Roller Champions Review: "An Exhilarating Concept"
Roller Champions comes into a saturated market with a brand-new concept looking to skate past existing competitors to score success. After all, it sits within the same market as Rocket League, Mario Kart, and Knockout City in terms of being a party-like sporting title not replicating actual sports. It doesn't take long to get to grips with and from a first impression, Ubisoft has found the back of the net with ease.
From the get-go, a tutorial shows you pretty much exactly the only things you need to know to be a success in Roller Champions, as you become accustomed to the tackling, throwing, and general skating skills that generate speed to get the blood pumping. Its simplistic nature only requires a set of five buttons, one trigger to skate and the other to throw, then three buttons to pass, jump, and tackle in defence, or dodge in attack, with the analogue sticks doing the movement.
More savvy players will then take advantage of an extra bumper to perform team boosts and another button to 'uppercut', which is a fancy term for a supercharged jump most used for saving shots, but that's it. There are no additional wacky movement mechanics, just press and go, which is all Roller Champions needs to hook you in.
From there, the gameplay is as smooth as butter on freshly-popped toast. You can admire the work put in by Ubisoft to perfect the tackling and throwing mechanics that could easily feel janky and glitched, but instead, you can fly around at breakneck speeds smashing your way through opponents in a hockey-esque brawl before skirmishing your way around the arena with beautifully designed passes.
The competitive nature of a single game is also to be praised, giving a team the chance to perform outrageous comebacks with a single move. Working on a first-to-five basis, players can score a goal after completing a single loop of the circuit and hurling the ball into a hoop. However, complete two laps without being battered and bruised and you can score three points with a single goal. Three laps and you get five, that's the game wrapped up. Don't make the mistake of underestimating how hard doing three laps untouched is, but the chance of making a Hail Mary play when you're 4-0 down is a stroke of genius.
It's a straight jostle from the moment the ball drops from the heavens, and you're never truly out of reach of your opponents. Even when the score is tied, the pace of the game picks up as adrenaline kicks in, and deep into overtime, you'll be whizzing around with palpitations, hoping to be the hero that can save the game with a huge tackle or make the throw that will finally see you victorious.
Gameplay aside, Roller Champions is gorgeous. The three arenas transcend with your popularity, and each one is just as pretty as the next. From a summer-time Miami beach feel to the NBA fan-filled courts, you're always aesthetically pleased, and the EDM soundtrack compliments that excitement. In-game illuminations also heighten the experience, dancing along the arenas to host a party for your eyes, without taking them off the ball.
The characters are to also be complimented because while there's nothing special about them, there doesn't need to be. Basic designs can see your skater packed with ass or as streamlined as a fish, but they're only appearances and have no effect on your in-game performance. A typical Roller-pass and in-game currency 'wheels' allow for customisation, and albeit being microtransaction-heavy, you don't need much to make your skater go from Tony Hawk to Tony Stark.
Hindered By Height
Where Roller Champions falls short, however, is in its simplicity. Yes, this element means that you can effectively jump back in, kick on your skates, and be just as good as you were six months ago, but for those gamers whose fire is fuelled by competition and progression, Roller Champions doesn’t quite ignite that instinct. Replicating the sports genre, it screams participation trophies, rather than a gold medal or wooden spoon, despite its efforts to make a ranked playlist.
Its problem lies with variety, which does suffer in each game. While you can easily burn hours with friends body-slamming opponents into the ground, the tactician in people only really exists in passing and boosting - a roller derby technique of flinging your teammate forward to gain traction. But unlike Rocket League, for example, where you have the ability to warp in mid-air with air rolls and flip resets, there’s little you can add to a pass, a jump, or a fling that can set you apart from any other individual.
This makes Roller Champion accessible for everyone, and a great title for a few hours of fun, but to retain a grinding player base, it feels like something is missing. An essence of flair or swag, the power to make an individual better than anybody else. I left the game wanting to do just a little bit more to be able to one-up a foe and flip them a finger, and was left clinging to a title that I loved but couldn’t fill my hunger for success.
Mind Your Head On The Low Ceilings
If you have hours to kill with a few friends, Roller Champion is a brilliant game to launch, and will undoubtedly provide you with hilarious moments as you smash a 'spare' (two wipeouts in one go), and you will seldom find yourself without a chuckle. However, to grind, Roller Champion needs a little bit more individual flair in its core move-set.
With its free-to-play status, Ubisoft has everything they need to make Roller Champions a resounding success, from beautiful design, an exhilarating concept, and the unique ability to have this stored on your hard drive for months and not fear of it becoming outdated. If it can capture enough of an audience from kick-off, there's no reason that Roller Champions can't become a sporting title that has you and your friends rolling in laughter for years to come.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.