Amazon Games and Relentless Studio’s Crucible, the competitive team-based free-to-play PC shooter, is unlike just about anything I’ve ever played before in that it borrows and remixes so much from other places to truly become its own thing. Heroes with unique weapons and abilities? Check. A mix of both player-versus-player and player-versus-environment combat -- on the very same map? Check. Unlockable skins and progression? Check and check. If you’re looking for something totally new, Crucible probably isn’t it, but if you’re looking for something that stands out from the rest of the pack, it’s absolutely worth a shot.
It helps, of course, that the game is free. Free is an easy way to get just about anyone with the ability to run a video game to at least give it a go, and while Crucible’s trailers and such may not sell it to everyone, actually playing a couple rounds just might. It also helps that there are a variety of distinct and unique characters to play on top of multiple modes. But none of this would really make a difference if the actual experience of playing Crucible was a bummer, and it’s not.
While playing for a couple hours last week for the purpose of this preview, I quickly honed in on the characters that I liked the most -- Captain Mendoza, Tosca, and Earl -- and generally had a good time. There’s no one-on-one mode, so you’ll always have at least one team member. While I never got to the high point of, say, getting a chicken dinner in Apex Legends, the actual act of just playing was overall far more enjoyable for longer. This could change, of course, as more folks load in and gain experience, but I’ll take a game that’s enjoyable for 90% of the time over one that’s enjoyable about 20% of the time any day of the week.
On the other hand, Crucible can sometimes be a bit clunky to navigate, but just about everything about its combat is serviceable if not better. At no point did I feel like what I was doing wasn’t making an impact, whether that was firing on someone from range or using my abilities or capturing points. As previously mentioned, some of Crucible will feel instantly familiar, and I myself couldn’t stop thinking about Overwatch’s Captain 76 while playing Captain Mendoza, but I quickly came to enjoy the game’s differences rather than its similarities.
The game’s three modes at launch -- Heart of the Hives, Harvester Command, and Alpha Hunters -- require different team dimensions for each, and there are wildly different objectives despite the fact that the maps themselves are the same. For one, you can respawn in the first two, and both are about controlling and managing certain objectives. Add to this the fact that the environment itself has active events like swarms of beasts. But it’s Alpha Hunters that really intrigues me.
First of all, Alpha Hunters is the most intimate game mode as it pits several teams of two against each other. It’s the same map as the other modes, which is actually rather small compared to the maps of games like Fortnite or Apex Legends, and there are no respawns here. On top of that, the map slowly closes in with a damaging circle that folks familiar with the aforementioned titles will know well, forcing fights between teams as they get cramped together. And here’s maybe the best part: if you lose your partner, and find someone else that has also lost their partner, you can then temporarily team up until the final three. It is, in a word, a blast.
Overall, it feels like the familiarity of many of the game’s elements will only work in its favor. Nobody that’s been keeping up with live-service shooters is going to be totally lost when booting up Crucible, but there’s plenty to explore that is different when you give a closer look. Character progression and levelling up, for example, means increasing abilities throughout the course of the match, and there are different options that players can pick and choose from prior to dropping in. It’s those smaller, detail-oriented differences that really interest me, and are what sets Crucible apart from its peers in a way that should make it feel less of a clone and more of a different sort of pillar spawning from the same fertile ground.
The free-to-play video game Crucible is scheduled to launch for PC via Steam tomorrow, May 20th. This marks the first of two games set to release from Amazon Games this year with New World, an MMO set on a supernatural, 17-century continent, expected to launch in August. You can check out all of our previous coverage of PC gaming right here.
What do you think about what we have seen of Crucible so far? Are you excited to check it out when it releases tomorrow? Let us know in the comments, or hit me up directly on Twitter at @rollinbishop to talk all things gaming!