Tencent Games already publishes PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds around much of the world. But why have one battle royale when you can have two? Ring of Elysium is a free-to-play alternative to PUBG that adds an icy setting and extreme sports twist. It might not have PUBG’s thrilling tension, but it’s still a fun experiment.
In Ring of Elysium, like any battle royale, up to 100 players spawn into the map and fight until only one remains. It’s a tried and true formula at this point, popularized with PUBG before Fortnite Battle Royale’s fast-paced twist took the world by storm. Ring of Elysium feels like it’s trying to emulate both games. The big change comes from the world design; the entire map is an snowy playground dotted with villages and high mountains. In order to get around, players can choose from one of three traversal tools. There’s a hang glider that makes it easy to get down from high locations, a snowboard for longer stretches of land, and climbing gear that allows players to use ziplines. These tools pick up the pace, giving the game a much quicker feel than PUBG. It’s very easy to get to whatever your next destination is, and while the more realistic visuals and hardcore military gear evoke PUBG, it moves at a pace much more comparable to Fortnite.
Ring of Elysium’s combat is less exciting than the traversal. While the game has most of the same weapons as PUBG and adds appreciated features like a light cover systems that allows you to peek around corners more naturally, the guns lack weight. Recoil never quite feels learnable and grenades fly further than you’d expect. It’s a bit like fighting with nerf guns. But while the raw game feel isn’t great, the scale of gunfights does impress. Because players can easily reach safe zones and move wherever they need to go, shootouts tend to balloon until entire villages are full of combatants.
In order to facilitate its mixture of X-Games and Hunger Games, Ring of Elysium changes some of the core mechanics that you might expect in a battle royale game. There’s no slowly shrinking circle here. Instead, the game map marks safe zones where you’ll be safe from extreme cold. There’s no airdropping into locations either. Instead of flying over the map and then skydiving into position, players can choose a single box on a grid map to spawn in. Everyone views this map, so you can see where players are going to congregate first and decide to risk it or place yourself in more remote location. As a result, while the opening of matches can still be deadly, it’s easier to play at your own initial pace. Some players might enjoy the accomodation, but I can’t help feeling a little disappointed. Battle royale is about adaptation and quick thinking; reacting to surprisingly hot drop zones and scrambling for weapons feels like a core characteristic of the genre.
Ring of Elysium tends to give players what they need: information on drops, easier ways to traverse the map, tons of items. It changes the mood into something far more relaxed than other battle royale games I’ve played. It feels like a vacation. The harsh setting never really feels all that harsh. It’s not what I expected from a battle royale, but I’ll admit that getting to shred around like Shaun White in a Michael Bay movie can lead to some pretty spectacular firefights.