tries to answers that question for us and it turns out that it loses a lot of what makes the genre fun in the process.
Rather than the standard start of a battle royale game, like falling from the sky or jumping out of a flying vehicle, Ring of Elysium, the newest battle royale game from Tencent Games which went into early access on Steam Thursday, simply starts players wherever they want. At the beginning of each match, your given a giant map with hundreds of small squares. Click on a square and that’s where you’ll spawn when the match begins. You can even see where other players will be spawning as well, allowing you a pretty good idea of where everyone is on the map when each match starts.
Not only that, but players also get to select a loadout, which comes with everything they’ll need to start the game, including a gun, some bandages and even a means of transportation. The game’s snow-covered map is massive and these mobility options in each loadout — either a glider, a snowboard or climbing axes — are supposed to help players get around the environment. Instead, they’re only usable in special areas or very specific situations and more often than not you simply forget they exist.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because Ring of Elysium’s map is a treat to run around in. It’s got massive mountains, a ski lift that runs throughout the map and an interesting blend of small towns — which unfortunately are all filled with structures drawn from the game’s pool of four or five building designs — and snow-covered forests. It’s just a shame that the rest of the game around the map isn’t quite as interesting.
And Ring of Elysium’s spawn system makes perfect sense on paper. More often than not in a battle royale game, high population areas have 10 to 20 people all parachuting in at roughly the same time and sends them all on a mad dash to get guns before their opponents. It’s exciting and unpredictable and could just as easily end in hilarious death as it could in a thrilling victory.
But as it turns out, that’s part of the fun of battle royale. For every win you get, chances are there were two or three games in where the only weapon you saw was the one your killer had. Or maybe you and your teammate panicked one game and punched someone out while they tried to find a weapon, or beat someone with just your pistol when they had a shotgun. It’s a system built on randomness, hilarious mishaps and the frequent frustration of dying and instantly being returned to the title screen.
Even if Ring of Elysium’s goal was to be a realistic competitive answer to the rest of the genre it doesn’t even quite succeed there. Some of the most strategically demanding survival elements that add tension to battle royale games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds are completely absent here. Rather than feeling like you need to adjust your plan of attack based on a limited supply of weapons, armor and first aid, Ring of Elysium gives you almost everything you need in just a house or two of looting.
It’s easy to see how this could have been a play to make Ring of Elysium a more competitive battle royale experience than its peers, but then it just feels hollow, like an over-complicated version of your standard deathmatch. What’s worse, the shooting simply doesn’t measure up when compared to games like PUBG. Rather than the intense, recoil constrained mechanics of PUBG, which force players to maintain accuracy all through a fight rather than just in their initial shots, Ring of Elysium’s weapons shoot like lasers, almost always going exactly where you expect with very little recoil, making fights easy to end quickly and giving you little time to fight back once they get shot.
One of the promises of battle royale games is that at any moment almost anything could happen, you could accidentally drive a car off a cliff taking your whole team with you or you could narrowly escape one of the most intense gun fights you’ve ever had in a game. Battle royale is at its best in these moments when the line between slapstick comedy and incredible skill is razor thin. This isn’t a fact exclusive to one battle royale game or another, they’re the chaotic excitement that makes the genre so fun. And, at least right now, they are the exact moments that feel missing from Ring of Elysium.