Black Desert Online, the South Korean massively multiplayer online RPG, used to have a PvP minigame where players could fight in a closed arena. That very minigame is now becoming its own separate game called Shadow Arena.

The new Battle Royale is available to play for free on Steam, in Early Access.

Shadow Arena follows the same formula of most popular Battle Royale games. Up to 50 players compete in an arena to be the last player standing. They have to grab armor and weapons and become stronger as the arena slowly shrinks around them. By the end, there can be only one. Or three, depending on which mode you’re playing.

The characters you can play are simplified versions of the same classes you have in Black Desert Online. You can pull off the same attacks, but the combo system was removed to streamline the action.

Nothing Shadowy about This Arena

The first thing to notice about Shadow Arena is how beautifully crafted the game it is. The trees and grass look fantastic, and the characters’ flashy moves explode like fireworks in colorful sparks. While the player characters are beautiful, the enemy monsters look like they could use a few more touch-ups and diversity.

Shadow Arena preview

Still, Shadow Arena might just be the most beautiful free to play title I ever encountered. Pearl Abyss imported the arena from their MMORPG game almost as-is, so no wonder everything looks so good.

I was particularly pleased with the game’s menus. They are clear and easy to navigate, and I found it incredibly easy to switch between modes or find all customization options.

Fast and Furious Battle Royale

Like every other game in the genre, players are dropped into the arena from above, and scatter around the map to look for equipment. But here is where things get interesting.

Shadow Arena also has PvE

The best gear isn’t lying around waiting to be picked up – it’s guarded by monsters you need to kill and loot. The stronger the creature – the better the loot. In the first few minutes, players are busy fighting AI monsters and not each other. Even if another player kills you, you come right back – all you lose is time (and your killer gets a temporary buff).

When the ring starts to close in around you, the real action starts and PvP comes in in full force. Now if you die, you’re out for good. To add fuel to the fire, the AI monsters become much tougher, but also drop better gear. You’ll want to be sure to collect that better gear, as it can make all the difference when you face against the remaining survivors.

Your character’s class also determines how you approach combat, as mechanics and play style differ from class to another. You can play a Ranger, Barbarian, Sorceress, and other varieties of traditional high fantasy roles. Since each player brings something different to the action, playing together becomes much more thrilling.

Kill monsters to get better gear

Having to fight other players to stay alive, and AI enemies to improve your chances of winning is a refreshing take on the genre – one that I really, really love.

Still Too Early to Tell

Shadow Arena is still in Early Access and contains its fair share of weird bugs. You can’t always turn right, and the game tends to stutter when you boot it up. What bothers me more is the lack of balance between classes. Unbalanced systems and characters are a typical problem in class-based games, but it’s going to take some time for the developers to nerf and buff everything just right.

Monsters and PvE mechanics are refreshing but lack variety. PvE is pretty monotonous, and monsters are indifferent to each other. I would love to see different PvE mechanics and a broader roster of enemies.

Shadow Arena PvP

Shadow Arena presents an interesting take on Battle Royale, and offers excellent graphics, exciting PvP, and a significant PvE in comparison to its competition. While it lacks essential features, such as game options and control over the HUD, it is still a well-polished Early Access title that offers hours of fun.

Is it worth the try? Of course, it’s free to play, and you can enjoy it without investing a penny. I hope that Pearl Abyss will address the issues I stumbled on, and we’ll get a much more polished experience in the full version.

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