The inevitable battle royale gold rush is upon us. Developer Treyarch tested its Blackout battle royale for Call of Duty last week. Now, Chinese megaconglomerate Tencent has launched Ring of Elysium. This last playe-standing shooter is available now for free on Steam. It shares many battle royale elements with its contemporaries, but it has a lot of twists as well. That’s why I continue to find Ring of Elysium more exciting than the prospect of Blackout or any other upcoming take on this powerhouse genre.
Like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or Fortnite, Ring of Elysium is about finding good loot to improve your chances of survival against other players in a massive open-world map. But Tencent changes this in a few key ways.
How Ring of Elysium is different
Where are we not dropping?
First, you don’t jump out of a plane or helicopter. Instead, you select a starting area by clicking on a grid version of the map. And only one person can choose any one square, so you’ll have breathing room in the early moments of a match. This eliminates the frantic, heart-pounding starts. Some people won’t like that. But I like knowing I’ll almost always have a chance to find a weapon before seeing an enemy.
Mountain Dew and extreme sports
Speaking of finding weapons, Ring of Elysium has loadouts. You can’t customize them, and they don’t include powerful rifles. Instead, these loadouts give you a choice between high mobility or high storage capacity. So far, this battle royale has one map. It takes place at a mountain ski resort. And the game capitalizes on that setting by enabling you to use a hang glider, a snowboard, or climbing gear. Those are the three loadout options. If you go with hang glider, you can soar over the map quickly. Snowboarders aren’t quite as fast, but they also aren’t exposed in the air. And climbers are the slowest, but they can use special ziplines. To keep things balanced, hang gliders can’t carry as much and start with the weakest handgun. Climbers, however, can carry the most and start with a shotgun.
With these loadouts, you can use your gear at any time. As long as you jump off of something, you can just smash “F” to start flying. It’s exhilarating. Of course, you can still get in vehicles. But even those are different and exciting. You might find a snowmobile or a monster truck, for example.
Musical chairs … of death
Finally, the endgame is quite different as well. Ring of Elysium’s encroaching circle isn’t a circle … or even a ring. It’s a cold front that closes off a random selection of predefined districts. Once you get down to one district, a rescue helicopter with four seats will drop down and hover. To win, you must climb the rope ladder and take one of those seats. Therefore, a match can have four winners. But it also means that the end game is intense and dangerous.
The one time I had a chance to get on the helicopter. I rushed for it, but someone was waiting for me. They killed me just after I landed my hang glider after jumping down from a mountain. As I spectated the rest of the fight, though, I saw that even when the helicopter had more seats than players, people did not shift from killers to pals. During one particularly cruel moment, one person on the ground killed another survivor as they climbed the ladder. This was unnecessary because they were the only two left alive and the helicopter had two seats.
This is similar to the win condition in SOS. In that battle royale, 32 players fight each other for the chance to escape on a helicopter. That chopper has three seats, so it creates a lot of the same kinds of high-intensity moments.
It’s as thrilling as it sounds, and I want to give credit to Tencent’s developers for doing something different. China has a reputation for making knockoffs, but that’s not the case here. Honestly, Ring of Elysium is doing a lot more to be different than Call of Duty: Blackout.