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Bloodline Champions — Being Lame in Beta

I can’t stop ranting about MMOs, and there was a time with another beta test session. It ended long ago, but since then I didn’t have any mood to start the game and play again. At the end of this article I will tell you why, but first I want to glorify the game.

Training01Maybe it sounds like I have a split mind, but this is my opinion: The game is all right, but I don’t like it. It’s not MY game and that’s all. It all started with a newsletter from Funcom (i.e.: Anarchy Online [AO]) – I was playing AO for a time, so I have a registration there – calling me to try this new flick out. I did. It was worth the time.

In the newsletter mentioned above I found such sounding phrases like “Easy to learn, challenging to master” and “Bloodline Champions is set to become one of the most important games within its genre.” Not to mention the two gaming rigs I could win. I never win but what if I do after all…?

I beg to inform you that Funcom delivered the goods. Indeed they created the next milestone in the category of arena-based multiplayer games.

Well, it’s square that the big score is not in the requirements of the genre, because there are a number of arena games and it’s unnecessary to throw just another subgenre to the players. Possibly Funcom thought the same, because it is like this: Register, search a match, choose a character and you can grind the enemy as you can. Implicitly, the game has its own world (there are some short texts for the mood, and they plan to publish a world map, but it’s still in the lap of the gods). But what is the big novum?

ChoosecharThe keyword is: Balance. With a capital B and emphasized several times. Because there is no character development in the game, and the main ability scores are similar – regarding Hit Points there are only 10-20 points of difference among most of the characters (they have 160-180 HPs). Only the tanks have more (around 220), but they are weak in other areas. Besides, there are unique skills with similar damaging capability, so their uniqueness is in their side effects (like stun, push, bleeding, toxication, etc.) and method of use, which latter is depends on the player. There is real balance, so for the exploitation of the characters’ potential the players need wits.

Ranged characters are slower than melee ones, but – of course – they cause damage from far away. Healers’ main virtue is in their name: They heal others. Tanks are melee and ranged characters in the same time, and they also have a weak healing ability, but they must continuously affect on the combat situation to have a chance for the effective using of their skills.

So all of these basically mean that the characters are similar regarding the scores, but different in style. Besides, every advantage is paired with a disadvantage. This latter point of view is a favorite of mine – I already used it more than twelve years ago in my first and only completely written Pen&Paper RPG (I wrote several P&P games, but only that one was worked out entirely). So this mentality grabbed me immediately.

KillkillkillThe main difference is between the players, and the game is based on this. It measures efficacy (different game modes bring different amounts of points to this), so you can see how good your companions and opponents are in the game. In theory this grade system helps to avoid opponents in laddered games who you will never win against.

But it’s just in theory, because there is feces in the pancake somewhere. Maybe the matchmaking system is imperfect or the other beginners have no balls for this, because during my six laddered games I always was the lowest graded player. Even considering this I was able to get the next grade, so the game is playable against the odds, thanks to the balanced rule system. Anyway, it was frustrating and very hard to fight against Grade 4-8 opponents as a totally beginner .

When I complained about this and they said: “You are not fighting AGAINST higher grades, but fighting BY higher grades.” Anyway, it was a good joke but it was not comforting at all when I was surrounded by three Grade 6 opponents picking on me and killing me before they went for my more experienced companions. One of my teammates remarked that I don’t do anything, and the other defended me by saying “He had no chance to take a breath.”

BadformeSo, to sum it up, the main problem is not with the game but with the butthead players. OK, maybe this also isn’t completely true, because if they didn’t pay attention to me, I sank an opponent relatively quick – and it’s not so much a “being butthead” thing to come before this happens… However, it is still an extreme situation to have three experienced opponents in the same time when the rule system gives extra damage to them for being three against one.

There is only one thing I don’t understand. When I am left alone, I pick someone, score some hit and even if they kill me I caused some harm at least. Well, where the hell were my teammates while all the opponents were on me??? They didn’t come any closer, that’s sure. And from this point there comes another question: How the hell they reached Grade 6 and 7, based on effectiveness?

But this was the beta test. I hope the matchmaking system will be better by the official release. And the handling of the camera too, because I would like to see a game with less top but more top-behind point of view. All you can do is moving the camera forth and back and sideways in the same top view that you get for the fights.

On the whole the game is good, and the developers totally committed themselves to the inner balance. You get fast-paced matches entertaining even if you lose, and if you are not in the mood of brawling, you can choose to be a spectator of the fights. There were a lot of characters in the beta stage, but there are more now, by the time of the official release, and maybe there will be even more later. If I may give an advice, always choose a character that fits to your playing skill and style. If you consider this two things, sooner or later you will find the characters you play readily with. In the beta the players may suggest changes and new ideas (there is a feedback window in the beta version). So it’s not just a good game, but you can actively form it with your feedback and suggestions – not like in the unfortunate APB beta where they only asked if I had fun in this or that mission, and I feel I pressed “no” several times in vain, because no one cared about what problems I had with the game.

It started in April, but I got the invitation in October, in the fourth session of the closed beta. It meant the test is becoming more and more open (update: It’s in open beta phase now). So let’s play, people!

(The article was based on the closed beta game experience.)

Garcius—

bc_artwork_13-123x300What I liked:
fine world settings
good rule system
efforts to reach balance

What I didn’t like:
uneven matchmaking

5_4

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