As many of you know, I’ve been a huge fan (and active community member) of what is now known as the MOBA genre. We started back in Starcraft with Aeon of Strife and evolved into Defense of the Ancients, but now that MOBA’s are a household name, fans are clamoring for something new. This is particularly frustrating for me, because fans of AoS have been looking for something new for a long time and the mainstream success of MOBA’s has directly opposed that idea for much of the 2010’s. Games like the Savage series, Bloodline Champions, and Heroes of the Storm have tried to get away from the three-lanes-and-a-river template that DOTA popularized to mild success, but it seems that Stunlock Studios is taking another crack at breaking out of the MOBA shell with Battlerite.
If you’ve played Bloodline Champions, Stunlock’s first foray into the battle arena, then you’ve played Battlerite. The genius is that BLC was a stellar game to begin with and only needed a few slight adjustments to make itself a serious contender against games like League of Legends, DOTA, and Heroes of the Storm. Stunlock took everything good about Bloodline and turned it up to eleven, creating a multiplayer arena-styled esport that should stand the tests of time.
Each match of Battlerite starts off with players deciding among a set of buffs to their character called battle rites. Each rite adjusts how your character plays slightly, allowing teams to mix and match perks to best prepare for the fight. The start of each round offers new rites to select from, with each champion having their own unique tree of battle rites to choose from. Think Heroes of the Storm’s traits, but more impactful.
Like most things in Battlerite, its roster of champions harkens back the characters of Bloodline Champions, some seemingly imported directly from the previous game. This is to the game’s benefit, however, as many of BLC’s best characters were previously doomed to be lost forever in obscurity out of no fault of their own. Stunlock has seemingly learned from the successes of League of Legends and Overwatch, as they’ve done away with the more descriptive titles of BLC and provided their characters with unique names and backstories. This provides just enough information to make Battlerite’s champions charming, but manages to still keep gameplay as the game’s primary focus.
The biggest departure from formula you’ll find in Battlerite is its controls. Instead of relying on the mouse for movement, Battlerite’s characters move with WASD and use the mouse to determine where they are facing. Each characters moves are “smart cast”, cutting out unnecessary inputs of having to confirm an ability after clicking the corresponding button. This allows matches of Battlerite to play smooth as butter. Combine the fact that matches last no longer than 2 minutes a pop (the arena even begins to shrink once its gone too long, providing a soft cap for matches along with the timer) and you get a fact-paced MOBA experience that trims some of the baby fat that the genre desperately needed to get rid of.
Speaking of unnecessary baggage, Battlerite also does away with out-of-game elements that affect gameplay. Each match puts everyone on an equal playing field; there are no skill trees to farm, no character buffs to purchase, and each player has access to the same roster of champions to choose from right off the bat. This creates a clean “esports” experience that both rewards devoted players and avoids having new players feeling cheated by mechanics outside of the match.
These “features” come at a cost, however. Approximately $20.00 to be exact, unless you’re able to grab it on a steam sale. The buy-to-play (B2P) model is a breath of fresh air to some, but may turn off players that have yet to be weened off of the teat of micro-transactions. Instead of selling in-game benefits or access to champions, Battlerite opts for an Overwatch-styled model focused on cosmetic items. This keeps players logging on everyday to complete dailies and crack loot boxes without having the experience feel weighed down by the necessity of grinding out points for in-game benefits.
All in all, if you enjoy fast-paced, frenetic gameplay akin to a World of Warcraft arena match, you will like Battlerite. If you are tired of losing a winning match in the popular MOBA of your choice after the other team’s 5th player comes out of the jungle geared to the teeth in best-in-slot items, you’re going to like Battlerite. If you don’t think you’re going to like Battlerite, you’re probably going to like Battlerite anyway. Try it. Now. I’ll wait.