We've been flattening foes and scoring goals in Ubisoft's free-to-play, PvP sports game.
The last few weeks have been pretty much full-throttle for Ubisoft's free-to-play, team PvP sports game Roller Champions. The game went from essentially radio silence, despite having a spring 2022 launch window, to having a late May release in the space of a couple of weeks. Now that very day has almost arrived and Roller Champions is set to release tomorrow (in approximately 13 hours if we were being pedantic), and with that being the case, I've been able to dive in a little early to see how this original sports experience shapes up. Spoiler alert: I'm pleasantly surprised.
I say this as going into the review event for Roller Champions I was a little sceptical. The lack of build-up to almost booting the game out of the door is something that doesn't often happen for titles from AAA developers - or at least games that are expected to do well. But, I can say after spending a bunch of hours in this approachable yet fiercely competitive title that Roller Champions feels neither rushed nor dull to play.
This game is a combination of a variety of different sports. There's roller derby in the core movement, football in the tackling, and then a bit of handball in there when it comes to shooting and the passing game. On the surface, it seems like a combination that simply should never work, but it does. The gameplay flows and the mechanics all work in harmony, better even when factoring in the teamplay and the scoring system.
This is an ad:
As for how the scoring system works, this is where the original concept of Roller Champions begins to really take shape, as you cannot hurl the ball into the goal without passing through a series of gates as a team with the ball in your possession. These gates appear in four defined parts of a lap around the cylindrical arena, and when you pass through four, the goal opens. The catch is that you can continue passing through these gates to make scoring a single goal offer more total points, with that system ranging from one lap for one point, two laps for three points, and three laps for five points. It does of course become more challenging to retain possession of the ball for three laps straight, so it's your decision as a team on whether to take the easy one pointer, or instead push your luck for a greater reward.
There is more to the gameplay than just this though. The movement revolves around gaining speed by pumping up the sides of the arena like a skateboarder in a half pipe, and then the tackling comes in two forms, basic tackles and uppercuts that can take out leaping opponents. Match this up with dodge mechanics when you have the ball, and ways to interact with teammates, such as calling for and throwing a pass, and boosting off one another for massive speed, and you get a very approachable and simple to learn sports game that has a surprising amount of entertaining and understandable depth.
This is an ad:
Roller Champions is incredibly fun to play and that's something I can safely state. It's competitive and great as a game to jump into when you have a free 20-30 minutes here and there, or when a couple of friends and yourself are looking to team up and get the blood pumping. But, what it isn't is a main live service game to devote yourself to, as there's simply not a lot of progression or engaging reasons to continue playing for hours after hours.
The entire progression system revolves around gaining fans for participating and winning games, fans that also directly contribute to your progression through the battle pass, which does have a free and a paid track. This system determines when you unlock the next of the four current total arenas (yes, four is not that many), and that's about all it does, as every game mode and playable section of the game that you can imagine is unlocked after simply completing ten quick play matches.
You might be wondering how this affects cosmetics and the appearance of your character. Well, the good news is that all the cosmetics and paid content does not affect gameplay at all, but the bad news is that if you want your character to ditch the basic grey "Fresh Meat" starting gear, you will need to progress through the battle pass to earn Loot Balls (with a random percentage-based system that determines which items you get) to acquire new items. Or simply part with some actual cash to grab items from the in-game shop.
The point is, the progression is far from intuitive and really doesn't feel all that rewarding. The only option available that really has any progression baked in is the Ranked mode, which in my experience of online games, will likely see a lot of players avoid due to the increased challenge and responsibility that it demands from players that dive into it.
Yet, from what I've been able to play of Roller Champions, I have been well and truly entertained, but this game does leave me with the question of how it will continue to feel fresh and engaging months down the line. The roadmap points to new seasons with new battle passes, arenas, and game modes, but will that be enough to keep players coming back for more? That's the big question. What I do know is that as it stands, Roller Champions is a tight, polished, enthralling, and highly competitive game that has a fantastic core foundation to build on. Hopefully Ubisoft finds an engaging and long-lasting way to see this one survive the test of time.
7 / 10
Gameplay is super competitive and engaging. Polished and very tight design. Looks visually striking. Fun to play.
Progression systems are very uninspired. Lack of content is apparent. Lots of cosmetic-based microtransactions baked in.