Battlerite [Official Site] is the latest indie hit to blindside the gaming community with its resounding success: 95% of the 5,825 reviews of it on Steam were positive, and there’s no denying the MOBA-lite has garnered quite the following in a short period of time. This is my lazy way of recommending a game without going through the effort of writing a review on it – consider it consequence of, erhm, it being in early access, I guess.
Battlerite is the type of game you’ll enjoy if you once looked at a match of DotA or League of Legends and thought it was comprised of brief periods of fun followed by long intervals of dullness. It’s the type of game you’ll enjoy if the core mechanics of a MOBA game appeal to you, but you don’t have the heart or time to spend upwards of an hour between finding and playing a match from start to finish. It’s as if someone took all the high octane moments of a MOBA and ruthlessly discarded the rest: an arena brawler about skillshots, positioning and constant team battles, and none of the busywork I’ve come to associate with the genre.
There are other things about Battlerite’s design that, as someone who’s spent more time than he should’ve in MOBAs, clicked with me the moment I played it: error isn’t something that accrues, and with matches being a best of five rounds system where each round is a fresh start for all participants, no game is ever truly lost. Unlike in the many hours I spent with more traditional MOBAs, there never came a moment where I knew for a fact that the odds of my team turning the game around were negligible, and I was just watching my slow but sure demise. The small arenas contribute to this, as you can go from one side to the other in a matter of seconds, and hiding somewhere is something you can only do for so long before one of your enemies finds you.
That is in part because the only progression in the game, the titular battlerites, are modifiers to skills that every player picks at the start of each round. Each of them offers a minor improvement or change to one of your skills, be it by increasing their damage or adding a brief stun to its list of effects, and all players in a match get to pick from a group of round-specific battlerites before going into battle. The skills, all of which you can use from the start, are sorted into two types: the standard skills, which you can use whenever they’re off cooldown, and the ones that require energy, such as your ultimate and some special abilities. Whenever you damage an enemy or heal an ally you gain energy, and the management of this resource – whether you save it for an ultimate or use individual pips for your special abilities, perhaps better than your regular skills but certainly not as strong as the energy-depleting ultimate – gives rounds an ebb and flow, where after a certain point you know either you or your opponent can turn the tides of battle with a single, well-placed ultimate.
Battlerite currently has fifteen champions, split between ranged, support and melee classes, with plans to increase this roster with time. People who purchase it in early access will get immediate access to all current and future champions, while those who wait until it comes out as a free-to-play game will have to shell out money or in-game currency to buy them. There’s also a micro-transaction system for cosmetic items and outfits, although I personally found that most don’t significantly alter the champions’ looks. It’s a game I can recommend to anyone, but specially encourage fans of the MOBA genre to take a look.
Battlerite’s early access is currently available on Steam for £15/$20/€20. Once it is out of beta, the game will go free-to-play with in-game transactions for champion and cosmetics acquisition.