About a year ago, we gave our initial impressions of Battlerite, the spiritual successor of Bloodline Champions from Stunlock Studios. While being rough around the edges, the game showed potential thanks to its simple, adrenaline-fueled gameplay and clean presentation. Now, the game is finally out of Early Access, and we can see if Stunlock Studios managed to realize their vision.
The premise of the game is pretty simple: Battlerite is a PvP battle arena game. Teams of 2 or 3 players will fight each other in a circular arena until the enemy team is annihilated. The first team to win 3 rounds out of five gets the victory. Despite the simplicity of the core gameplay, Battlerite offers a number of intricacies with it.
Battlerite wears its MOBA inspired design on its sleeve but it mixes some elements of twin-stick shooters in it as well. The camera is in isometric perspective and we move our character with WASD while aiming with the mouse. Every character has access to a set of 9 skill, 4 of which cost energy to be used, that can be obtained by successfully landing hits or picking up orbs from the ground. The majority of the skills of the game are skill shots so there’s a heavy focus on the ability to aim correctly and predict the enemy’s movements.
Matches are mostly unchanged from what was seen during Early Access. The players start at the opposite sides of the arena and clash as soon as the countdown reaches the zero. If there are still people standing after a few minutes, the arena gets progressively covered with Death Fog, forcing players to come out of hiding and fight. There’s a rune in the center of the arena that grants the team who destroys it some health and energy, creating yet another incentive for the players to face their foes.
One thing that has changed is the way Battlerites are chosen. For those who didn't play the game during the Early Access period, Battlerites are passive skills unique to every character that augment their abilities and, sometimes, even change the mechanics behind them. During Early Access, the players could choose a Battlerite to add to their arsenal before each round. This time around, players have the chance to create their Battlerites loadout before queuing up and select one of those when the match starts, with a possibility to tweak them before the first round takes off. They’ll get the benefit of all five Battlerites right away instead of getting it as the game progresses. This apparently small change improved the flow of the game immensely. Players are encouraged to prepare for all possibilities beforehand and the “set it and forget it” nature of the new system allows the fighters to concentrate fully on the match.
Stunlock Studios added, with the last Early Acces patch, a new game mode named “Battlegrounds”. It’s a 3v3 mode that takes place on a much larger map and tasks players with completing map objectives in addition to fighting enemies. In this mode, every team will have a guardian protected by an invulnerable barrier and the target is to destroy the enemies’ guardian. In order to shatter the barrier protecting the other team’s minion, players will have to complete the objectives that regularly spawn around the map. When a team completes enough events to fully charge their guardian, the enemies’ guardian’s barrier will fall for a brief time, allowing the team to damage it. The team who manages to destroy the guardian wins the game. It’s a pretty good mode and the game sorely needed a new one aside from 2v2 and 3v3 arena. Still, it doesn't currently provide the same immediate enjoyment and adrenaline of classic matches. While lacking the engaging simplicity of the classic mode, many people will surely appreciate the extra layer of strategy that the Battlegrounds mode has to offer. It's to be noted that the mode is currently marked as "beta" on the game's client, indicating that the developers will tweak some aspects of it.
As expected, the roster has received an upgrade as well, going from the 15 characters of October 2016 to the current 22. Each hero is slotted in the same class-based system (support, melee and ranged). The roster will not be fully accessible from the start. Players will receive a free character when they create their account and the other ones need to be purchased with in-game gold. The game is pretty generous with giving out gold, especially in the early levels, and the heroes recommended for beginner players are pretty cheap so players will be able to buy a decent choice of champions relatively quick. The developers never made a mystery of the fact that they were going to adopt a "purchasable heroes" approach in Battlerite. Still, Battlerite is a brawler and brawlers thrive on their roster and map variety. The limited choice in characters during the early hours of the game, united with the fairly scarce selection in maps, may be a deal breaker for many people.
Just like during Early Access, the game’s monetization is based on a loot crate system. There are two kinds of chests available for purchase (gold and silver) with the occasional seasonal or event chest. Silver chests award three random cosmetic items with a guaranteed rare item and can be purchased with battle coins (the in-game currency obtained by playing matches, leveling up and completing daily quests). Gold chests can only be purchased using gems (obtainable with real-money) and contain a guaranteed epic item or better. Champions can’t drop from chests, making the real money economy of the game revolve exclusively around cosmetic items. There’s a third currency in the game, called tokens, which is the equivalent of Hearthstone’s arcane dust. Tokens are a possible drop from chests and can be also obtained when you find duplicate items.
From a technical standpoint, the game is pretty much the same as the Early Access version. It has the same pleasant cartoony art style and decently detailed graphics. It seems that effects are a bit better now than they were one year ago as more detailed particle effects seem to follow abilities. The UI got an overhaul as well and it feels more clean and intuitive. The game had some server-side issues when it exited Early Access and went free to play but after those difficult first days, there were no notable bumps in the road other than the occasional lag spike.
At the end of the day, Battlerite is everything it was promised to be: a fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled bundle of fun. While not perfect and not palatable for everyone, it can give hours of entertainment for those in search of an easy to pick up, hard to master kind of game that offers quick and frantic matches.
Our Battlerite review was conducted on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.
Now that Battlerite is out of Early Access, most of its potential has been made reality. It still needs some fleshing out content-wise but the very enjoyable core gameplay make it a worthy play nonetheless.
- Fluid and Fast Gameplay
- Great Aestethic
- Little Map Variety