Roller Champions might be a game after my own heart, at least for all of the half hour I got to play it. Indeed, while the game has been out for over a week now, it seems to have buckled under the same problems that would come after many multiplayer-only games- there’s not much fun to be had if the only multiplayer was actually solo.
It’s a shame because what little I did play of Roller Champions, I really enjoyed- Ubisoft have a bona fide classic on their hands, with fresh gameplay ideas and some incredibly smooth controls that not only had me enjoying skating around their virtual skate park, it made me question if I should maybe go hit a real one,too.
That’s not to say it doesn’t have flaws- God knows we’ll get to those. But for now, let’s take a look at what could be your next favorite multiplayer game.
A Great Game
Roller Champions combines a basketball-esque sport with a roller derby- a combination after my own heart. You skate around arenas, managing your speed and momentum trying to steal the ball from other players and score on the target. Better yet, there’s a catch- the more laps you complete with the ball, the more points you get when you ultimately score.
It’s a really fun ruleset- of the games I played, I found that enemy teams just weren’t prepared for coordinated plays- having one dedicated striker while someone else runs defense is incredibly strong, since you can just use the game’s tackle system to block anyone daring to come near your striker so you can build up those points.
Better yet, there was an aerial element too- you can, in fact, jump, and you have a separate button for an uppercut to similarly catch players who jump, not unlike in titles like Street Fighter.
Skating itself is what I’d call “just the right level of complication”. The game has rules about how you build speed- you Pump while you’re going downhill to build up speed, and release the button just right since pumping on flat or steep ground ultimately slows you down. Since there’s no rule that you have to go in any one direction, you could hypothetically ride the U-shaped tracks to build more speed before you make your attempt on the ball.
That being said while the mechanics of how you skate are interesting, the implementation is not. The first stadium the game gives you is incredibly dull- a simple oval-shaped stage with curved walls. Compared to the skate park where you’re given the tutorial, the stadium feels much less complete- the addition of extra features to help you build speed would have been great, instead it just feels like a single corridor where the spiciest maneuver you’re going to pull is being on a slight incline.
I mean, from what I played I literally see no point in jumping. At least with the skate park they illustrated its use as being what you do to jump over steep inclines- in the stadium there’s no apparent use for the feature.
I should point out that this isn’t the only arena in the game. As the tutorials mention, every match rewards XP in the form of Fans. By gaining more Fans, you’ll supposedly unlock higher tier arenas. But this, of course, plays into its big problem:
Oh, Multiplayer Games
Surprise, no one’s playing the game. Despite being free to play and having cross play on by default, matches in Roller Champions are incredibly hard to come by. When the game promised me 18 seconds for a match, reality said more like 20 minutes, and instead of a match my one friend who came with me to help shorten queue times would get bored and want to do something else.
In our two-hour session, only two proper games were ever played- and since everything else in the game is locked behind either a paywall or a play-wall (ha, get it?) there wasn’t much else we could check out since we were new skaters somehow unable to find a game on the busiest gaming night of the week.
Honestly, I feel the best solution would have simply been adding bots. Sure, you might not win if you’ve got a bot on your team but at least you’ll get to play the game. Instead of having two hours worth of fun stories and passive aggressiveness towards my team whenever we lost all we had was the main menu music burned into our ears as we sat there watching the match queue tick away, much like my own biological clock as I read about yet another person younger than me getting married.
At Least The Live Service Model Works, Kind Of
Of course, you couldn’t launch a free to play game without some kind of live service model attached to it, which Roller Champions has in spades. It sports a free and paid battle pass, as well as its own premium “Wheels” currency *and* lootboxes for those of us not planning a trip to Belgium in the near future.
I’m not even mad about these being here since that’s pretty much the tradeoff for a mechanically sound game. I just kind of wish that as much care was put into making sure people could play the game as it was making sure people could buy stuff in it. The legendary reward for the paid battle pass is pretty slick- I just kinda wish there was more of it, since your default character looks pretty lame and scrapping together gear while you wait for your next match in the next hour just isn’t any fun.
You could argue though, that the Wheels payoff is a bit to the stingy side- I feel like a good tradeoff is if you’re going to run a premium store *and* a Battle Pass, you should at least earn enough of the currency to buy things from the store. Alas, sweet skates, we cannot be together for this match counter refuses to let me in.
I really want to like Roller Champions, in much of the same ways that I really liked Destruction AllStars– it’s a fun idea for a multiplayer game, and could very well be the next Rocket League if implemented correctly.
The problem is almost every time you try to do anything you become painfully aware that “correctly” was a bit of a long shot. It almost feels like they were banking on the game getting by entirely on word of mouth- which it absolutely should since it’s a lot of fun, but let’s face it: until you can actually play the game regularly, it’s going to be a hard sell.
There’s gameplay gripes to be had for sure, but until I can see what a seasoned veterans options are *supposed* to be it’s just impossible to tell. Maybe the skatepark is an arena for higher ranked players? First we need enough ranked players to sort against and find out.
|No contingency for no one playing it
|Free To Play + CROSS PLAY. Fighting games could never.
|Stingy rewards make me feel like I'll never be a dripped out robot skater without my credit card
|The actual in-game arena doesn't fully use the cool things you learn in the tutorial
Game reviewed on PC.