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When I think of desert maps, I picture barren landscapes, wide open expanses, and not much else. That’s what I’m half-expecting as I become (I’m told) the first person outside the PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds team to set virtual foot inside the battle royale shooter’s upcoming desert map during a visit to the office of developer Bluehole (now PUBG Corp) in South Korea in late September.
What I find instead is a sprawling battle arena crowded with desert trees, cacti, and a surprising number of buildings. It’s immediately noticeable how much more variation there is to the terrain than in Erangel, PUBG’s current map. There are hills, rises, and ditches in the landscape, which should create lots of opportunities for cover from sniper fire, or alternatively, convenient places to stage an ambush. The varied terrain will make a difference not just for those running around in PUBG but also those driving, I’m told by art director Taeseok Jang, who I chat with over Skype during my visit. Vehicle handling will act and feel much differently depending on whether players are on smooth, paved surfaces or offroading on rough terrain.
I’m not playing a match, just exploring on my own, and the as-yet unnamed desert map is still a work in progress with some textures, features, and even entire locations missing. One large town I can see on the minimap has been removed from the build I’m touring until it’s been better optimized, and the zone marked for a military base is currently empty. What is available, however, feels like a natural fit for PUBG’s looting, shooting, and driving.Oh—and climbing, clambering, and vaulting. While I’m exploring the desert, I get to do plenty of that, too.
With Mexico serving as a source of inspiration for the map, it makes sense that I eventually find a colorful wrestling arena, sure to draw a number of fist-fights and melee engagements when players finally get their hands on it (and, I’ll wager, some wrestling mask skins from Bluehole’s art department).
My favorite locations are three ancient meteor impact craters with small towns inside them, the abandoned shops and homes built right on the sunken crater floor. One such town, with echoes of DayZ, sports the still-burning wreck of a crashed plane. Even with no opponents on the map with me, I can anticipate the tension of looting the buildings in these craters, eyes constantly scanning the high ridge that circles the town for the movement of opportunistic snipers. Even better, I imagine, will be when the blue circle happens to close on one of the crater towns at the end of a match, giving the advantage not to the players peering down from the ridge but to those already hunkered somewhere inside one of the buildings.
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“Each of the seven unique assassins is at least twice the player’s level and will track them down across the map,” Mnikjom, who helped update the mod for Skyrim Special Edition, writes on Nexus Mods. “They’re also imbued with unique abilities outside your normal Skyrim bandit and thus may result in unusual battle tactics to win the fight. Some may be more challenging to particular player archetypes, others less so. They may show up when you’re sleeping, when you’re exploring a cave, or just on the road.
Modders have been hard at work updating Skyrim mods to work with its Special Edition re-release, and you will be—or at least should be—delighted to hear that Ravelen’s Sinister Seven mod has officially made the jump. Originally released in early 2015, the Sinister Seven adds seven powerful NPC assassins that hunt you down as you level up, injecting a little tension into the main story. Normal assassins will also show up periodically, but the killer seven are the mod’s main selling point. By default, the boss assassins will show up every two levels once you reach level 12, though you can tweak the mod’s values to make them more aggressive. Defeating the assassins earns you custom masks with unique enchantments, as well as two armor sets. You can try to fight them or run into the wilderness, which should buy you some time, but don’t expect them to give up.”