Back in 2011, MOBAs were a relatively new thing. Sure, Defense of the Ancients had been around for a while already, but with League of Legends being relatively young, Heroes of Newerth getting the interest of the players that preferred the classic DotA formula and DotA 2 still being shrouded in mystery, the genre was still a new thing for the broader public. It was in that context that Stunlock Studios released Bloodline Champions.
The game worked on a simple yet engaging premise: take the MOBA gameplay formula and focus on the team fight element.
Bloodline Champions was Multiplayer Online Battle Arena in its purest form. Players were thrown in an arena and just fought each other until a winner emerged. No farming, no item shops, no lanes. Just the heroes, their kits and their skill. The game found the interest of many players at its release but it failed in maintaining such interest.
Battlerite is the second attempt of Stunlock Studios at a game that follows the Bloodline Champions formula. Just like its predecessor, Battlerite’s gameplay consists in a battle royale between two teams fighting each other in an arena.
The Early Acces version features fifteen different champions, each with their own skill kit and characterization. Each champion has one of three roles: Melee, Ranged, and Support. The role division works pretty much as one would expect, with melee being sturdier, supports focusing on control and ranged being, more or less, glass cannons. Of course, your mileage may vary depending on the specific character.
Once you choose your hero, you can join the matchmaking queue. As of now, the main game modes are 2v2 and 3v3 arenas. When a match is found, you enter the arena and you are prompted to choose your first Battle Rite.
Battlerites are passive buffs that are, for the most part, unique for every champion. You can choose one of the three that are prompted to you before every round (except for the fifth round where you are prompted two). Battlerites mostly buff specific skills, granting either passive bonuses or changing slightly how they work, adding another layer of strategy to the game.A match finishes when one of the two teams wins three rounds. This means that you’ll get to choose a max of five Battlerites. When all the player chose their Battlerite for the round, you automatically get on your mount and jump in the fight.
The arena is circular, with walls that offer blind spots to both you and your enemies and an area in the center that periodically spawns a rune. The team that gets to destroy the rune gets a little advantage like some heal or a little energy.
The fights themselves is amazing in their simplicity. Battlerite offers pure, unadulterated action with little to get in the way. Abilities have a cooldown but there are only two abilities that use resources. This means that you’ll never have to stop fighting because you’re out of mana. You obtain energy by landing your abilities on your enemies and this energy can be spent to cast one of your energy consuming abilities. One of these is your ultimate (it takes the whole energy bar) while the other one takes one-fourth of your energy bar and is generally less impactful.
The game really puts an emphasis in fast-paced action and quick decision making. Each round lasts two minutes. When the timer expires, a shadow starts covering the arena, starting from the outside and moving towards the center. Standing in the shadow will hurt you so the remaining players will be forced to stop running away from each other and face their nemesis in the center of the ring. This makes Battlerite’s matches some of the most intense and adrenaline fueled I’ve played recently.
Aesthetically, Battlerite is pleasing to the eye, with the characters and environments having that cartoony style that seems to be so common nowadays. The soundtrack and effects also add to the mix and are well crafted, contributing to the adrenaline pumping action.
Stunlock Studios has already announced that Battlerite will be free to play. This means, of course, there must be a monetization system of sorts. The good news is that, as of now, the monetization completely revolves around cosmetic items. There are two currencies and two kinds of chests in the game with each chest rewarding three items. The chests are divided in Silver chests and Gold chests. The difference is that Silver chests can be obtained only by leveling up heroes and completing daily quests while gold chests can also be obtained by spending battle coins or real money in the shop. Gold chests also have one epic item guaranteed in each chest while silver chests can only guarantee a rare item.
The two currencies are battle coins and tokens. Battle coins are rewarded by winning games and leveling up heroes while tokens are rewarded by leveling up heroes and finding duplicate items in chests. You can spend battle coins to purchase gold chests and spend tokens to purchase a specific cosmetic item. There are many ways to customize your favorite hero in Battlerite given, of course, that you dropped the items you want. For every character, you can change its skin, weapon skin, victory pose, and mount. All these items, plus player avatars, are droppable from the chests or craftable using the tokens.
Stunlock Studios didn’t reveal their plans for the monetization of the game for the end of the Early Access phase. As of now, all the heroes are unlocked from the beginning and you can only drop cosmetics. It is unclear if the developers are planning to make the heroes purchasable like in MOBAs, but one would hope that’s not the case. The game seems to function so much better when all the players have the same options from the start.
The game is far from being finished in its current state. Fifteen heroes are not a lot at all for this kind of gameplay and it could use some more variety in arenas and maybe even a new game mode. Most of the cosmetic skins are just a recolored version of default choices, and I’ve noticed a few bugs from time to time. Of course, these are all things that should be expected considering the game is in Early Access and it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with some time and few patches.
Despite being still rough around the edges, Battlerite is so much fun even in its current state. If you’re interested in its MOBA-like gameplay that completely focuses around PvP, you should keep an eye on it. If you want to play it during the Early Access phase, it’s purchasable on Steam.
Battlerite was previewed on PC via Steam with a copy provided by the developer.