Ubisoft have released another free to play game that looks to be chasing something popular. Much like Hyper Scape was chasing the battle royale trend, Roller Champions looks to be trying to fit into the niche that Rocket League seems to solely occupy.
To be clear, I like Ubisoft games for the most part, I enjoyed Hyper Scape and thought it did good things. Much like Hyper Scape, Roller Champions feels like it’s perhaps too little too late, and it isn’t scratching the same itches as the competition.
Being honest, my first couple of matches in Roller Champions were fun. The pace is fluid, the controls are tight and everything feels great.
So let’s look at what’s good first. Roller Champions is a 3v3 sports game involving using roller blades, a ball and a single goal. You run around a track and have to first get the ball. Once you have the ball, you have to run it through 4 gates on the course. With all the gates activated, you’re then able to shoot. Unless you want to up your points and risk another lap.
If you get tackled or miss the goal you drop the ball, and if you don’t recover it, you have to start again. Gain possession, run through the gates and shoot.
It sounds more complicated than it is, and from getting the ball to rolling through the gates, you can be ready to score points quickly. Roller Champions is all about fluidity.
The roller blading feels really smooth, and when you’re pumping for speed, the audio queue is lovely. Everything in Roller Champions feels quite satisfying.
Filled with bright and vibrant colours, the tracks are clean and help you “feel” the flow of the blading. Characters are cartoonish and customiseable, and look fine, too.
At the very first glance, Roller Champions is a fun free-to-play game that is mostly unlike anything else I’ve come across in recent memory.
Playing Roller Champions, I found myself very quickly getting frustrated in matches. This is where I feel like it’s going to fall down.
If you’re not communicating with your team, or if you have someone that won’t pass and work with you, you’re screwed. You don’t have to talk to communicate, you can just signal to pass the ball to you. The pass is “magnetic” so you’re guaranteed to send it to the person requesting it. And passing means you can get it through the gates quicker, or line-up a shot before an opponent takes you out.
If there’s no passing and the lone-wolf ball carrier keeps getting knocked-down, you’re never getting points. So the other team can swiftly steal the win. It’s so frustrating.
People playing these games solo isn’t unusual. But when the whole premise is reliant on passing and keeping the ball away from the other team, you can’t do a lot. A solo player in Rocket League might be annoying, but you can still be a good goal keeper or defender and keep the game going that way. Roller Champions is putting all players in basically the same role, and there’s not much diversity in how you play.
You can just go around tackling or uppercutting folk, which is great for getting the ball from the carrier. Doing it to hamper the other team may be beneficial, but it’s not game-changing. You’re not turning the tide unless the ball carrier drops it.
Roller Champions is good when you’re passing, moving, tackling and scoring. But it’s just a waste of time when you’re passing to someone that then refuses to pass again because they get greedy. It’s also no fun when they miss all their shots or decide to get cocky and got for another lap before shooting.
I think there’s too much room for people to make it a frustrating experience for it to be consistently good.
The free-to-play model
This is of course, a free-to-play game which comes with the free-to-play standards. A battle pass (roller pass), loot boxes (lootballs) and of course a store.
I don’t mind this stuff, the game is free, so who cares? But I just hope they spend time making it a valuable prospect, because if you’re playing a lot of Roller League matches with randoms that don’t want to work as a team, you’ll be putting yourself through hell for some cosmetic unlocks.
I don’t want to be too rough on Roller Champions. I like how it feels when it’s all going well and it looks and plays great. But there’s too little deviation in terms of how impactful you can be as a player when you don’t have a team.
It’s free, I’ll give it some more time, but I feel like it might have the same lifespan as Hyperscape, which is really sad. There’s some promise here, but I don’t know that it’s going to become a cult hit or a cultural phenomenon. Roller Champions is fine, and I truly hope it becomes a success. People have built this and the way it plays and looks, it shows they’ve worked hard on it.
Maybe Ubisoft rushed it out to a release, maybe the marketing push has been misguided or not big enough? I’m not sure, but it truly feels like Hyperscape did at launch. With the added frustrations of being stuck with people that perhaps don’t want to play properly.
Hopefully more game types will unlock and something less frustrating will come out of that. But early impressions are average at best. I can’t say I recommend it, but I can’t say I don’t either.
Watch this space for a score in the future.