Just when I was beginning to think that the Battle Royale genre was done trying to innovate itself, along comes Maelstrom - a bizarre new interpretation of the "last man standing" formula that pits players against one another in ship vs ship vs environment warfare.
When Maelstrom first launched into early access last year, its $20 price tag deterred more than a handful of would-be players. Recently, developer Gunpowder Games switched over to a free-to-play model that, as far as I can tell, provides as much game as one needs without ever feeling compelled to drop money. In fact, the developers have gone on record to claim that "All gameplay and progress can be unlocked by playing the game for free", and that " No additional purchases are needed to enjoy the game to its fullest extent. There are no ways to purchase a competitive advantage in game."
For the few hours that I spent playing Maelstrom, matchmaking was a relatively seamless process. Once in-game, players quickly converged on the same location and began blasting one another into oblivion. Having selected the lightly-armored skirmisher ship, my strategy of going balls to the wall whilst yelling "avast, ya scurvy buttholes!" rarely paid off and, more often than not, resulted in an untimely death. I'd imagine that for my particular "class" of ship I was supposed to do a slightly better job utilizing my strengths, but who is to say for certain. In any case, I don't think I'd make a very good pirate, but I still had fun trying.
If you're looking for a battle royale that looks and feels like Rocket League meets Assassin's Creed: Black Flag, now is probably the best time to give Maelstrom a try, since, ya know, it's free.