Massively revisits Bloodline Champions and gets pwned

The last time I visited Stunlock Studios' Bloodline Champions, I was impressed but not very turned on. Sure, it worked well, and despite its only semi-original art design, it looked good enough. It just wasn't really my game. I'm not a PvPer, and I'm certainly not an arena-combat type of guy. Yes, I enjoy a good romp in the pits once in a while, but arena-type games just seem repetitive.

Well, that was back in the early release or beta of the game. Now that I have returned, I have found a much improved, smooth, and more full-featured game. I can even say that I had (gasp!) quite a bit of fun. Granted, I was not able to play many games, simply because during the day it seemed that only the European players had any games available -- and even those were generally locked out -- but I played a few that made me feel, well, kind of tough. Click past the cut and let me explain.

The cool thing about this entire movement of arena-style, session-based combat games is that the playerbase is really passionate. Its members truly strive to be the best they can be, and I have personally witnessed the emotional collapse of someone as he failed to reach his goals. I see it on Twitter all the time -- players Tweet about how bad a match was or how poorly a team played. It is, truly, an e-sport. In fact, it's very similar to endgame raiding. My problem is that I couldn't care less about trying to achieve anything in my gaming. It sounds horrible, I know, especially since I am getting paid to tell you what I prefer. The truth is that I would rather cut off my arm than repeat the same content over and over again. Yes, the combatants are real people, and yes, this provides some element of variety to the matches -- but let's be honest -- it comes out all the same in the end.

Having said all that, I can completely understand the appeal of a competitive game. It can be a true thrill to smash your opponents into the ground, especially if you are working with a team of close friends. Even though I was playing with complete strangers during my time in Bloodline, there was an immediate sense of camaraderie as we played. Almost instantly, I felt closer to these icons on the screen -- after all, we were about to go to war together!

The best thing about Bloodline is the control setup. The default scheme is pretty intuitive and easy to understand. Of course, games like Bloodline are 70 percent memory skill -- knowing the best spots to hide in, the best routes to go through, or the best counter to your enemy's attack. I would love to see how wonderfully some of these players played if they had to contend with any amount of customization above the level currently available, but I have a feeling that the forums would be filled with cries of "unfair!" and the developers would reset things to the way they were.

While within the immediate confines of a match, I found myself not really caring what the other players looked like. In fact, I was only worried about my abilities and weaknesses. I have to say that this technique worked out for me pretty well and managed to keep me alive at least half of the time. Sure, I could increase my rate of survival by studying my enemy and memorizing his moves, but if I did that, I would immediately feel as if I were visiting the local library. I like the thrill of jumping into it head first and seeing what happens. I like the fact that the camera does not move, really, but rather stays stationary as your character WASDs up and down the map. To aim at someone, you simply point your cursor at him, and like a gun on an elite attack helicopter, your character looks where you do. You are given several different abilities and one or two major ones. I enjoyed the fact that after leading on my enemies with a few basic attacks, I could erupt into a mega-attack of flying bullets. I had to be careful, though, because the super-abilities were only usable once in a while. Timing truly is everything in Bloodline.


"Like I did the first time I played it, I can see myself stomping through match after match with a group of buddies. Still, I am not sure that the game has enough umph to really matter to someone like yours truly, despite the scenario."

Smaller matches sucked. There's really not much more to say than that. The fewer the players, the quicker I died. I see no point in 2v2 matches, but again I am not the type of player for whom Bloodline is made. The problem was that most matches were around the 3v3 range, and even then I had a hard time getting into them. Once, I literally tried seven times in a row before I found a match, and it was over in minutes.

I'm totally sure that having a great team complete with strategies and voice communication makes all the difference in this game. Like I did the first time I played it, I can see myself stomping through match after match with a group of buddies. Still, I am not sure that the game has enough umph to really matter to someone like yours truly, despite the scenario. The cash shop is great, though, filled with cosmetic upgrades, titles and other neat items. From what I understand, players can earn a sort of currency just by playing ranked games, and they can use that currency in the shop like someone who plunked down 50 bucks would. I like that method of balancing the cash-shop issue.

There are a lot of Bloodlines (characters) to choose from. Whether you prefer ranged, melee, or healing, you will find some cool character to play. Add in some of the cash-shop features and you can have a pretty cool-looking character to smash others with. It doesn't matter much, though, being that the default camera view is floating above the playing field. Again, I can understand the lack of much customization; it allows us to instantly recognize what sort of damage our enemy might do or what fighting technique he will use, just by how he looks. I did see a "costume" for sale in the shop that indicated it can help players hide out while in game, but I never saw anything like that while in-game. It would be very interesting if players could hide the standard look of the Bloodline with a completely customized character.

After a while, I had a really good time. At one point, perhaps my third or fourth game, I hopped into a 5v5 match on a map that I hadn't seen yet. The goal of the session was to capture some sort of gem and bring it back to the team's base -- a version of Capture the Flag. Honestly I skipped past the game description and had no idea what I was doing, but the game was much more interesting and fun than any other match I'd played before. It wasn't because my team won but because we were able to resurrect and come back to the fight. It was a close match, but after figuring out the map a bit and how it worked, I ended up having a blast. I just wish I could have found more large matches that weren't locked or "already in progress."

If you want to try the game out, go to the official site and see what damage you can do. It's free-to-play, and the cash shop really does a good job. For a game made by a team of amateur designers, it's a pretty tight release.
This article was originally published on Massively.