Three years after it was announced, Amazon's first PC game is finally making its debut. Third-person multiplayer shooter Crucible is trying to carve out a place in the genre, and it's doing so by being similar to, but not quite the same as, many of the other competitive shooters on the market.

A big difference between Crucible and similar games is the addition of PvE elements that tie into its in-match progression system. In Crucible, you're not just fighting the other team, you're fighting various beasts scattered throughout the game world. Beating those PvE monsters gives you the fuel to rank up your team and make them more lethal and resilient on the battlefield, so you're better equipped to take on other players when they show up.

Amazon's Free-To-Play Crucible: Everything You Should Know

We've played Crucible a few times now and got a sense of the game world, the characters, the progression, and the PvE elements. Here's everything we know about Crucible.

It's A Hero Shooter

Tiny mad scientist Tosca is one of the 10 heroes available in Crucible at launch.

Crucible sports 10 characters, each with a different playstyle and role. You can have as many of a single character as you want on a team, although it's not always great for team composition. Different characters have different strengths and weaknesses, of course, but developer Relentless Studios is resistant to pigeonholing them in traditional MMO roles like tank, damage-dealer, and support. Instead, characters have a mix of uses and abilities. Some specialize in defense, some can heal or drop turrets, and some are better on the attack, but each is designed to be useful in a variety of roles on a team--the idea is that you'll never feel like you're at a disadvantage for choosing the character you like to play.

While there are similarities in Crucible to some battle royale games, each character comes with their own weapons and abilities, all of which are on cooldown timers (or subject to "overheating" upon use). That means you never have to hunt for ammo or weapons while you're in a battle. There are things you'll want to go after on Crucible's map, though, but more on that in a moment.

Crucible Is The Planet, And It's Special

Relentless Studios' game gets its name from the planet on which it's set. Crucible is a special place because it contains a powerful resource called Essence. There's Essence in the ground, which causes it to bleed out into plants and animals, spreading it across the planet. There's a lot of value in Essence, which makes exploiting the planet very profitable. Unfortunately, Crucible is also a very deadly place--and competition for Essence is high. That's where the game's characters, known as Hunters, come in: they're willing to brave Crucible's dangers to go after the Essence.

It's PvEvP

Fighting hostile creatures on Crucible is how you level up your team to increase their damage, build their resistance, and unlock additional ability perks.

As mentioned, the element that sets Crucible apart from similar games is its PvE element. As you work your way across Crucible's current map (which is one big location with multiple biomes, similar to what you'd see in games like Fortnite, Apex Legends, Call of Duty: Warzone, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds), you'll face various dangerous indigenous creatures and plants. The animals that threaten you across the planet aren't your biggest worry--other players are far more dangerous--but you do need to deal with them as you move around, or risk having them get in the way at inopportune moments. Hunting and killing various beasts earns you Essence, which you'll definitely want to gather.

The environment also offers other upsides and drawbacks. Some plants can be shot to create traps for enemies or animals, or to drop buffs like dust that makes anyone passing through it temporarily invisible. Paying attention to the environment can give you big benefits in battle, whether in helping you win a fight, out-position your opponents, or escape in an emergency.

Essence Earns Upgrades

Capturing Essence harvesters is central to the Harvester Command game mode, but in all modes, snagging those harvesters gets you Essence to level up your team.

Fighting enemies and capturing objectives earns you Essence, which is essential to winning battles. Any given match isn't just about fighting and beating the other team--it's also about strategically moving around the map to hunt and kill animals or to capture Essence harvesters that will increase your team's Essence stores. The more you earn, the stronger you become, because as you hit milestones in your Essence collection, your whole team levels up. Leveling makes your squad more lethal and more resistant to damage, while also unlocking perks along an upgrade path you set ahead of a match for your character. They might make your healing abilities more effective, increase the range of your weapons, or make damage-over-time attacks more painful. Planning your perks with your teammates ahead of a match is part of the strategy, and making sure you're devoting time to hunting down Essence is a big part of the overall experience.

There Are Three Different Game Modes

Crucible's three modes at launch include two objective-based modes: Harvester Command, an 8-vs.-8 mode, and Heart of the Hives, a 4-vs.-4 mode. The third, Alpha Hunters, pits eight teams of two players against each other.

At launch, Crucible supports three game modes, each with a different focus and team composition, but all three are played on the same big map. Harvester Command is probably the most straightforward: two teams of eight players each run around the map, trying to capture and hold several Essence harvesters. Each harvester passively gobbles up Essence, increasing a team's score, so whoever has more harvesters scores more points. The first team to 100 wins.

Alpha Hunters is similar to battle royale doubles matches, in which eight teams of two players battle to be the last group standing. Gathering Essence and taking advantage of the PvE elements of the map is still a big part of the gameplay, but your goal is to take down the other teams, with no objectives necessary. If your teammate is killed but you survive, you'll have the option of creating a temporary alliance with another lone player, if you encounter one. The pair of you can band together to bring your team back up to full strength, but if you happen to be the last team standing, you'll have to turn on each other to determine the match's actual winner.

Heart of the Hives has the biggest PvE focus of all the match types. Two teams of four try to capture three "hearts," which are found inside enemy-spewing hives that appear on the map every so often. You have to destroy the hives in order to get at their hearts, which one member of your team can then capture by getting close and holding down a button--but they're unable to do anything else until they're finished capturing. Anyone can capture a heart once the hive is destroyed, so you need to defend the area from the other team, both while you're fighting the hive and when you're ready to snag the heart. Gathering Essence to level up your squad is also a key part of the game mode, and you can fight animals and capture Essence harvesters in between Hive fights to build your strength.

It Has Battle Royale Influences

Apart from strengthening your team by fighting PvE monsters in Crucible, finding items on the map gives you power-ups similar to those found in battle royale supply drops.

PvE elements add a different wrinkle to Crucible game modes, but there are also some battle royale-like features in Crucible's matches. Periodically, items will appear on the map that are similar to battle royale care packages. If you can find and capture items that will do things like give your team health regeneration or increase their damage, but as in battle royale matches, everyone will see those objects on the map--and they can try to take them from you.

Crucible also includes a system similar to the "ring" or "circle" in battle royale games. The map is surrounded by a deadly storm that encroaches on the play area as you fight in some modes, forcing battles to happen in tighter and tighter areas. Especially in the Alpha Hunters mode, things get pretty intense as the map shrinks.

It's Free-To-Play With A Battle Pass

Crucible makes its money from a battle pass and selling cosmetic items for its heroes.

As has quickly become standard in online multiplayer shooters, Crucible is a game that's free to download and play. It'll earn its money through a battle pass that gives you cosmetic rewards as you play, but you can earn some of them for free just for putting time into the game. You can also purchase cosmetic items for your characters with microtransactions in the in-game store.

Crucible launches on May 20 as a PC exclusive, available to download from Steam.