by Brion “Geno” Drake
Developer: Stunlock Studios
Mode: Multiplayer, Online, 2-10 players
Independent game company, Stunlock Studios, has set out to make a competitive splash with their new, and unique title, Bloodline Champions (BLC). Will this game carve a new path in competitive gaming and become the next Counter-Strike or StarCraft?
While reading this review, keep in mind that Bloodline Champions is in the closed beta stage and anything is subject to change succeeding this article.
Let’s start with the genre. What kind of game is Bloodline Champions? That’s not an easy question to answer as I’ve never played a game quite like it. The setting resembles World of Warcraft’s arena but also has a flavor of the new Multiplayer Online Battle Arena(MOBA) genre (think Heroes of Newerth and League of Legends) thrown in.
With a scant idea of what genre Bloodline Champions falls under, let’s talk game-play. You enter the main screen and decide through in-game filters what type of game you would like to play. After the game launches you get to choose your “Bloodline,” which is essentially what character you would like to try. The characters fall under these categories: damage dealers, healers, and tanks. Very much the trinity that MMO players are used to. Picking characters that synergize well together is a strategy in itself. Each character has seven abilities one of which is an ultimate ability that is only usable if you play well. You also get two usable items: one is a channeled self heal and the other is a channeled resurrect friendly Bloodline. You can preview each Bloodline before choosing the one you would like to try. When the game launches, you are free to move around the map to complete the current objective with WASD movement. Here are some screen-shots of each character currently available and their respective combat roles direct from Stunlock Studios.
With their strong support capabilities the Alchemist can turn the tide of any battle using their potent healing and incapacitating abilities.
The Psychopomps control the battlefield through healing and powerful debilitating effects. While weak on their own, their abilities make allied attacks more effective.
Possessing strong support abilities the Heralds warp space and time, turning their enemies against themselves while keeping their allies protected.
Able to switch stances between sun and moon, the Astronomer is able to either do powerful ranged damage or potent healing, switching between the two on the fly.
Igniters are masters of ranged combat, using their fire magic to deal large amounts of damage both to single targets and crowds. Extremely weak in close combat, the Igniters keep their distance by teleporting across the battlefield.
The Gunners can deal an immense amount of damage to a single target at a long range while ensuring their own survival through stealth and cunning tricks.
The Nomads are fast, flexible and deadly. Their boomerangs can easily overwhelm the enemy with the ability to hit several targets at once. This, coupled with great crowd control abilities, helps them control the flow of the battle. However, they have a hard time fleeing from an enemy once cornered.
Engineers bring a vast array of tricks and gadgets to the field of battle, ranging from shrink rays to flamethrowers and jet packs.
Possessing both physical strength and earth magic, the Gluttons wreak havoc upon their enemies. Though mainly melee damage dealers, they have some ranged abilities as well as the ability to heal themselves.
Vanguards thrive in close combat with their great survivability and their ability to incapacitate enemies. Though mainly limited to melee abilities they can deal a great amount of damage if left unchecked.
Inhibitors thrive in the midst of combat where they can catch incoming projectiles and use them to displace themselves on the battlefield, turning enemy projectile spells on their owners.
The Thorn is a tank to be reckoned with, able to dig and burrow through the ground while rooting and snaring enemies.
Harbingers heal themselves through dealing melee damage, complementing their potent debilitating magic.
The Spear Masters are experts at dealing melee damage and avoiding enemy damage through improving their own capabilities and incapacitating their opponents.
The Ranid Assassins are agile warriors, using stealth and acrobatics to give them an edge on the battlefield. Their blades can deal high damage over a short period of time while their poisons keep foes from getting away. Foregoing armor for mobility, they rely on deception to stay alive.
Raveners bash enemies with their dual maces, aggressively moving across the battlefield in a fury of blows.
Each Bloodline has its own unique lore and storyline that sometimes intertwine with each other. I found each story well worth reading as it added some atmosphere to the game.
Now on to what makes Bloodline Champions such a fantastic competitive game.
What sets Bloodline Champions apart from other games is how the abilities work. Each ability has a set amount of damage or a set mechanic. You can read these by hovering over the ability in-game or reading them during the preview before the game launches. Luck (RNG as the gaming community likes to refer to it) does not exist in Bloodline Champions unlike other games. Abilities cannot miss or critically hit someone, every RNG mechanic has been removed to make Bloodline Champions as fair and skill-based as possible. Every single ability has to be aimed with your mouse (yes, even healing your teammates). Aside from aiming your own abilities, you have to dodge incoming enemy abilities. All of this makes the skill-cap astronomically high. The game takes strategy and hand-eye coordination to the max. Matches are extremely intense and get your adrenaline pumping. Mastering this game will be a challenge for anyone.
Here are a couple game play videos from the developers.
The videos are a bit dated as the UI looks different in the current state of the game. The core mechanics are still the same and the developers do a good job explaining the matches.
There are 3 separate game modes: Arena(Deathmatch), Conquest, and Capture the Artifact; which is a take on capture the flag. Each mode requires different strategies and will have you considering the use of different Bloodline compositions. Each mode is thoroughly enjoyable however it seems that 3v3 Arena is the most popular and the most balanced (not that there are huge balance issues in any scenario).
The maps are sized appropriately for each game mode and there is a nice variety of them to keep things fresh. The artwork and coloring I find a bit drab. Art is subjective in any case and with the insane amount of action happening you quickly lose focus on the game’s décor.
Here is a list of features currently available for BLC:
- 16 unique characters called “Bloodlines”
- 3 game modes
- Spectator mode
- Draft mode
- Ranked games
- 10+ maps
Clearly ahead of many game developers when it comes to features.
So far Stunlock Studios is doing an amazing job with the game. They seem to be absolutely focused on the competitive scene. From a business standpoint, I hope this isn’t the downfall of the game. Spectator and Draft Mode are already implemented which are huge features for competitive play. Stat tracking is also on the list of features to come. Bloodline Champions is very much in its infant stage and has sparked interest in a few large competitive communities. It’s too early to call as to whether BLC will fly amongst the elite or settle with a smaller niche of players. Pricing is still to be announced however it is likely that BLC will be available via online download. The release date is also still to be determined.
In closing, I would love to see this game thrive and become the next big competitive title for e-Sports circuits around the world. It’s truly in a class of its own. I highly suggest checking out this title when it launches, or head on over to Bloodline Champions Official Site apply for the beta for a chance to try out this amazing game.