Battlerite is a game that recently came out on Steam. Billed as the spiritual successor to Bloodline Champions, it’s an arena brawler that doesn’t stray too far from its source material. For those who were fans of BC, this game will make you feel right at home. For the rest of us, I want to delve in a bit to look at what I’ve enjoyed and what’s caused me some headaches.
For those unfamiliar with arena brawlers, it’s a game where two teams of two or three champions duke it out in an arena (hence the name) with no minions, traps or anything like that. It’s just team vs. team to see who can land more skillshots. The combat is made to be frantic and exciting, each character given 7 skills to utilize with different class combinations of melee, ranged, and support on each team. There are health bars, energy bars and weapon charges to manage, all while trying to dodge the skills of the enemy team. Every attack is a skillshot, meaning you must aim the projectiles in order to hit anything. At first, it can be overwhelming, as there’s a lot going on, and it’s difficult to remember the various buttons, cooldowns, and ranges of all your different abilities. However, it’s an energetic good time once you get going.
The game has a lot going for it. The characters, though sharing some general similiarities, feel diverse enough to keep the action fresh. The gameplay changes every match through the use of the characters’ Battlerites (Wow, that’s the game name, too! GENIUS). These are like perks that you pick up before each round. The game gives you a predetermined set of three battlerites that serve to boost and add effects to your character’s abilities. There are several different battlerite functions, from mobility and support to offense and utility. It’s a cool way to allow for certain amounts of customization as you learn about the other team and their strategy.
The different maps have neat aesthetics, though the only real difference is how the walls are placed. You’re only able to see within your character’s line of sight, so if a wall is in the way, there’s only darkness. In the middle of each map, special orbs will spawn at certain intervals. These orbs may give you energy, heal the team or perhaps boost a stat. This makes it imperative to gain and hold control of the center, as it gives you a clear advantage. Also, around the edge of the center, usually right next to the walls, little green or orange balls will spawn that dole out health and energy, respectively. Though the health balls don’t heal for much, the energy balls can change the game if you’re able to build up to your ultimate ability.
On the downside, the tutorial is quite lacking at this stage of development. It teaches you the basics of one character (Jade), but it doesn’t explain much outside of her. More or less, you just learn what buttons you’ll be using. Oddly, it leaves out many of the keys to winning a match. It doesn’t mention the central orbs, battlerites or even the different classes. It’d be nice to get a bit more information about strengths and weaknesses for a few characters, at least. Everything outside of Jade is discovered solely through trial and error, which can obviously be frustrating if you have no experience in this genre. There is a training area to try out different abilities, and bot matches are readily available, so you don’t have to learn from getting stomped over and over. I still get stomped, but at least I know what my abilities do.
There are also a variety of systems that aren’t explained at all. For instance, there are two parts to the health system. You can see your current health in red, and you also have a maximum health in black. However, the maximum health sometimes decreases while you get attacked, though it’s not really clear when it will go down. Also, you can increase your maximum health if it’s below your starting health, but it’s never clear what does and does not do this. I feel like this is the kind of information that might really help support characters be more effective.
The reward system is pretty generous, if not underwhelming. Every day, you’ll get new quests that reward you with silver chests. You can also earn more chests through leveling your characters and account. These give you 3 random cosmetic items for any character or for your avatar. You can also buy gold chests with 500 in-game coins or by spending real money. The gold chests guarantee some epic item, so that’s pleasant. However, the unlocks are decisively meh. Other than weapons, most everything else is a simple pallet swap. I appreciate changing colors as much as the next person, but epic skins should be a bit more than going from green to black.
The gameplay itself has been quite fun in my experience. There are plenty of movement abilities that make reflexes and adaptation central to success. I have been playing alone, sadly, so I haven’t gotten much opportunity to test team compositions and how they affect the outcome. Solo queue generally feels pretty balanced, though, and the game does a good job of keeping the compositions almost the same in terms of ranged and melee champions. However, that doesn’t always equate to an even game. Some ranged champions offer more support, and some offer more firepower. Some melee champions are awesome tanks while others play more like assassins. There have been a couple games where I’ve just felt our team was doomed from the start.
The skills and abilities feel good when you are landing hits. They’ve done a great job with sound design here, so there is plenty of auditory feedback from your actions. There are sound effects and visual cues along with jumping numbers that show the damage you’re punching out. It’s a great spectacle, and they’ve already added in a feature to watch replays and highlights from other games. It’s already clear that they’re hoping to make an e-sport out of this, which comes as no surprise given the current trajectory of the game market.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure there will be numerous updates coming down the line in the near future.This is a game that demands attention from the developers, as it could be quite volatile when left unattended. From my first few hours, I’ve had a great time with it, and I’ve got high hopes that added content and patches could shape this into something exceptionally fun. It’s probably better with friends, though. I need friends...
Battlerite is on Steam now, and it’s just 20 bucks! You could also check out their spiffy website here. Leave me some feedback if you have any tips on my writing! I’m still very much in the process of learning how to do all of this.