Battlerite, a new MOBA, has recently blasted into early access and it is no surprise that it has mostly been glossed over due to the glut of bigger names in the genre sucking up all the attention. It is a shame, as it’s an incredibly fun and polished experience. It is also from Stunlock Studios, the same company who brought us Bloodline Champions, the much-loved arena brawler, and you can see many of the same ideas being used here but in an experience that feels more focused in a number of ways.
Battlerite is a MOBA in the most basic sense. There are no lanes to fight over, creeps running around to kill and use for leveling, or the incredibly confusing item purchasing systems we’ve all grown to love and hate. It is a small battle arena where teams of two or three fight to be the last person standing. This simplistic approach actually helps it to stand out amongst the crowd too and because of this singular focus, I feel like the core gameplay is that much more developed and engaging.
The arenas themselves are reasonably well designed and while they are relatively small, they feel spacious enough to allow plenty of movement with these small teams, and contain enough strategy in the way you take advantage of the line of sight mechanics, as well as the health and energy orbs that periodically spawn around the central area of the map. A large orb spawns in the middle as well that rewards a large amount of health and energy to further power your skills and serves as the central point that you contest.
The winner is decided by killing the opposing team and winning a total of three rounds. Each round plays out relatively quickly although if it gets prolonged the arena begins to shrink, focusing fighting in the middle which generally means a quicker finish and I find this a great change from the usual long, drawn-out matches that MOBAs generally become. Before the beginning of each round, there is a card style system that lets you pick between three buffs, or Battlerites, that focus on a skill or ability. This keeps a nice element of progression through the rounds and serves to make your character feel more powerful. It also provides some easy options to customize how you are playing; to specialize certain skills, to counter an enemy, or work better with a team member.
In terms of combat, it does play out like the spiritual successor to Bloodline Champions that it is. You move around the arena with the WASD commands and you have several abilities on each character that are activated with mouse buttons and certain easily accessed keybindings. It is also incredibly skill-based in terms of aiming your skills; no lock on attacks, except for maybe the basic attack using a smart target system. Health is also similar to Bloodline Champions in the way the characters have regenerating health but still use brackets of overall health that once depleted are gone for good.
It feels very similar to other MOBAs with this system as well, although there are a couple differences. There are more action commands than the standard MOBA, 6 in total, and this does feel like it approaches the right amount. It is enough that you feel like you have more options but not enough to feel overwhelming while you are learning the characters. Left mouse is your spam attack and the rest have a cooldown related to their power and utility. There is also an energy mechanic you charge up during the battle by attacking enemies and gaining orbs that allow for you to use your more powerful skills. It can also be used to supercharge a couple of your basic skills as well to create a more powerful skill or one with a greater effect. This creates a lot of depth to the combat system of using skills, managing energy use, juggling cooldowns, and hitting those skill shots when needed.
Right now there are 15 characters in total with a range of skills and abilities that feel pretty diverse. While there are characters that fit a certain trinity, it is more about the use of their skills rather than an intrinsic trait they have, and with the added card choices between rounds, each character can feel comparable in regards to survivability and damage. I like the range of skills so far between the characters as well as each feels unique in how they play and relatively balanced as well due to how each character has a couple movement and/or defensive skills they are able to use. However, there is a definite tier of hero usefulness there with some characters feeling better than others.
Generally, the characters seem a little bland to me as I feel that the character portraits and in-game models lack a certain flair and artistic style. They have more muted color palettes and muddy textures that at times feel washed out amongst the backgrounds of the arena, although there is a decent amount of diversity to the characters in regards to their size, stature, and overall look. The skill choice isn’t exactly exciting either, although the visuals for them are all incredibly well designed. Overall, though, there just isn’t enough detail there to make them stand out as interesting, unique characters in my mind.
My main concern right now is that Battlerite might end up like Stunlock Studios’ other games. Hampered by poor servers and support, or crippled by micro-transactions like Dead Island Epidemic. On the positive side, it looks like Battlerite has attained a decent population size, even this early into their early access debut, so here’s hoping it is able to grow even further throughout early access and into release.
Battlerite is charging $20 for early access admission right now. This gets you the complete list of characters and, obviously, the ability to play right now. As early access continues, Stunlock will be adding new characters to the mix, with a big update at the end of October apparently bringing in two more. There are also new maps in the works but this isn’t a priority for them at the moment. It is aiming for a free-to-play release, though, if you do want it at a better price.
At the moment the game also supported by a lockbox system that is focused around character cosmetics like clothing, weapons, and poses but mostly these are too bland to even bother with and the game rewards a lot of gold and lockboxes just from playing anyway. I’m not sure how this will change in the future, though, but what it is charging right now overall feels like a decent price for the polished, fun, and exhilarating experience that Battlerite is.Related: Battlerite, Early Access, MOBA, Preview, PvP, Stunlock Studios