Roller Champions - E-sportgame preview by design

Roller Champions – E-sportgame preview by design

title Roller Heroes
platform Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One,
Nintendo Switch
(Also works on PS5 and Xbox Series X / S)
Developer Ubisoft Montreal
publisher Ubisoft
Release day Not yet known

What makes a good esports game? A few years ago we wrote a series of articles about esports – yes, we’re going to keep writing that in the Dutch way in Tweakers – where we looked, among other things, at achievements in games as esports. All sorts of items came to the fore, with an important additional boost that could pull off. If a game is not optimally developed for esports, for example due to the loss of important functions such as good spectator mode, strong support from the publisher can still promote it to an important esports game. Activision single-handedly pushed Call of Duty to the top and in the Netherlands, FIFA has remained at a high standard for years due to interest and funds available for its online division. A little more organic and thus the best examples are Rocket League and Overwatch. The latest game was definitely designed with esports in mind. It proved successful and has grown into a popular esports game.

So it is certainly not impossible to devise a game that wants to premeditated and burst into the competitive gaming world, especially if it is in a subgenre that already has other successful examples. When Ubisoft announced Roller Champions in 2019, we were thrilled. The game reminded us of Rocket League. Now skaters have nothing to do with cars playing soccer, but the match-making style and gameplay share another important element: easy to join, hard to get really good. After all, hitting the ball is easy, and learning to shoot the ball is possible as well, but learning advanced air maneuvers is a different story in Rocket League. Roller Champions made a similar promise. Teams of three laps on an ice rink and must try to score the ball into a hole on one side in order to score points. Learning how to do this shows similarities to the learning process in a game like Rocket League.

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After 2019 E3, Roller Champions is quiet. This was of course also because the Corona crisis struck last year, causing traditional “refresh moments” like E3 and Gamescom to disappear. However, we’ve seen other games pass around and have remote preview sessions. Also with Ubisoft games hitting the market in 2020, the year Roller Champions was supposed to be released. The reason for the silence is now known: Roller Champions has been postponed until 2021 and there is no exact release date yet. No clear reasons have been given for this. We can of course be guessing, partly based on what we’ve been able to play in recent weeks. We are now at the end of a (half) open trial period for Roller Champions, where we can get started on an intense snowboarding game for the first time. The range of games was a bit limited, and the game was definitely not bug-free, but we can at least get a feel for the basic gameplay that the game should ultimately support.

These errors reveal why Roller Champions isn’t there yet, and delaying is of course the only correct option. However, we were shocked at how some of the systems in Roller Champions are paying off, even before we’re on the right track for a minute. This is how the list works awkwardly. If you choose a subsidiary of a game, such as Quick Match, you cannot return to the main menu to select a new option. In the early days you couldn’t even leave the queue and pick another option without having to restart the game completely. That’s possible now, but it’s still an inconspicuous and cumbersome interface.

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Earn or buy cosmetics

Part of that interface is also a section where you can equip your skater with new things. To use things, you need a certain number of fans as an unlocking mechanism. After that, you still have to buy things via an in-game payment method that you can earn, but of course buy more as well. This is common in these types of games, because Rocket League or one of the many ring-based games in recent times also allows you to purchase all kinds of cosmetics for your character or vehicle. Plus, Roller Champions, like many of those games, will be a game that you can play for free. The revenue model is based on the assumption that players who play the game a lot will be interested in the extras that the skater needs. This is a proven concept. For some it is nothing more than a footnote, for others a large fork in the side might hamper some of the fun in the game. Regardless, it is an increasingly entrenched part of today’s games.

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