Ever since I discovered League of Legends I became a huge MOBA fan, so when I was checking the big titles of 2017 I ran into Battlerite. Awesome esthetics and effects called my attention pretty quickly, then I realized that the gameplay was pretty unique, they have fresh mechanics to incentivize teamwork, and a few very creative twists on traditional mechanics supported by a solid framework. After that, things start going south fast.
While there is a lot of cool stuff I’ll tell you about this game, there are also some critical mistakes that individually seem like small nuisances, when you start adding them together they become a solemn tale about an amazing game overflowing with potential that ends up shadowed under poor choices in an immature marketing strategy.
Size: 1.4 GB.
Genre: MOBA, Brawler.
Developed by: Stunlock Studios.
Published by: Stunlock Studios.
Reviewed on PC.
There is not much of a storyline which is not surprising in the genre, other than creative descriptions of the characters I didn’t find any stories linking them together.
Battlerite has a unique take on the MOBA, they chose the term “Team Arena Brawler” which is pretty accurate in my opinion. Unlike usual MOBAs, Battlerite only uses minions in the initial tutorial, the actual matches are 100% PVP where you play in teams of 2 or 3 (There is a time-limited mode where you can play 1 vs 1). If you die you won’t respawn until the next round, and the winning team will be the first one to defeat the entire enemy team three times.
The controls are the first major twist they take away from your everyday MOBA, you control your character movement with ‘AWSD’ and aim the skills and camera with the mouse. Every character has 8 different skills, which is a little too much in my opinion. They also eliminated the distinction of ADC and casters changing the usual attack speed for basic attacks mechanic for casting times all around; there is also very little difference between tanks and fighters.
Here is where things start going south, they have a very innovative control system which can be difficult for people to master. Minions are there for a reason! Not allowing a slower game mode with a PVE component makes it a lot harder for new users to learn this creative gameplay. They had a fresh take, doubled down with aggressive and unflexible game modes, which in my opinion ended up alienating new users that after the short tutorial are thrown into PVP or AI battles. Even games like Call of Duty where minions seem a little out of place, take advantage of creative game modes with zombies, mutant alien rats or whatever, to make it easier for new users to practice.
The main mechanic they use to incentivize teamwork is how they handle characters HP. When you get too much damage too fast your max HP goes down, this means anybody will have a hard time under focus.You can recover max HP from orbs in the map, but the support healing abilities only recover HP until your current maximum. This is a great way to reward strategy and cooperation but makes it really hard to take 2 vs 1, so carrying a bad team is a herculean challenge.
Like in most freemium games you get a lot of loot boxes when you’re starting out. Now don’t worry, paying for the game won’t give actual in-game advantages, you can even get anything by playing enough. Then you start opening them and get blown away by the awesome effects, and you quickly get an Epic skin. Naturally, since you’re new and want to try players anyway, you use the first quick cash to buy the champ for which you already have an awesome skin… Yeah, you guessed it, this started another small problem that snowballed later on.
Don’t buy any character without trying it out!
Before we continue, a splash of face paint is not “EPIC”… So I ended up with a lame skin for a character I had no clue how to use, no big deal, right? just forget it and buy another one… Turns out you barely get any in-game credits for playing or even winning a match. Instead, they give you rewards for your account level and the level of each individual character which are also very low credit wise. In the end, you face the decision to either advance slower or play to lose with a character you already kind of hate because of the skin fiasco, this is made even worse by the lack of a slower game mode.
After getting a little used to the controls, I started looking into the strategy customization. Like in heroes of the storm it is based on the character skills, the main difference being that your loadout is defined before the match. There is no level mechanic, so the damage output is very linear throughout the game. The customization is pretty varied, giving you good chance for surprising your enemies in any match and a strong start doesn’t guarantee a win by any means.
Even though the level requirement for playing league (Ranked) games is Lvl 10, you could get there after just a few hours of playing, so it was evidently too low. I decided to take my time and practice more when I got around Lvl 25 I already had a solid handle on the controls and different characters. I had even carried a few normal matches, so I started in with my placement matches. At first, it surprised me a bit how fast you get matches, usually just a few seconds, 2 minutes at it’s worse… I caught on pretty fast after a few matches.
Allowing level 10 players to try for ranked games is a bad idea in a regular MOBA, in one where they decided to get creative with almost every mechanic, it borders on absurdity. While they do have an option for “Strict Matchmaking” it’s not a default setting and even when you turn that on, most games end up 3-0 for either side. At first, I thought it would only happen on the initial placement matches, but the problem persisted in the actual ranking. This is where all the small issues of the game come together making the difference between the player’s skills huge, and basically rushing every part of the matchmaking process to get faster matchups, and that you also have to select your character before entering the queue. If you’re in solo queue you can’t choose a good synergy with your teammates, creating another huge leap between partied and solo teams, since the game is not friendly with new users most of the people in your friend list will stop logging in pretty fast.
Here they went all in! Graphics, aesthetics, and effects on Battlerite are very impressive, with an anime design style they really hit the note. They even included different victory poses for the champions that you see at the end of each round you win, very fun.
The characters are very detailed and the environment doesn’t pull attention away from them, the only critique here is that the skill effects are noisy, for a game with out of the box control it gets confusing at first.
The best part is that it’s not just for show, optimization is very well done, making requirements to play very low, this means you’ll get great FPS and smooth gameplay without annoying pixeling.
In the end, we have a creative concept and a great execution, that is not living up to its potential because of lack of polish and immature marketing priorities. However, there’s still time to turn around, with a little more patience and a marketing overhaul this could be the start of a whole new division of the MOBA games we love so much, the “Team Arena Brawler”.
Huge potential, but needs time to age.