PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds might not be the top dog in the battle royale area anymore, but it’s continued to grow and expand, most recently with the snow-filled map of Vikendi. It’s a map that brings the game back to its early roots.
PUBG’s first map, Erangel, was a mixture of large forested areas and a few depressed urban facilities such as a power plant, small towns and a military base. This combination of spacious outdoors and major population areas opened the map to many kinds of gameplay. There were the major firefights in cities, but a slower and arguably more rewarding sneaking game throughout the forests. Later maps like the desert map of Mirimar and the compact, jungle-themed Sanhok were considerably different. The former was too big, emphasizing long range combat and proving so unpopular that some players deleted the maps files from their game to avoid playing it. The latter was fast and exciting, but it was a different kind of experience and had a very rapid pace. Vikendi, which is now available on PUBG’s test servers, brings the game back to the experience of playing Erangel, and it is a welcome return.
Vikendi is a large map but, in my experience, doesn’t have boring, silent stretches like Miramar did. While there are large fields to cross and mountain ridges to sneak along, you’re never too far away from a small village, large castle, or even a run down-amusement park. Weapons and ammo are more scarce than in Sanhok, meaning that players are funneled towards buildings quickly. Most of my encounters in Vikendi have been closer quarters. An errant creaking on the ceiling might give away camping enemies, leading to a dramatic breach and clear. Most buildings have multiple ways to travel, with branching stairways and large storage rooms that make it hard to know where enemies might flank from. Sure, you’ll still ambush players crossing snowfields and die to the occasional long distance Kar98 sniper shot, but Vikendi has done a good job of mixing up engagement distances for me so far.
It’s also reminded me what I like about PUBG’s deliberate pacing. I adored Sanhok at launch and found it a welcome change, but in retrospect that map sometimes felt like a way for PUBG to compete with faster games like Fortnite Battle Royale. But PUBG’s strength has always rested less in the moment-to-moment tactical decisions of a firefight than long term movement plans and successful traversal. It is a game where keeping one step ahead and taking a risk can place you in prime real estate to dispatch your enemies. You need to shoot straight and keep your cool, but you also need to think of the bigger picture. Vikendi does a good job of facilitating that. Even when I played in squads with strangers, we were very particular about our long term navigation.
Vikendi’s strengths might not be enough to bring back lapsed players. PUBG will never have the frantic, silly gunfights of Fortnite or the tricky gadgeteering of Black Ops 4’s Blackout. But curious players jumping into Vikendi will get a solid PUBG experience, which is something that you can’t find anywhere else.