Preview: Crucible is a solid AAA debut from Amazon Games

Amazon aims to make a splash in the hero shooter market.

Amazon has dominated all kinds of landscapes. Online shopping, original films and TV shows, and now, video games. In 2012, the multi-industry giant founded Amazon Games and now they’re preparing to release their first AAA game: Crucible.

After years of dabbling in the mobile space, Crucible will mark a serious effort to enter the AAA space. The game has been in development for about 5 years, inhabiting different forms such as a card game but in its final form, Crucible is a free-to-play hero shooter. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Another free-to-play hero shooter? Isn’t the market overwhelmed with these things?”

Yeah, I get that sentiment. My expectations were admittedly timid when I was invited to play the game ahead of its release. But we’re in the midst of a pandemic and I figured, hell, I’m willing to give anything a shot… and I’m really glad I did.

Crucible is a very freeing third-person shooter that puts everyone on the same playing field every match. You’re not leveling up characters or unlocking abilities outside of the matches, so you basically reset each and time you load into a new match. Every player starts at “level one” and works up to five main ranks that unlock new perks and abilities within the game.

Crucible from Amazon Games

This works by collecting essence, a valuable resource on the planet (the titular Crucible) you’re fighting on. As you play, you’ll notice a bevy of wildlife wandering around. It’s your job to keep them under control by killing them which rewards you with essence and keeps them from creating issues.

Of course, you could ignore them and use them to strategically overrun other players at key points on the map and create a chaotic PVE scenario.  They’re relatively easy to take down in small numbers but if you let them run rampant, it can lead to hectic battles.

The planet of Crucible is probably my favorite part of the entire game and what actually makes it so distinct. On top of the wildlife, the map is carefully designed with plants that have varying effects. You can spring a trap by shooting red ones which causes them to rapidly spit out these deadly projectiles, shoot a yellow one that releases a chemical that briefly cloaks you, green ones heal you, and there is another plant in the swamps that create these spikes in the ground that can be incredibly fatal if timed correctly.

You’re not just utilizing your personal hero’s abilities but using the environment around you to win battles and protect yourself. Whether that’s offensively or using them as you try to flee a battle that you know you can’t win, the gameplay opportunities are rich and keep you thinking.

Crucible from Amazon Games

I never felt like I was playing mindlessly. Whether that was executing a plan set up by my squad or just trying to think creatively, the game allowed for matches that differentiated themselves from each other.

I once found myself on this very thin bridge-like structure and was heavily outgunned by an enemy. I was playing as the healer character, Mendoza, who can call in this “bunker”. Essentially, it drops in from the sky and places a small shield for you while you collect a health pack to heal yourself.

I didn’t need a health pack, I just needed to get the person attacking me off my back. I called it in on the bridge, which blocked the bullets but also blocked the entire bridge we were on so I could retreat without them following me. I was also informed by a developer that if you place it correctly, you can use the bunker to launch yourself in the air a la a rocket jump from classic arena shooters.

While I didn’t get to play as all 10 heroes, I enjoyed the handful I got to try. Two of the standouts for me were Tosca and Summer. Tosca is a furry little creature that’s sort of a mix of a squirrel/cat/rat-thing and despite being small, she’s incredibly dangerous and talks a big game.

Crucible from Amazon Games

She sort of hops around the map and uses her small size to discreetly move behind and around enemies to damage them from their blind spots. If you get noticed while playing as Tosca, you can teleport away. It’s only a few feet but you can teleport through walls and other solid objects to give you cover.

Because she’s meant to be discreet and sneaky, she has relatively low health but she still packs a punch with her shotgun and corrosive grenade that deals damage over time. It’s super easy to disorient other players and lose them by teleporting away or using her small, compact body to hide in some foliage.

With Summer, you have a character with two flamethrowers (one for each arm). She can light people ablaze or use the intensity of her flamethrowers to lightly fly across the map. She’s a true pyromaniac and even has a special ability where she twirls in a circle, creating a twister of flames.

There are a number of other characters to choose from, all of whom seemed to be enjoyed greatly by the people I was playing with.

Crucible from Amazon Games

The only thing that didn’t really resonate with me in Crucible was this battle royale-esque mode called Alpha Hunters. There are 8 squads of 2 players and you have to be the last team standing. There are some interesting ideas here, such as the ability to form alliances with other players who have had their partner die. However, the actual core gameplay didn’t mesh well with the battle royale concept.

Of course, this is a personal opinion. I gravitated more towards the other two objective-based modes which see you fighting to secure objects and positions on the map. I see those two modes (Harvester Command and Heart of the Hives) being far more popular but it doesn’t really hurt the game to have extra offerings.

Amazon’s focus was to make a game as fun to watch as it is to play in order to create synergy with their streaming platform, Twitch. Just spectating people during the games was incredibly enjoyable and I can see this game getting a lot of attention in the coming weeks through big streamers injecting life into it.

Crucible has great potential if people give it a chance. From fun, fast-paced gameplay to a well-designed map with all kinds of possibilites, developer Relentless Studios has created something to rival its greatest competitors. All it needs is the players to flock to it and help sustain it.

Crucible releases on May 20th, 2019 for PC via Steam. Consoles are reportedly still being decided, it all depends on player demand.