Not So Massively Extra: Our impressions of Bloodline Champions

Not So Massively Extra title image
Of all the MOBAs on the market today, Bloodline Champions is probably the most action-oriented. Traditional MOBA gameplay with lanes, towers, and creeps is thrown out the window in favour of fast-paced action and skill-based aiming. Produced by indie developer Stunlock Studios, Bloodline Champions won the Best XNA Game award at 2009's Swedish Game Awards and went on to officially launch at the start of this year.

Since the game's release, Stunlock and publisher Funcom have worked together to introduce Bloodline Champions to the e-sports and competitive gaming arenas, sponsoring several competitive tournaments with cash prizes. Massively staffers Patrick Mackey, Matt Daniel and I recently spent a night of frantically smashing internet people to pieces in this high-action MOBA to see what all the fuss was about.

In this collaborative hands-on impressions piece, the three of us give our first impressions of Bloodline Champions.


Brendan Drain photoBrendan Drain's impressions

The starter edition came with several useful bloodlines and enough blood coins to buy another. I played Igniter for most of the night and had some fun figuring him out, but the learning curve was surprisingly steep. While the skill-based aiming system itself is fine, players are given far too many abilities to manage, increasing the learning curve for each bloodline significantly. Every character has seven main abilities on varying short cooldowns, a channeled self-heal and a resurrect spell.

I wanted to dive straight in at the deep end and fight some players, but the game was a ghost town with only 87 players online. We were literally the only 3v3 team listed in the matchmaking system, so ended up having to play on our own against bots for much of the night. The medium-level AI seemed to operate on a rubber-band mechanic, letting us win if we were behind on points and stomping us into the ground with superhuman ability if we were winning. When we finally got into a public match with other players, they proved much easier to manage.

Hilarious Bloodline Champions chat image
Bloodline Champions has built-in Vivox voice chat, and the fact we were working together as a team gave us a definite advantage. It's just a shame that we weren't able to face off against other teams due to the lack of opponents in the matchmaking system. While we had fun decimating the few players we could find, nothing had us in stitches more than the random bot chatter in the game chat. They just repeat things players might say, but when a bot told us to hurry up because he was logging off soon, it sent all three of us into hysterics. I wouldn't normally cite bot chatter as a positive aspect of a game, but it did liven the mood somewhat.

All in all, I found Bloodline Champions to be full of contradictions. Its fast-paced instant-action gameplay was marred by complicated cooldown timings and a chronic lack of players. The number of players rose to around 1,000 during the EU peak time, but other popular MOBAs the same age as Bloodline Champions manage to pull in tens of thousands of players even at offpeak times. The shorter matches Bloodline Champions provides might make it easier to find a quick match with a small pool of players online, but we found it impossible to find a 3v3 match with another coordinated team. I wouldn't currently recommend Bloodline Champions to a friend, but it's definitely one of the better indie games on the market.

Patrick Mackey photoPatrick Mackey's impressions

Before I played Bloodline Champions, I thought that a well-balanced PvP game with diverse options would be good regardless of other factors. Bloodline Champions takes a terrible design and tries to turn it into gold, and unfortunately the core game is just not very fun.

I thought about this for a long time after playing, and I think the biggest problem with the game is the cooldowns. They're just long enough to be annoying. Instead of cooldowns that last for tens of seconds and have a large impact, BLC's cooldowns are much shorter. Some abilities in other games do this, but in BLC it applies to everything. When you have more than two or three abilities like this, it becomes hard to get all of them straight in your head.

In a more traditional MMO, this would lead to a "rotation" style of play, but because combat in BLC is so frantic, it mostly just means you have to know exactly when each of your powers comes off cooldown. This is annoying and frustrating and creates the lion's share of BLC's difficult learning curve. I can't really recommend this game to anyone; it feels like the dev team targeted a niche where all the people interested in the niche are on the dev team.

Matthew Daniel's impressions

My impressions of Bloodline Champions can be summed up fairly succinctly: It would probably be a somewhat decent, competitive MOBA if there were any other players to compete with. The game was desolate. Brendan, Patrick and I put together a team (named Not So Massively OP, which was appropriate on so many levels) and started a search for a rated game. In both regions (NA and EU), there were no more than two teams searching for matches.

When we did finally get into a game, I did not find the fast-paced, skill-based gameplay I was expecting. As both Brendan and Patrick mentioned, the game is plagued by awkward cooldown timers and even more awkwardly explained tooltips. It's aggravating when a tooltip informs you that it applies some kind of buff, but the effect of said buff is explained in an entirely different tooltip.

All in all, I'm in agreement with with my colleagues on this one. I don't think that it was a bad game by any means, but it has a bunch of issues -- not the least of which is the distinct lack of players -- that really inhibit the introduction of new players. For the hat trick, I'm also unable to recommend the game to any of my friends, given the variety of higher-quality MOBAs available on the market.

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This article was originally published on Massively.