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Battle royale has taken many forms in video games since PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in 2017. And as we get last-player-standing versions of Tetris, Bomberman, and Super Mario Bros., it’s easy to assume that the giant-map shooter battle royales will remain the exclusive territory of Fortnite, Warzone, and a few others. But what we’ve learned over the years is that a few small changes can do a lot to make this type of game feel fresh. And that’s exactly what developer 24 Entertainment is doing with Naraka: Bladepoint.

Naraka is a battle royale like many others before it. You don’t jump out of a bus like Fortnite, but you do pick your spawn point similar to Ring of Elysium. But the major difference is that while other similar games focus on shooting, Naraka puts an emphasis on melee combat.

Referring to the action in Naraka as simply “melee” combat” feels like a disservice. The fighting is a lot like a character-action game. It’s like you are Dante from Devil May Cry trying to outlive dozens of other Dantes. And that’s the point. 24 Entertainment thinks that it can find an audience of people who are curious about battle royale but prefer cool martial arts over military-style gunplay.

After playing a few rounds, it’s easy to see that this mashup has a lot of potential. Even though I was new to Naraka, I was more excited to get into fights than anything else. I wanted to see what my new cool weapons were capable of against other players.

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Of course, to get to that point, you’ll still want to spend the early rounds of a match getting the right build. That means finding strong armor. It also means finding the right perks.

But again, I was most excited about my weapons. After scouring for gear during the early parts of the match, I had found a mean-looking sword and something like a rocket launcher. Now, Naraka isn’t exactly a shooter, but it does have projectile weapons like bow-and-arrow and my unholy grenade slinger.

When another team finally ambushed us, the battle wasn’t like PUBG. I wasn’t scared and trying to dial in my aim. Instead, I let the rockets loose and immediately killed two opponents. And I could see the team change up their tactics to try to flank me. So I changed to my sword and was expecting to start flailing my blade similar to how melee feels in Skyrim. But instead, the game was channeling action hits like Bayonetta or Sekiro.

Eventually, I did die when my partner and I got a bit too confident and ended up in the middle of a four-team fight. But I came away seeing what Naraka does so well. Because it’s less about aiming, Naraka is more about broader tactics. I can see now that if we had spread out and kept each other in sight, we would’ve seen the other teams closing in on us, and then we could’ve retreated to let them fight it out. And because it is unlikely that someone would’ve sniped us from 800 meters, that probably would have worked.

Naraka is running regular beta tests on Steam right now. It is launching later this year.

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