Back in June, games like Doom Eternal, Cyberpunk 2077, and Watch Dogs: Legion grabbed most of the E3 attention. There was one game, however, that flew under the radar amid the bevy of AAA announcements.
I’m talking about Roller Champions, Ubisoft’s entry into the free-to-play market of sports-like games. Taking beats from Psyonix’s Rocket League, the game can also be categorized alongside Epic Games’ Fortnite, since the title does not cost anything to play and is not as concerned about lifelike visuals. During my time at PAX West last month, I got the chance to try out two sessions of the game’s 3v3 matchmaking to see what exactly Ubisoft has in-store for this new project.
Initially, Roller Champions and the bevy of other titles that I classed together are not my preferred flavor of games. However, after giving it a fair shake, I do look forward to being more involved with this game when it officially launches later on in 2020.
Let’s start with the basics: the objective is for the team possessing the ball in possession to make a full rotation of the arena before being granted the ability to score on the arching goal. Scoring one lap is given 1 point, two laps is 3 points, and three laps consecutively is 5 points. The first team to reach 5 points is declared the winner. If the opposing team intercepts the ball, the initial team loses its progress and must start again once they get the ball back.
Teamwork and defensive wizardry are key to possessing the ball. Simply jumping or dodging will do, but more experienced players will easily sniff out your tactics and require more intricate plays to keep one step ahead. Like traditional rollerball, passing is paramount to mounting a potent offense. Although you can pass at anytime, a successful pass will not occur unless your teammates ask to catch on the other end.
As I dropped into my first of two matches alongside two others from the Rectify Gaming team, grasping the controls and learning how to properly score was part of the first impression. I quickly learned of the rotation process to trigger a scoring throw thanks to the Ubisoft associate commentating over our game.
While I began to walk my first steps in Roller Champions, the opposing team and one teammate were still learning how to balance themselves. Regardless of a player’s understanding of the core mechanics, everyone had at least one move they would brand as their go-to tactic – for me, that was jumping. I also instantly picked up on how momentum worked through balancing between pumping and accelerating.
Anytime the opposing team closed in on my character, I swiftly jumped over them or used the incline of the arena to zip in the opposite direction. Thankfully my teammates brought in the muscle through timed tackles and defensive maneuvers to keep the other team behind. Through constant team communication, the first game reeled in a lot of screaming, cheering, and swearing for the six-minute session.
The biggest concern for players looked to be when it came time to shoot for the goal. As I typically play inverted, it seemed easier for me to align the cursor with the ringed opening to score, but I assumed standard y-axis players had more trouble. Unfortunately, the first session ended with us losing in overtime 2–1.
Loading into match two, now with a better sense of the control scheme, we were ready to go full throttle as the ball shot into the arena. Knowing who to pass to, when a full rotation triggered, and when offense/defense was necessary, completely changed our outcome compared to the first game. Scoring single rotations for the first three points gave us a 3–0 lead within the first two minutes.
Although going in with a slight negative bias, I did really enjoy the experience I had when playing Roller Champions. Looking ahead with the game’s scheduled release for next year, I expect this to become one of my next favorite party games. Knowing that the pedigree of players will increase in skill when lobbies begin to fill up, I’m ready for sweatier matches in the coming future.
Roller Champions is scheduled to release for sometime in early 2020.