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Pangloss avatar 12:03 PM on 11.09.2010  (server time)
My Champions of Bloodline: Champions' Bloodlines impressions, also champions

Before I begin, let me say that over the course of my group's messing around with this game last night, we fucked up the name every other sentence. It's Bloodline Champions, by Stunlock Studios. There, that's the only time I'll get it right this entire blog.

So I'd heard a limited amount of buzz for this game before yesterday, seen a couple screens with some interesting art direction, and then I suddenly got a beta key for this thing in my inbox. And so, apparently, had my internet bros-for-life Ryu89 and Analoge. We decided to make an evening of it to see what it was about. A wild King3vbo appeared a couple hours into the proceedings. Herein lies what I've learned about this thing.

-Not a DotA-like/MOBA, stop saying this: Seriously, this seems to be the first conclusion everyone jumps to when they read the word "Champion". Until I saw my beta invite and actually looked at the game's website, I thought so too. There are no creeps, there is no leveling, there's just straight-up arena combat from a top-down perspective, limited, non-customizable skill pool like you'd have in a dungeon crawler, with WASD+mouse controls like you'd encounter in a game like, say, Crimsonland.

-Fast-paced, frenetic combat: Every character class has a decent move speed and at least one movement ability, and it seems like every class (sorry, BLOODLINE) packs in some short crowd-control on a small cooldown, so the combat moves and changes very, VERY quickly. At its best, it's very intense and demands focus and fast reflexes, and feels very fun and engaging. At its worst, it was very easy to completely lose track of what was happening. Several times a round would complete and I would realize that even though King was right behind me in terms of damage done, I did not see him once during the entire fight. Stunlock may want to do something about this.

-The art style is great: I have no idea whether it'll be everyone's cup of tea, but all the bloodlines have a very unique, shamanistic feel to them. Several of the cooler cl-BLOODLINES are downright creepy, like the Igniter and the Glutton. Even the Engineer has a certain janky, tribal charm about him. The in-game graphics sometimes can't do the art direction justice, but the maps and character models have a lot of, well, character.

-Strategy is rewarded: Since there's no leveling, item buying, or any other sort of power progression, skill is the deciding factor in most matches. Which, given the very quick pacing of combat, may be problematic, because there's pretty much zero time available for decision-making. Players need to know what their bloodlines can do and when they should do it ahead of time, and currently the only way to find that out in the beta is to get your ass handed to you a few times. But when you do something clever with your skills and completely outplay somebody, either 1-on-1 or as a team, it feels very good.

-Balance: Since power progression is nonexistent, it's important that Stunlock get their basic level of balance right. It is, of course, only beta still, and I only have one evening of play under my belt, but the balance doesn't quite feel there just yet. Tank classes offer such a high amount of damage and control, even with their huge health pools, that it's pretty silly not to stack tanks and a healer.

-The Ravener: BEST CLASS, I MEAN CHAMP, I MEAN BLOODLINE. Leap over enemies, knock tank away, stun healer, SPIN TO WIN! wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Ryu, Analoge, and King may have liked the bloodlines they picked up, but who cares? Screw those guys.

tl;dr: This game sort of surprised me, it was extremely catchy. I have no idea how much I'll revisit it, especially since my crew ended the night with a couple fairly demoralizing defeats, but there you have it. Interesting game, if you have a chance/get a key, give it a shot.

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