The world of hero shooters is unquestionably very competitive, and not just in terms of gameplay. So many elements have to mesh together perfectly to deliver a good hero shooter experience, to the point that it seems rather daunting. Some developers simply decided that adding colorful characters and somewhat uninspired abilities to an existing game is enough. Other developers go out of their way to create new mechanics, one of a kind maps, and dozens of unique characters. Rocket Arena definitely falls in the second category, demonstrating that innovation in multiplayer game development still exists.
The basic premise of Rocket Arena is simple. It's a 3 vs. 3 third-person multiplayer shooter where every character is firing some kind of rocket at each other. Instead of trying to turn other players into a fine red mist, however, Rocket Arena operates on a conceptually similar damage model to Super Smash Bros. As you get hit, two things happen. You get launched further and further back, and you gradually lose control over your in-air movement. Thus kills are either obtained by knocking someone out of bounds, or shooting them enough so that the game automatically knocks them out of bounds.
Rocket Arena | So Many Fresh New Faces
At the start of a match, you will have to select one of ten characters to play as. Every character has a unique set of personal abilities and a universal dodge ability. Each character also has a unique weapon that largely dictates their playstyle. For example, Boone is roughly analogous to a sniper with some minor close range escape abilities, Amphora is an excellent close-range pursuit/finisher character with her charge-up pistol, and Mysteen is a more defensively oriented burst fire DPS character. There's definitely a fair amount of depth to how each character plays with and against other characters, which makes it safe to say that Rocket Arena has excellent character design.
The visuals of Rocket Arena are nothing to laugh at either. Every character is visually distinct, and almost all of them have delightful and fairly memorable designs. Needless to say, you can instantly tell who you're fighting by their animations and ability/weapon effects. Again, not much of a stretch to say that the visuals are a strong feature of the game.
Rocket Arena | Join Us and See the World
The maps are no different, with each of the ten maps corresponding to a certain character's theme. There's floating airships, underwater cities, winter castles, jungle temples, and so on and so forth. Every map is also designed in such a way that they play differently from each other. The airship for example doesn't really have environmental hazards, but it does have the closest thing to a power position that exists for this type of game. The jungle map by comparison has environmental hazards that you can fall into, and plenty of cover for characters that need it, but walking on the central rope bridge is almost suicide. Colorful, varied, and clever, the maps are another great feature of Rocket Arena.
As far as can be told, the behind the scenes features of Rocket Arena work well too. Matchmaking is reasonably fast, the ranked playlist appears to be doing a fair job at finding people of similar skill, and the addition of crossplay is a nice touch. You can toggle crossplay on and off if you wish, though the game seems to prefer matching people up on the same platform regardless. Lag doesn't appear to be an issue (your mileage may vary), and for the most part, everything runs smoothly.
Rocket Arena | Have to Take the Bad With the Good
Alas, Rocket Arena does have some faults, many of which are minor issues. The most immediately obvious of these faults is that the menu and loading screens are bland. It's a bit of a silly and subjective complaint, but there is value in having nice aesthetics. Secondly, some of the voice acting is rather uninspiring. The best way to describe it as a whole is that it's acceptable, nothing more, nothing less. Not a big deal considering the nature of the game of course. Lastly, Rocket Arena has both microtransactions and a season pass for cosmetics. If you really care about cosmetics for some reason, this might be a deal-breaker, but it's largely inconsequential.
The only major issue facing Rocket Arena is the balancing of certain characters in specific objective-based game modes. It's most apparent in Rocketball, which is basically like Neutral Bomb in Halo. Since some characters have movement-based abilities, they're almost always going to touch the Rocketball first. Abilities are disabled if you are holding the objective so it's not the end of the world, but it's not exactly a fun scenario. Strangely enough, mobility is not as much of a problem in the other game types.
Rocket Arena Review | Final Thoughts
Outside of that, balancing appears to be mostly fine. It's a bit early to say for obvious reasons, but Rocket Arena seems like it's going to be one of those games where the learning curve makes it a little hard to tell if a character is overpowered or if a player is just really good at the character. Fortunately, between the movement mechanics (i.e. rocket jumping) and general lack of hitscan weapons, getting good at the game doesn't just mean learning to click on heads.
With everyone tripping over themselves trying to copy the next big thing, it's refreshing to see an innovative game like Rocket Arena. It fulfills the most basic requirement of a game in that it's fun to play, but it also has the learning curve and complexity that is needed to be considered a competitive game. It certainly doesn't hurt that the game is supposed to have free post-launch content in the form of new characters and maps. Throw in fantastic character and map designs and unique mechanics and you've got a very solid shooter.
- Excellent Character Design, Both in Visuals and Gameplay
- Crossplay is an Option
- Maps are Very Colorful and Have Impressive Variety
- Reasonably Deep and Unique Mechanics That Have a Learning Curve
- Menus and Loading Screens are Somewhat Bland
- Possible Balancing Issues With Certain Objective Gametypes
- Some of the Voice Acting is Uninspiring