A New Breed
It is very hard to create and foster a competitive environment nowadays. Success in this field requires a healthy player base, constant balancing updates/patches, a high level of polish, and most importantly, an addictively fun game. A new contender is in town gathering up a strong online community with its unique MOBA-adjacent style of play; its name, Battlerite. For a very long time, my go-to indie game for addictive competitive action was Rocket League, but now, this skill-heavy arena brawler has taken control of all of my remaining free-time.
Coming from LoL and HotS, I felt that Battlerite would have some sort of semblance regarding traditional MOBA-style play; however, it is truly an entirely different beast. There are no minions, jungle creeps, lanes, towers, structures, etc. Just a small battlefield with walls, champions, and a fog of war. Each match is a best-of-5-rounds 2v2 or 3v3 brawl to the death. With a 2-minute timer for each round, matches end fairly quickly. This attractive trait not only encourages short bursts of carnage-induced mayhem, it also creates an addictive sense of replayability. The kind where you can start up a game while waiting for your dinner to heat up and put it down when the food’s ready. To be honest, it is pretty hard to end with just one match, but that’s beside the point. The matches are short, and you can put it down at any time if you really wanted to…
To help enforce the time-limit while providing a little bit of leeway for players to discover a winner, a Sudden Death mechanic in the form of an encroaching ring is implemented into the game. Being outside of the ring will inflict a decent amount of DPS forcing players to crowd around the center and get on with it. I found the chaotic nature of the Sudden Deaths really exciting, and nothing is more satisfying than prevailing against the difficulties.
The learning curve is fairly steep due to Battlerite’s complex move set and nuanced synergies, allowing utilization of 9 different abilities/attacks for each of its 17+ champions (LMB/RMB, Q, E, R, F, Space, and 2 Shift+X abilities – movement is with WASD). Each champion will have some sort of escape/gap closer, self-sustain skill (stealth/invincibility/counter), and crowd control move depending on the playstyle. Furthermore, skill shots are much more prevalent than direct target and AOE skills. This leads to some extremely chaotic and Hellish battlefields. Champions can, and will, stealth, jump, dash, flip, juke, stun, snare, silence, or become immaterial at a moment’s notice. Sometimes even multiple times before cooldown. These deadly battles are beautiful to watch, but even more fun to survive.
With so many arguably balanced kits, it seems very plausible to succeed using any champion or team composition. I’ve seen support characters easily 1v1 melee bruisers just as often as the complete opposite, crumpling like a tin can under a tiny bit of pressure. The skill ceiling is so high for any particular champion that I wouldn’t even dare say that one is better or worse than another. Maybe much harder to utilize to their full potential than others, but still competent nonetheless. Fortunately, the developers listen to the EA community, constantly tweaking skills, cooldowns, damage/healing numbers, or even reworking skills or passives entirely to help ensure a balanced environment.
To supplement the large move set, the game also incorporates advanced mechanics to enhance competitive play, as if it wasn’t already hard enough to master. Pressing C, for instance, will cancel-cast your ability, putting it on a 1 second cooldown instead of casting it. Baiting out defensive maneuvers or herding enemies to a confined area can be accomplished with proper cancel-casting. In addition, one of three Battlerites can be chosen at the beginning of each round to tailor your needs against the situation at hand. These Battlerites add a small boost to one of your skills, sort of like leveling them up. One Battlerite may add Stealth to a particular skill, while another Battlerite may increase the Stun duration for something else, and as the rounds increase, these Battlerites become more and more OP. It is imperative to understand which Battlerites to pick in order to create powerful and synergistic combinations of moves and CC effects.
Matchmaking can be rather slow and wonky at times putting me in one sided matches more often than balanced ones. I’ll chalk it up to EA testing, the deep learning curve, and a relatively small player base light on newcomers, but the overwhelming unbalance of early career matchmaking and the length of time it takes to climb that learning curve can be a major turn off. Of course all MOBAs will take a while to understand, but until fresh batches of players come in, expect to have a rough time until you can get a grasp of every character. Casual players be warned. I can assure you, however, that although it took a very long time for me to start winning on a consistent basis, familiarity with every skill and Battlerite combo was the cause of it. Knowing who to target/avoid, what CC skill to keep an eye out for, when to engage/disengage, and how to manage energy helped too.
Daily Quests provide a sense of direction and motivation to play on a daily basis. These quests are simple to complete (finish X matches with a ranged champion, etc.) and provide vanity unlockables in the form of loot chests as rewards. There are two basic types of chests, Silver and Gold, which provide Common, Rare, Epic, or Legendary items. Some of these items include: avatars, outfit skins, weapon skins, victory poses, and mount skins. Holiday and limited time chests are also available, and it is definitely possible to receive duplicates in the chests too.
This is one of my first games in Battlerite. Watching really experienced, pro-like gameplays do not provide a sufficient sense of difficulty. Hopefully my floundering around in the below video will.
Before you go running off clicking that purchase button, it might be in your best interest to understand that Battlerite is still undergoing a lot of balancing changes in nearly every aspect of the game, and champions are slowly getting added to see what problems pop up. Furthermore, when Battlerite leaves EA it will become Free-to-Play; however, it is also important to understand that purchasing Battlerite during its EA phase will provide you with instant access to the game, all current and future champions, and a unique Founder’s title and avatar. According to the EA notes, “This bundle will not be available at launch. It’s likely that the same amount of content will cost more once the game is released.”
Knowing this, I still feel that Battlerite is a worthy addition to your daily vices assuming that you are extremely patient and willing to learn. There isn’t really any other game quite like Battlerite, other than Stunlock Studios’ previous project Bloodline Champions. For those that always wanted to get a taste of MOBA games but hated the idea of 40-60 minute matches, Battlerite is your answer. Whether getting it during EA or until it becomes F2P is entirely dependent upon you, but know this, grinding for champions is a massive chore. Although it is possible to do well with any champion, there will be a time when you wish you had access to everyone. This EA package will provide that and more at a cost most MOBAs would present for a handful (or less) of champions.