If you think Fortnite would be better if you replaced all of the shotguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers with irish whips, bodyslams, and elbow drops, I’d say you have very peculiar and oddly specific tastes, but also that you should really keep your eye on the upcoming free-to-play, pro wrestling-inspired battle royale, Rumbleverse.
Developed by Iron Galaxy, the studio behind seasons 2 and 3 of Killer Instinct, Rumbleverse hits all of the usual expected notes of any other battle royale: you launch into a huge map, spend the early game trying to gear up, and then battle it out with a large group of opponents in order to be the last person standing. But where Rumbleverse takes a hard left turn on this formula is the complete omission of guns, opting instead for almost entirely melee-focused combat with the core theme being, of all things, professional wrestling.
Speaking with Adam Boyes, CEO of Iron Galaxy Studios, he told me that Rumbleverse was designed from the outset with pro wrestling in mind. “It was our co-CEO Chelsea Blasko who just yelled out ‘We should do wrasslin’!’ and that inspired the whole night of brainstorming in the next coming weeks as we put together this world of Grappital City, and this happens on Planet Suplex, where every person is born a champion,” said Boyes.
Since Rumbleverse is a melee-centric battle royale, you won’t be collecting guns, armor, or grenades when you’re gearing up at the start of each round. Instead, you’ll scrounge around for boxes containing magazines that teach special moves, like an amusingly titled “javelin tackle” that causes you to charge towards someone at high speed like Goldberg or Roman Reigns for a spear-like takedown, or a Tajiri-like green mist attack that can stun opponents struck by it, or even a Zangief-like spinning lariat called Cyclone designed to clear out a group of enemies that are all close together. The special moves aren’t strictly limited to what you see in the squared circle either, as one of the rarer special moves you could find is the Super Izuna Drop, taken straight out of Ryu Hayabusa’s ninja playbook.
Beyond magazines, you can also find stat potions to permanently increase your strength, health, or stamina for the rest of the round; food to restore your health; stamina drinks to increase your stamina regen; and there are also stop signs, baseball bats, and even steel chairs littered all throughout the world that can be picked up and used as weapons to increase your attack damage.
My favorite aspect of Rumbleverse that I’ve seen so far, though, is the way you interact with the world. Every building is climbable, just about every car is bounceable, and every wall is an opportunity for a wall bounce combo for huge damage. Since there’s no need for aiming, the skill of Rumbleverse comes down to knowing how to move around the city, picking spots to engage, realizing when to disengage, and also when to risk it all on an elbow drop from the top of a 75-story skyscraper.
“What we’ve found is that the best players that have emerged from the game aren’t our biggest fighting game players,” Boyes said. “They’re actually people that are fans and speedrunners of games like Crash, Spyro, and Mario. So the traversal becomes a very important, almost main character when it comes to the game.”
One other interesting departure for Rumbleverse, and another way in which they’re really embracing the pro wrestling roots, is the fact that while there is a circle that constantly shrinks the available play space at regular intervals, you don’t actually take damage when you’re caught outside of it. Instead, there’s a 10 second countdown timer that starts to tick for every second you spend outside the circle – almost like a referee counting out a wrestler who gets sent outside the ring. If you make it back in, your timer will eventually start working its way back up to 10 seconds, but if you’re caught outside and the countdown reaches zero, you’re disqualified.
Boyes said while this is a convenient homage to the wrestling world, they found that it also added excitement to Rumbleverse. “We experimented with different things and the ring countout came really naturally,” he told me. “We felt that it really added a lot more drama than just coming in sadly with a quarter of your health left and having to survive a couple more punches before you get knocked out.”
On the cosmetic front, Boyes said there’s more to announce down the line, but confirmed that there would be a battle pass, along with an in-game currency called Brawlla Bills that players can earn by playing and spend on full outfits, or individual pieces of clothing, like masks, shirts, and pants – all of which can be mixed and matched.
With a unique angle, a familiar but visually appealing cartoony art-style, and more wrasslin’ than you can shake a steel chair at, Rumbleverse seems primed to be a legitimate new contender in the competitive battle royale genre. We’ll soon see how it stacks against the competition when early access to Rumbleverse begins on February 8 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Mitchell Saltzman is an editorial producer at IGN. You can find him on twitter @JurassicRabbit