Crucible
Crucible PHOTO: AMAZON

Crucible, Amazon’s first game title, was released just a week ago and has made a big splash in the gaming world.

Currently, Crucible is only available for PC, and it is free to play, so you can download it now and get right to playing — thought there are several paid packs available which we’ll get into later.

We wanted to see what the hubbub was about, and after some first impressions, we took a deeper dive. What we found was a game with a lot of fun mechanics and characters. And despite some issues that could be improved, Crucible kept us coming back for more.

What is Crucible?

Crucible
Crucible PHOTO: Amazon

This game launches you headfirst into a hostile world where you’ll have to fight creatures, plants and players. Before the match starts, you’ll select your Hunter, one of 10 playable characters. During every battle, you’ll race to capture objectives or slay your opponents, all while collecting a substance called Essence.

As you gather Essence, your Hunter will level up, gaining upgrades that boost your abilities during the match. The substance can be harvested from a variety of creatures on the battlefield, and you can also attain it by capturing Essence Harvesters, large stationary machines that generate Essence every 10 seconds. The world is strewn with various powerups, like spores you can bash to become invisible or gain health, and med kits you can collect to heal up with later.

The game features three modes, as well as a practice mode where you can try out and learn about each Hunter. The premier mode, Heart of the Hives, places you in a four-versus-four on Crucible. Your objective: Beat your opponent to the Hive, destroy it and capture the heart within. But the Hive takes time to form. So in the meantime, you and your team need to fight monsters and capture Harvesters to gain the Essence advantage. The match is a best-of-three, so there’s plenty of time to boost your abilities and get into some fights.

The second mode is called Alpha Hunters, where eight teams of two go head to head in a battle royale, with one team emerging victorious. And the final mode is Arcade mode, which, at the time of writing, features Harvester Command. The mode is like the classic kids’ game King of the Hill, wherein Hunters must maintain control of several Essence Harvesters. The first team to gain enough Essence wins.

As is the case in most free-to-play titles, Crucible does have a paid component. You don’t need to fork over a dime to play, but the in-game credits (called “credits”) can be used to purchase a number of aesthetic rewards. First of all, there’s a premium battle pass for 950 credits. You’ll essentially receive the first one free, as your account comes loaded with 1000 credits. As you gain experience and complete challenges, the battle pass will level up. As it levels, you’ll unlock voice lines, Hunter skins, and credits — you can even get stickers and skins for the drop pod that spawns you into matches. And if you complete the entire thing, you’ll receive a battle pass key, allowing you to unlock a legendary Hunter skin of your choice.

Of course, there’s also an in-game store where you can purchase plenty of skins and bundles, too. These all require credits. And finally, there are founders packs. These include special skins, credits and other otherwise unobtainable rewards. Right now there are three founders packs: Tracker for $14.99, Predator for $24.99 and Alpha Hunter for $49.99.

The Hunters

Crucible
Crucible PHOTO: Amazon

Crucible features 10 unique Hunters who bring a range of weapons and tactics to the table. There are nimble sharpshooters like Shakirri, who comes equipped with an accurate pistol and a melee weapon she can swap to in order to move more quickly and slash opponents. She can also hold up a personal shield, or create a bubble shield to protect teammates or zone opponents.

Then there are support characters like Bugg, a cute robot with a knack for defending areas and teammates. Bugg can plant seed pods which, when splashed by its primary weapon, will turn into plants that fire beams at nearby enemies. Bugg can also produce different areas of effect, able to create a slowing, damaging region or send out a wave that applies shields to nearby allies, plants and Bugg. The robot also gains a regenerating med kit, as well as the ability to boost with thrusters for extra mobility.

Finally, there are straight-up damage dealers, such as Summer. She’s equipped with two flamethrowers she can use to shoot fireballs, thrust herself around and manipulate her opponents’ positions. And we’d be remiss not to mention Earl, an interstellar alien trucker with a gigantic minigun that doubles as a rocket to propel himself forward. His main function, though, is to absorb loads of damage with his, ahem, substantial physique. He can even heal himself back up using an energy drink, or use his gun’s thruster to hover and create a projectile-blocking area around himself.

Design and gameplay

PHOTO: AMAZON

Crucible combines a range of gameplay elements that add up to a unique and fun, albeit somewhat overwhelming, experience. The gameplay world is large, featuring massive cliffs and obstacles as well as a couple of different types of monsters to encounter. Visually, it’s a mix between vibrant vegetated areas and relatively dull, rocky regions. The game is a lot like Apex Legends or Overwatch, with heroes of varying abilities battling in a large area. And, of course, Alpha Hunters mode is a major battle. There are even comparisons to be made with League of Legends, where two teams battle in various “lanes” strewn with optionally killable monsters, upgrading their abilities along the way.

With so much visual detail in a large, complex map, it can be hard to keep track of the action. Sometimes, players I’m trying to attack get lost in the busy background, or among all the projectiles and explosions flying around on my screen. Along with the relatively bulky user interface, the game could use some work on clarity. That being said, the map composition makes for some really dynamic battles. Players are rewarded both for clever use of mobility tools and long-range accuracy.

The size of the map can be problematic, though. While you can see your teammates’ positions through walls, if you’re ever separated from them, it can be a serious trek to regroup, especially because most mobility abilities have substantial cooldowns. Our recommendation: Stick together, and use the ping system (middle mouse button by default) to signal your intentions and to let allies know if enemies are near. As of right now, there is no in-game voice chat, which is a major detriment to team play. Fortunately, objective locations are at least made known to every player. For instance, in Heart of the Hives mode, an icon will always point you toward the current hive.

The Essence feature is great. Before the match starts, you can select what upgrades your Hunter will receive when you reach different levels of Essence. Then, during the match, you’ll level up as you collect Essence, unlocking the upgrades you selected beforehand. And slaying monsters (as well as controlling Harvesters) adds a whole layer to the gameplay — just make sure you soak up as much Essence as you can when the opportunity arises, or the enemy will have a leg up.

The design of the Hunters is pretty satisfying. Landing headshots or keeping your teammates alive when they otherwise would have perished is a lot of fun. We especially appreciated all the Hunters who have support abilities thrown into their toolkits. Shakirri, as mentioned, has a personal shield that can deflect projectiles. But she also has the bubble shield that can protect teammates and block projectiles (although you cannot fire out of it). An Essence upgrade allows it to heal allies inside of it.

Mendoza, a Hunter with an accurate rifle and a powerful grenade, can call down a supply drop. The drop itself can serve as a small structure in which to take cover, and it contains a med kit that any teammate can use. You can also upgrade it to include a turret.

The Hunters aren’t perfectly balanced, as one might expect from a new title. Shakirri, for example, feels exceptionally powerful. Her kit contains a great ranged and melee weapon, as well as the ability to shield herself and jump in and out of a fray on occasion using a special melee attack. Then there’s Tosca, a raccoon-like Hunter who can teleport and create a blinding smokescreen. This character can run circles around most Hunters, making them hard to hit for accuracy-based Hunters and melee Hunters alike. Earl, the tank, feels like he simply isn’t tanky enough. While he has a unique mobility tool and some self healing, if the team isn’t right there to capitalize on his bullet sponging, the enemy can make quick work of him.

Bottom line

PHOTO: AMAZON

Crucible isn’t a perfect game, but we’ve had a lot of fun with it. It has enough unique playable Hunters that just about anyone will find a playstyle they’ll enjoy. And though the game feels somewhat cluttered visually, it still packs in a lot of great-looking effects, monsters and scenery.

Crucible also works in a variety of familiar gameplay tropes, along with unique additions, to make for an interesting mashup. We especially like the Essence system. Along with in-game objectives, beating your opponents to different Essence levels provides a unique sense of urgency and reward to the action.

Overall, we’re excited to see Crucible develop and grow, and we had a great time checking it out. Pick it up for yourself on Amazon Games and drop right into the action.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.