It's no secret that MOBA games are currently dominating both the esports and free-to-play scene, with League of Legends and Dota 2 at the helm of the ship. The games can last up to an hour, and it can be argued that part of their success is thanks to the intense game-changing fights. That's where Battlerite comes in, as Stunlock Studios has managed to take the complex MOBA genre and extract the team-fighting element, moulding it into something that's both new and refreshing.
2v2 and 3v3 both follow the same rules, except for the team sizes. Teams must win three rounds to win the match and to win a round all players on the enemy team must be defeated. Around the map, there are health orbs and energy orbs for charging ultimate abilities. Players fight over the large orb that spawns in the middle of the map periodically as a neutral energy source, with the team who last hit the orb taking the energy. When a member of your team is defeated then that is it, they won't be back in the fight until the following round. Focusing the key enemy damage dealers whilst protecting your important team members is hard to manage, but finding the balance is crucial to winning.
There is also a competitive ladder for more hardcore gamers confident in their ability, in the exact same format as casual play. Competitive is armed with its own ladder to climb, as well as rewards for players reaching higher levels.
Rounds are fast-paced, not lasting much longer than a few minutes each, with a kill zone shrinking the play area after a certain amount of time to force a final fight. The action is what (metaphorically) sells this game, the incredibly close fights where two remaining players go head to head with next to no health in a back and forth. These clutch fights are what push the players to their limit, testing both their endurance and mechanical skill. It's these moments that make Battlerite so immensely fun, the win or lose situations that get your heart racing, frantically asking your team "did you guys see that?!".
There are three main character groups; melee, ranged, and support, so team diversity and synergy plays a bit part in the game, like League of Legends and Overwatch. Characters must be unlocked with in-game currency, with some characters being free from the start. All characters (present and future) can be unlocked for £23.79, meaning your hard-earned in-game cash can be spent on outfits and chests.
The overall design of the game is gorgeous; very cartoon-like, but not to the point it can't be taken seriously. Champions come in all shapes and sizes, from raging giant chieftains to a peaceful fawn, and each character has their own personality and backstory. In fact, it's even made clear they're all in the arena to let off some steam.
Players can earn tokens and battle coins which can then be exchanged for a range of things,
like weapons, character outfits, mounts, or even chests that grant a chance at legendary items. If you aren't about that microtransaction life, however, quests and events offer many different rewards, and the achievement system will keep you coming back for more.
As mentioned, gameplay shares similarities to MOBA games, but handles more like a twin-stick shooter. Champions are controlled with the WASD keys, using surrounding keys and mouse clicks to attack, and abilities range from crowd control to damaging, each character having their own individual kit. The loadout feature gives full customisation over abilities too, meaning players can test different champion builds to find what works best.
For fans of MOBA games, the game will be relatively easy to pick up. Some character abilities resemble those of certain Dota 2 and League of Legends characters, as well as the mouse cursor used for targeting, but for new players it's still accessible, with a "beginner friendly" mark on easy-to-learn characters. Something about this game that makes it even more addictive is how easy it is to pick up, and how hard it is to master. Mechanical skill is imperative to win, meaning the more experienced player will most likely prevail.
To compare this game to League of Legends wouldn't be fair, though, as LoL is one of the largest gaming franchises out there, with very few games able to hold a candle to the esports giant. Battlerite, on the other hand, is in its infancy. It does, however, suffer from similar issues to the aforementioned games, the community being an example. In-game communication consists mostly of trash talk and flaming when abilities are missed, and whilst this is a common issue, filtering the chat is an option, and is something that this game will most likely battle with. This doesn't ruin the game though. Sure, it's not ideal seeing this toxicity, but it's easy to ignore and mute, although being heckled whilst learning a new character is especially frustrating, so chat bans are your go-to for that.
Battlerite does a great job of taking a loved MOBA feature, and focusing on making it the best it can be. The controls are well thought out, and the games are short. Being related to a genre where games can last up to an hour is what gives it the upper hand, as these matches are very low commitment. It gives players an experience that is easy to grind, and even easier to learn, whilst being visually appealing to boot. Looks aren't everything though, as Battlerite excels at delivering a fun and rewarding game, albeit one that's challenging. It's a great game to go to after a tough losing streak, welcoming both casual and competitive players to its arena.