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Rumbleverse is the fresh take on battle royale I needed

Rumbleverse
This guy’s going a loooong way down (Image credit: Iron Galaxy)

Every time I load into a battle royale (opens in new tab) I feel a little bit anxious. There's the uncertainty of the early game, and then later the feeling of being surrounded as the walls close in—I always end up just a little stressed out. Not so with Rumbleverse (opens in new tab), the new battle royale brawler on the Epic Games Store. I launch into every match eager to duke it out with a bunch of wildly dressed knuckleheads. When a match starts well I land on top of a skyscraper, immediately break open a crate to grab a special move, and chokeslam KO someone from 100 stories up.

Now, I know: Another battle royale? Hear me out though—Rumbleverse takes the best elements of playing wrestling games with your friends and drops them from the top rope straight into a match of Fortnite.

Rumbleverse stays pretty true to battle royale basics. 40 players fly in, ever closing circle, last man standing, yada yada. But instead of dropping in with nothing and scrambling for gear, you can start scrapping right away with a surprisingly technical fighting moveset pulled straight from pro wrestling. This takes the worst part of your typical battle royale—running around for 60 seconds, finding nothing, and getting fragged by someone who already has a shotgun—and removes it entirely. You get straight into the action, and everyone’s on even footing. 

You do find shiny stuff to make you stronger, though. After a giant cannon blasts you onto the huge map, you can run around and break crates for a variety of goodies. Powders boost your max health and stamina, consumable items restore them, weapons like broken planks of wood and folding chairs are applied directly to face.

The most fun things to find are the special moves. From Ryu Hayabusa’s Izuna drop to the hilariously named Rekt Shot (here’s looking at you, Tidus), these moves give you upgrades over your usual drop kicks, suplexes and Irish Whips.

Combat pulls from fighting games but with a rock paper scissors approach:  Blocks beat strikes, strikes beat throws, and throws beat blocks. Special moves take priority in a clash with regular ones, and a power move like a running dropkick can trump even some specials. It all adds up to a satisfying stew, unsurprising given Iron Galaxy's pedigree with Killer Instinct. I found myself having technical chess matches with crafty opponents: I would dodge cancel out of a combo to bait him into a throw attempt, have him counter with a whip to smash me into a wall, only to have someone third party both of us by dropping an atomic elbow off the nearby highway overpass.

This is still wrestling, even if it feels like a fighting game one-on-one.

It’s chaotic fun, and every system in the game funnels you toward action. Players who turtle up and avoid engagements might collect the maximum 10 powders and two special moves, but they won’t be getting any combat experience. Every point of damage you give or receive adds to an XP bar that results in some pretty excellent perks—increased strike damage from explosions, reduced stamina costs, a meditation mode that lets you heal up by standing still. In the final circle (which often has as many as 10 players), if you don’t have any of those buffs you’ll be at a severe disadvantage.

The ever-present battle royale circle is a little different, too. It encompasses a smaller portion of the map than you might think, and being outside it doesn’t do any damage. Instead, in true wrestling style, the announcer starts giving you a ten count, after which if you’re still out of bounds, you’re eliminated. This leads to some super fun cat-and-mouse moments baiting people out of the ring and eliminates the annoying bleed damage so many battle royales made standard.

Rumbleverse

The Meditative perk is great for a botanical moment of Zen  (Image credit: Iron Galaxy)

For people who really love customization there’s an in-game shop with the sort of microtransactions you'd expect—luchador masks, wrestling singlets, giant chicken heads. They’re on the spendy side and the shop is fairly spartan so far, but I expect this will be improved over time. 

My main beef with Rumbleverse is its lack of a decent tutorial. You have to wait in a queue to load into the training map with other players, which is annoying, and the information is spread all over the map. It doesn’t take long to get the hang of it though, and once I started spinning piledriving people I didn't want to stop.