Battlerite is exceptional. In fact, I’d go as far as to say it’s the best battle arena game I’ve ever played and even in its infancy and as the spiritual successor to Bloodline Champions, is unquestionably brilliant. For anyone wondering, I played Bloodline Champions a great deal. It’s one of my favorite games ever and while it never reached the dizzying heights of MOBA peers (more’s the pity), it offered, arguably, a vastly superior combat system.
I play a great deal of MOBA’s and split my time between SMITE, Heroes of the Storm and Paragon. While I thoroughly enjoy these games for a variety reasons, fundamentally they’re heavily reliant on basic attacks, the laning phase is often long, matches can last anything up to forty minutes and inherently, I much prefer the player versus player combat over the surrounding "noise". Don’t get me wrong, I have a huge love of the strategical depth MOBA’s afford but I’m certainly not alone in wanting to cut to the chase and getting down to some fistycuffs.
Here was a friend and I on our win streak of 20 matches in a row.
What I feel has always plagued MOBA’s and the likes of Heroes of the Storm, Paragon and Gigantic (though that fits largely into the battle arena category) is the fact there’s very little mechanical depth. On the surface, the heroes appear fun and strategical and yet there’s little substance. Skills are often one dimensional, there’s seldom any synergy between kits above a basic level and that largely results in combat being accessible but lacking longevity. Battlerite doesn’t take this approach and while it still has a limited action set, there’s a depth to each champion kit you rarely see, to the point where there’s a genuine skill ceiling, not one that’s purely illusion.
My favorite champion , Freya, doesn’t appear to be particularly popular and yet she’s a perfect example of the nuanced combat on offer in Battlerite, that at first glance may seem simple. Her primary mechanic is the use of “static” and as a melee champion, she needs to utilize her abilities to not only ensure targets are affected by static, but to then capitalize on this in a variety of ways. Static can be caused, removed for additional damage or manipulated for defensive measures. On top of that there’s also two “EX” abilities each champion can access as they power-up through combat, adding even greater utility and versatility. In Freya’s case, her “EX” Leap causes Incapacitate, while her “EX” Thunderslam (by default an AOE static ability) becomes a lightning bolt that fires in a straight line, dealing damage and slowing enemies. Her kit combined is versatile and comes packed with mobility, defensive measures, masses of offence and intricacies: how she utilises her static and how she incapacitates players once affected by it, is key. She’s wonderful to play and in comparison to the likes of Paragon, the game is absolutely leagues ahead in terms of complexity. Heck, the vast majority of new champion entering Paragon have passive skills that you do nothing with.
The Battlerite system is surprisingly accessible but adds even greater depth.
Unsurprisingly and based on each champions intricate kit, there’s a nervousness to any fight. With rounds only lasting two minutes and with the first team to three victories deemed the winner, death - whether playing 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 - is meaningful. With all abilities acting as skill shots - including healing - and with no itemization, personal ability genuinely matters here. Even while writing this and after my teammate died early in our 2 v 2, I still managed to beat the opposition simply by outplaying them. It’s rare to encounter any MOBA or battle arena game where that’s possible through skill alone. In Battlerite however, it can become a regular occurrence once you’ve gained a high level understanding of all the champions.
Despite Battlerite only 14 champions to choose from (so far!), Stunlock Studios are no stranger to creating a diverse array of playable characters. One of the newest faces (which I don’t believe was in Bloodline Champions) is Oldur and as a champion who is capable of bending time and space through sand, he not only looks exceptional but plays just as well. Even champions that are near carbon copies of their Bloodline Champion counterparts have had a face lift and all, I would argue, feel much more refined. Croak or Ranid Assassin as he was once known, feels fantastic, while Ashka (Igniter) is as brilliant as ever. All the champions genuinely have a sense of being contemporary which is a sign of just how far ahead of the curve Stunlock Studios were when first designing Battlerites predecessor.
Outside of the combat and champions, there’s already the green shoots of progression, loot and social sharing within the client: champions level up as you win and players can also secure grades that reflect their rise up the competitive ladder. There’s also a variety of skins, weapons and poses for each champion that can be unlocked through one of two currencies you earn in-game. Perhaps the best addition to Battlerite, though, is The Odeum which is effectively a video catalogue of all your matches that you can edit from within the game itself. Paragon has a similar feature and it’s unquestionably brilliant to see Battlerite follow suit. For those memorable moments you just have to share (which are aplenty here) it’s undoubtedly going to prove invaluable, rather than go through the rigmarole of using thirdparty software.
At this point you’re probably where the faults are with Battlerite and I’m sorry to tell you that there are few, if any. Balance will always be subject to discussion in these types of games and for the most part, no champion strikes me as far too strong. There are undoubtedly some champions that appear marginally better than others, but for the most part few give me trouble, irrespective of whether I’m playing 2 v 2 or 3 v 3. As more champions enter the roster however, things might begin falter; a natural occurrence for the genre.
Other than the usual balance debate, it’s evident that Stunlock Studios are working hard to make Battlerite a success and based on only a couple of days play, it’s showing all the promise of Bloodline Champions and more. There’s still lots for them to do, including greater clarity on mechanics and abilities, but it would be unfair to criticise when it’s evident Stunlock Studios already know this.
Battlerite is truly brilliant and already stands head and shoulders above the competition. It absolutely deserves your time and in an industry that's all too devoid of creativity and originality, Battlerite comes at a time where it might just take flight.
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