Bloodline: Champions Beta Impressions

I’ve been playing a game called Bloodline: Champions, a game that aspires to be DotA/HoN, because Funcom sent me a beta key (I still have a free one to give away! Email me)!

For those of you who don’t know, Funcom’s most recent claim to fame was the Age of Conan MMO, which is a decent enough game. Thus, I figured that Bloodline: Champions would be of the same caliber, right?

How wrong I was.

Okay, jumping the gun, let’s back up. Bloodline plays as a arena-based version of DotA. The game, having ripped out all those silly things like RPG elements and metagaming, it focuses solely on the micro. The games are played in fairly small areas with 3-4 people on the “Cold” and “Warm” teams. The team with the last person standing wins.

If you haven’t guess yet, the game isn’t very deep. While its intellectual fathers had sprawling maps with various elements that needed to be taken and controlled in order to win the relatively long-running skirmishes, Bloodline is just a frantic and short slugfest without a lot of strategy. Really, the strategy in fights rarely gets about the “Kill healer, then everyone else” level unless your team gets together and does some incredibly scripted maneuvers that you practiced extensively beforehand. You can’t stick together because every class has a AoE attack, so it’s not like you can set up a “base” either.

The classes are numerous, but it has the same problem as all competitive games; all that flavor text just gets torn off to get to the raw data. You know that the community will eventually figure out which characters are “top tier”, then every fight will be between those three. Hell, it has already begun, someone played the Thorn character in almost every match I was in.

The game pegs itself as meant for competitions, as every attack needs to be aimed and most can be dodged, there’s no element of random chance, all spells do a set amount of damage, and so on. However, I’m not really seeing the draw of competing in this game. Every round feels meaningless, with victories bringing only mild elation. It’s definitely not like the near-orgasmic feeling of joy you get from beating someone in Starcraft 2, for example, or downing a difficult boss in WoW.

Speaking of WoW, that’s a good comparison. Bloodlines is basically the arena system in WoW, if every class was restricted to seven spells with exact damage amounts and your gear was made unchangeable. While some might get a kick out of it, a lot of us will simply be bored.

Now, I’ve never really gotten into WoW PvP myself, as the entire thing feels like a grind-tastic, balance-based clusterfuck. Call me a carebear if you please, I just don’t see the point in grinding out the same maps over and over and over and over again. Battlegrounds? I’ve done those plenty, but only until they stopped being fun. While I can see how the non-random nature of B:C would appeal to the arena PvPer, it doesn’t make the game any more fun.

So, yeah. That’s Bloodlines. I’ll be curious to see how it sells when it comes out, because it will only really appeal to the hardcore PvP crowd, a group to which I do not subscribe. Perhaps that’s why I don’t like B:C, who knows? More to the point, however: why would anyone buy Bloodlines when they could play HoN, a much better game with a significantly stronger player base?

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8 thoughts on “Bloodline: Champions Beta Impressions

  1. May I know how many matches have you played? With the beta running for almost 10 months now, the community has figured only that the balance is very good and in fact allows almost any team composition to be competitive (unlike WoW or DotA and its clones). By the way the thing that draws a lot of players to the game is that it requires no grind and the matches last 5-10 minutes (compared to 45 minute long DotA match, most of which is arguably grinding, or WoW, which requires grind just to stay competitive, not to mention switching classes). You shouldn’t compare BLC to DotA in the first place but whatever. I agree that the game is not meant for casual gamers (that’s true for HoN/DotA too though).

    • I suppose I should use a different term, when I say “grind” I mean “the same maps again and again”.

      As for the balance, you have to ask yourself why the characters are so balanced. With such a massive roster, the only real way to make it even would be to make the characters in the same archetype (tank, healer, etc.) functionally the same, which does not leave much distinction between them. Yes, it means that any character can be competitive, but it also means that they’re all the same de facto.

      And the game might not be exactly the same as DotA, but you have to admit that it at least read DotA’s thesis paper.

      • Each character has unique skillset and suits different playstyle than other characters of the same archetype – if you disagree, provide me with some examples of classes you consider ‘same’, so I can explain the differences. The absence of items, levels and resistances helps greatly with balancing and in my opinion is the main reason for the current balance (not the supposed lack of diversity).

        No, the only things similar to DotA are the top down view and control of one hero unit. Take a look at Nox, Mageslayer, Alien Swarm or even Guild Wars and you’ll see what I mean.

        Regarding the grind: I understand what you meant, I just use the word to refer to something else (leveling character just for the PvP in WoW, gathering equipment or laning phase in DotA).

      • Yeah, that was just bad work use with “grind”… heh.

        As for the characters, I believe that you misunderstand me. Yes, each character may play differently, but balancing the very large cast requires you to either make them the same or make them completely shallow to the point where balance isn’t a real issue. Bloodlines adopts the latter approach. The game plays almost like an FPS in that aspect; you have a few things you can do, the reliable nuke/strike, the AoE, etc., then a few specials thrown in.

        This isn’t a trait of the game itself, more of a problem with any game with a heavy/purely PVP base. A developer has to either limit himself to relatively few classes, or the major distinctions must disappear between the classes of the same type. Mind you, I said “major” distinctions, each class will still feel a bit different. But like I said in the piece, everything just becomes raw data in the mind of players anyways, so that can tend to wipe out a few distinctions. Still, the model allows for a bit of difference, but not *too* much.

        After all, look at most major MMOs. They’re *still* trying to work out the kinks in PvP for what, ten classes? But it’s because each is very complex.

        Really, if Funcom isn’t ironing out the balance until launch day, and then after, then they haven’t put enough effort into making complex characters.

      • I still remember playing my Enhancement Shaman on TBC and that I didn’t use more than 10 different spells (in arena), maybe a little more if you count selfbuffs and abilities with 10 minutes cooldown, most of the time tunneling someone and throwing some interrupt or switching targets for spike damage from time to time. What good is complex class when you only ever use the spells from your spec? Every single healer has a slow cast heal, faster one, CC, survivability spell and multi target heal in WoW, does it make the game shallow? Not for me.. and same goes for BLC. Maybe it’s because I see it more as a Top Down Shooter with lot of classes than RPG.

        On the ‘major’ distinctions: I also meant major distinctions, only bloodlines that I find a bit too similar in playstyle are Thorn and Glutton. Some of the other bloodlines may have a few similar abilities, but their playstyles are heavily influenced by the rest of their skillsets.

        MMOs fail because they have to balance everything for PvP and PvE at the same time, now with Guild Wars 2 taking this obstacle out of the way, I’m curious to see the results.

      • “Maybe it’s because I see it more as a Top Down Shooter with lot of classes than RPG.”
        That’s probably most of it. I (and probably a lot of the people who check out the game) view it as a class-based RPGs, not a shooter. Perhaps it should be interpreted as such, who knows. I’ll be interested to see how well it sells.

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