Bloodline Champions by Stunlock Studios falls somewhere between DOTA 2 and World of Warcraft's arena combat. Having now spent 24 hours with the game, I'm ready to let you know my thoughts on this free-to-play face pummeler.
Surprisingly, I absolutely love Bloodline Champions and find it a much better fit for my personality that DOTA 2 or SMITE. Simply put, it's just Heroes (or Champions as they're known here) battling it out against one another in an arena. No creeps and no towers. You might think that this leads to a relatively shallow game and in some respects you would be correct. However, I like the fact that BLC is about nothing more than player skill in a combat game that on appearance, actually feels really well balanced. There are items but their impact is very small. They tend to increase your individual Champions attributes or have a specific use, such as making you run faster for a brief period or removing stuns. It's quite a small system in comparison to the sprawling improvements offered by DOTA 2.
Its simplicity is refreshing and the fact matches only last minutes as opposed to hours, is also welcome. To shed a little more light on how matches play out and similarly to DOTA 2, you and 5 others (matches are 3 versus 3) choose a Champion and vote on an arena. Once in the arena, it's down to you and your team to kill the opposing players.
There are specific class types, with healer, tank, ranged and melee all having a unique playstyle but each of those plays distinctly different. With 7 skills and one of those being a super skill you can only use when you've acquired enough of a charge (from being in combat) there's a high level of tactics involved here. Timing a skill poorly (especially your defensive skill) and you're almost guaranteed to die if spiked.
That's something I also love about Bloodline Champions, it's the fact the developers are acutely aware of what is or isn't good for these types of games. As far as I can tell, there are no critical hits or critical heals, while every Champion has an ability to get in and out of combat. The use of them is what differentiates players and it really is evident who's good and who's not.
Joining a solo arena (3v3) will see you paired against opponents around your grade (I'm currently a fledgling and so have had my fair share of difficult matches. Fortunately for me I've settled relatively quickly into the game with a Champion I love playing (Grimrog). That isn't to say I haven't had my ass kicked, because boy have I, but I've never felt aggrieved for dying because I lacked X or Y item or hadn't grown fat jungling. Yes there are items in BLC as I mentioned previously, but their effect really is so small I'd almost question their purpose in the game. Admittedly they do provide a sense of progression as they're permanent additions to your account, which is definitely a welcome relief in such disposable content.
I mentioned Champions earlier and in total there are 27 (with 1 currently missing from the ranged roster). You unlock them either through in game purchases (relatively cheap at around £6) or earn enough coins through playing the game, to then unlock them for free. Sure it might take you a little time to save enough coins using the free method, but it absolutely is possible and coin gain is fortunately swift. On top of this, you can also customize your appearance through in game purchases and coin exchange which are much cheaper than the DOTA 2 equivalents especially if you catch one of the many sale items.
There's still a lot for me to uncover with Bloodline Champions, especially when it comes to rated arenas, the other game modes (not just arena) and testing other Champions so for a free-to-play game that's this polished, I think it's well deserving of a time extension in tomorrows coverage.