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Big royale-battler PlanetSide Arena hits early access today

So what are we calling PlanetSide Arena? You’ve got Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds tying off nicely into Plunkbat, Apex Legends more uncomfortably squeezed into ApeLegs. Fortnite never got one, but then it’s probably a genre traitor for not picking some unwieldy moniker. Plarena? Plasiren? I’m struggling here, y’all. These all sound like nondescript medical brands. We’ve not got long to decide, either: PlanetSide Arena, Daybreak’s massive answer to all of the above, entered early access as free-to-play today. These opening hours are vital.

Here’s a new gameplay trailer to kick things off.

For a tiresome bore like myself, Arena drops the best thing about PlanetSide – waiting around by a computer to hop on a plane with 20 other strangers, flying halfway across a continent before crashing into a bush. Top banter, that. Instead, it has the nerve to instantly drop you into a stupendously big firefight as part of a 12-person squad or an ApeLegs-style trio. The words “battle royale” don’t show up on Arena’s Steam page, but it is very much one of those, but big.

Like Titanfall-Royale, teamplay’s a key concern, with three classes to mess around with. If it works, it sounds a proper riot, with massive skirmishes over huge plains with tanks. At its worst, PlanetSide 2 was being dunked on by three tanks across an empty field. At its best, it was ridiculous brawls between legions of players kitted out with all sorts of sci-fi hardware. With the added tension of a shrinking arena, it could be brilliant.

That’s if it works.

Daybreak have done the battle royale thing before. They actually beat Plunkleundunkle’s Bunklegrunks to the punch with H1Z1: King of the Kill aka H1Z1 aka Z1 Battle Royale, though that game has crashed and burned and rebranded more times than I can count. Plus, PlanetSide’s been doing the big numbers since I was a wean. Optimistically, if anyone has a shot at putting the two together, Daybreak probably have an alright chance.

But battle royale going big is neither new nor without casualties, with Mavericks’s 1000-player offering canned before its time. I don’t care how good your tech is, sometimes it’s just hard to get hundreds of people in the same place at the same time.

Today’s launch isn’t a one-and-done. Daybreak have laid out a handy little roadmap of features that’ll arrive over the course of the next few months. Solos, events and new guns will hit before the end of the year, with planes and Outfit (clans, guilds, whatever) support due in early 2020. PlanetSide Arena will launch later next year with a fancy not-battle-royale mode, too – 500-vs-500 big base bash Massive Clash.

Though Daybreak previously spoke only about paid editions, now PlanetSide Arena has arrived it turns out to be free-to-play.

PlanetSide Arena is now available on Steam Early Access. If all goes to plan, it’ll break into full release sometime in mid-2020.

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Natalie Clayton

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Owns a Steel Battalion controller, is not afraid to use it. Occasional news rascal.

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