Preview – Battlerite PC

Essentially, Battlerite is a bite-sized ‘MOBA’ with a focus on team work, positioning, and combat. There is no need to worry about ‘lanes’, ‘creeps’, or ‘objectives’ for there is only one – eliminate the enemy. And although that might not sound great for some, it needs to be pointed out right away that this simplification of classic MOBA nuances doesn’t at all take away from the gameplay and it certainly doesn’t diminish the skill level required to come out on top, as that was never the focus to begin with. Instead it seems that without the extra depth that MOBAs usually provide in other areas, there is much more strategy centered on the team fights, which quickly become complex battlefields. In fact, due to just how different Battlerite is from a standard ‘MOBA’ it may not be right to call it one at all. Even though it is quite clearly inspired by them in regards to combat and the term ‘Multiplayer Online Battle Arena’ suits it perfectly, the MOBA genre has developed its own set of standards that Battlerite simply doesn’t conform to.

Being more of a ‘team brawler’ the matches are played online as either 2v2 or 3v3 and work on a best-of-5 schema i.e. the first team to three rounds wins. Each round is a compact skirmish with a 2-minute time limit before an shrinking circle of light begins tightening around the arena, forcing players into the center and inevitably combat, lest they die to the damage-over-time caused by the darkness. That doesn’t leave much time for dawdling and each conflict becomes a tense game of poking out the other team, patiently waiting for the right time to charge in and engage. This makes rounds snappy and even matches as a whole easily digestible, hitting the pick-up-and-play mark perfectly. Oddly though, that is the exact opposite feeling I get from actually playing Battlerite; if anything it requires a lot of time and often research to become even adequate at the game with just about any character.

After learning the gameplay basics such as the arena layouts, health/energy spawn locations, and the need to fight for control of a powerful orb that, once destroyed, rewards the team with a generous amount health and energy, it’s easy to feel confident in one’s own abilities. Don’t. Battlerite is something new entirely and it takes plenty of effort and practice to learn. It may look simple enough to jump in and start taking on the world if you’re a MOBA player and never miss a skill-shot, especially due to most heroes having similar types of moves such as an engagement/getaway ability (dash/jump/teleport) and a damage absorber (shield/deflect/decoy) etc, but that’s a rookie mistake that will get you crushed. It’s strange just how helpless Battlerite made me feel as Dominic and I suffered defeat after humiliating defeat. I like to think I’m generally pretty damn good at games, I should be after all the time I’ve spent playing them, so it was quite disheartening to be constantly decimated no matter the strategy or team composition I tried. It wasn’t until I started reading some online character guides that I started doing better, even if I had previously thought I could control a character well, due to them feeling familiar from other games.

Each hero is much deeper than they first appear. Of course, all the usual classes are here – tanks, ranged, dps, healers etc but playing any hero efficiently takes more than just that. Besides landing the mandatory skill-shots, which is vital for feeling out your opponent and getting footing on the middle ground, it’s important to know how to attack. With each hero comes an array of status effects that can be piled on and abused by other abilities. In this way Battlerite almost becomes a little like a fighting game with a ‘combo’ system. It turns an encounter from being each player throwing out every ability that is off cooldown into a much more calculated effort. For example, one of my favourite characters, Varesh, can use basic attacks to cast debuffs called ‘corruption’ and ‘judgement’ which, once they are on an enemy, can be ‘consumed’ in order to dole out extra effects. Namely, consuming ‘corruption’ from a target heals Varesh and traps the enemy in place, whilst ‘judgement’ deals extra damage and stops the enemy from using their abilities. From that alone it’s easy to see how a regular attack can be transformed into a huge tide-turning combo just from the order in which one uses their abilities.

Unfortunately, besides showing the player the bare basics such as how to aim and how to gain energy in order to use Ultimate or ‘EX’ attacks (buffed-up normal abilities), the game doesn’t do a great job at teaching the player about individual heroes and play styles. As mentioned, I only started pulling it together at all after I researched online how each character is meant to be used and found a few pointers for good loadouts, as 1 of 3 different permanent buffs can be chosen at the start of each round, much like the MOBA levelling system. Truly this is Battlerite’s biggest, if not only, real flaw as the rest of the experience is completely solid, well built, and a lot of fun. Even the online holds up pretty well. Hopefully, though, we will see something to help new players be introduced before the final release, perhaps a beginner team composition guide, or a few basic AI campaign missions designed to teach strategies for combos and class types would do the trick. Until then, though, it looks like I’ll have to hit the books some more if I want to improve enough to one day develop my own strategies.

Either way, Battlerite has turned a lot of heads for a reason, being a unique breed of genres that creates a familiar, yet somehow totally new, experience. With a striving difficulty curve that makes every match an adrenaline rush, a current selection of 19 hard-to-master champions, daily quests, and a ton of unlockable cosmetics it’s safe to say that it will keep anybody busy for a long time. Although it might not be for everybody because of the level of effort required to survive, those that it does click with – the challenge seekers – this game is going to devour any speck of free-time, especially because it feels so easy to jump into a 5-minute game but then 3 hours have gone and yet there’s surely time for ‘one more’. If that still isn’t convincing enough perhaps numbers are because, even though Battlerite is planned to be released using a free-to-play model, almost half-a-million people have already paid for the privilege of playing it from early access – its current state. Now that is impressive.

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