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Review: Battlerite

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Bloodline Champions returns

If you're an arena brawler or a MOBA, it's hard to get noticed. So many of them are dropping like flies trying to chase that Riot payday that it's tough to even keep track of the ones that actually do make it to their ship date.

Battlerite still has some work to do after exiting Early Access, but it has the makings of something that's going to stick around.

Battlerite (PC)
Developer: Stunlock Studios
Publisher: Stunlock Studios
Released: November 8, 2017
MSRP: Free-to-play

Battlerite pits players in teams of two or three against each other, throws them into medium-sized arenas, and lets them have at it. With casual and competitive queues (as well as a lengthy tutorial and options for practice and bot matches) there's plenty of options to choose from without overly segmenting the community with a billion playlists.

My first impression just in the menus was that the game was still in Early Access, even though it exited the program at the start of the month. Many aspects of the UI still seem incomplete, especially some of the more generic fonts and the bland character (champion) select screen. Said champions also really run the gamut, and while there's a swath of styles to choose from (anime, fantasy, sci-fi), a few are outright ugly looking. But where it lacks polish, it shines in utility. The UI is very good at explaining status effects, and buffs/debuffs are are clearly highlighted on-screen.

Battlerite does right by arena combat as everything feels fluid and fast, thanks in part to a health decay system that removes chunks of your bar as you lose certain thresholds and an encroaching wall of sudden death mechanic -- eventually, you will die. The mouse handles your aiming and everything happens in real time. Hits are satisfying to pull off, as are the insane 1v3 wins with proper use of countering. Tanks are tanky, glass cannons can get squished in record time but deal out tons of damage, and supports have an impact on the match without being too overpowered. I'm taken aback by the depth of Battlerite. There's a lot of different status effects that one needs to understand before they can fully grasp how counters work, and when to go in or out against a specific champion.

There's a slight level of homogenization between characters as they all share a few common thread abilities. Just about every champion has a counter move where if they're struck while casting it an effect goes off, and the same goes for a traversal move (usually bound to Q and space respectively). Initially it was kind of odd seeing these abilities pop up constantly but as I played more of the cast over time, the nuances became more clear. Take Pestilus (no seriously, take him): a support that can use his dash to "infest" an ally or enemy for bonuses and remove himself from the battlefield altogether. If you want, you can also tweak your loadouts ever so slightly to give powers new effects while maintaining the same gist.

Battlerite is mostly an arena brawler with strict one-minute-or-so matches with a best-of-three system, but there's another experimental mode in beta at the moment -- Battlegrounds. Here you'll have to complete various objectives like killing NPCs or holding points to gain access to the enemy's base, at which point you'll be taking down an AI Guardian. As advertised it's very rough as the game isn't balanced around it and actual progress is confusingly communicated to the player, but even then these matches only took around 10 minutes to finish. In other words, it doesn't sacrifice the frenetic spirit of the game if you go play it every now and then.

As you rank up both in terms of general player level and each champion, you'll earn goodies. Even though Battlerite is a free-to-play game, I'm glad it has an "All Champions" pack, which is currently selling for $30. It's a bundle that unlocks all current and future characters, emphasis on the future (if it sticks around and doesn't go the way of Gigantic or Master x Master). Right now I'm really into Sirius and Destiny, a mystic monk with petrification powers and a sky ranger with rabbit-like ears that can morph into a Metroid ball.

With that pack as an option I'm comfortable writing off the game's cosmetics. Stunlock smartly didn't make anything pay-to-win, and didn't even try to skirt the line with anything resembling runes or smaller gameplay bonuses. They don't feel predatory in general as there aren't a heap of skins yet, and I appreciate that I have everyone ready to play from the get-go. The first thing I did was try every champion at least once in casual mode, which helped me get a handle on how they all mesh with each other. In other free-to-play games I'd be at the mercy of slowly unlocking everything that matters.

If you are into cosmetics the loot box system feels like a slow drip, split over myriad useless rewards like avatars and weapon cosmetics. Although it is a clever marketing tool, there's annoyingly also items you can buy off of a Twitch storefront (free mounts you can unlock by following or subscribing on Twitter/YouTube are less annoying).

I was pleasantly surprised by Battlerite in this crowded sea of arena/MOBA games, but once I learned that Stunlock Studios was at the helm it all made sense. This genre is in its DNA, and I hope this one catches on for a while as more than just an alternative to some of the bigger market leaders.

[This review is based on a retail build of the free-to-play game, with a hero code provided by the publisher.]


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Battlerite reviewed by Chris Carter

7.5

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
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Chris Carter
Chris CarterReviews Director, Co-EIC   gamer profile

Chris has been enjoying Destructoid avidly since 2008. He finally decided to take the next step, make an account, and start blogging in January of 2009. Now, he's staff! ------------------- T... more + disclosures


 



Also on destructoid: Battlerite   (2)   From our database:

  • Battlerite will exit Early Access and go free-to-play this November - Jordan Devore
  • We should try Battlerite for free this weekend - Jordan Devore
  • The current hottest game on Steam is League of Legends minus most of the shitty parts - Jed Whitaker
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    Filed under... #Competitive Multiplayer #eSports #Hands-on #Impressions #Indie #MOBA #PC #Steam #Steam Early Access

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