Bloodline Champions Hands-On

This arena-based combat game features strong RPG elements and focuses on teamplay.

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Imagine if Blizzard’s Diablo series suddenly became an arena combat game, and you’ll have a pretty good idea what Funcom’s and Stunlock Studios’ Bloodline Champions is all about. It gives two teams (up to five players on each side) a chance to battle it out in a variety of arenas--with their own look--where they must use their individual skills, as well as the abilities of their characters, to overcome their opponents. Each team has access to a roster of 16 of these characters, each with unique skills, strengths, and weaknesses. But on the most basic level, many of them fit the typical profile of role-playing game classes, such as tanks, healers, ranged, and melee.

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Upon starting the game, you will be invited to log into Bloodgate--a Battle.net-like service that performs similar matchmaking functions. It’s here that players can create custom games and try out some of the different match types, such as a capture-the-flag variant as well as a conquest mode where you have to control certain points in the arena. There are also areas to view ladders and general statistics. Of course, the lobby gives you some time to communicate with your teammates to coordinate a strategy with a well-balanced team.

Controls are pretty straightforward once a game is under way. General movement is controlled by the W, A, S, and D keys, while other keys and mouse buttons are used for skills, all of which could be viewed in the ability bar at the bottom of the screen. Since we were playing as a gunner, most of our attacks were of a long-range nature. We had a basic default attack, a slightly stronger attack that had a greater cooldown period, a special leap-back skill to quickly jump away from melee characters, and a cloaking skill--just to name a few. The key for this particular class was to figure out what skill was best to use at a certain time. After a short while, we discovered that using her second-strongest attack was great for melee enemies distracted by teammates. We also found that her special attack--what appeared to be a volley of rockets--was incredibly useful near the end of a match with the opposition running low on health. It’s worth noting that all of these attacks are purely based on skill, meaning that there’s no luck involved nor are there dice rolls to determine critical hits or things like that.

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It was interesting to see how other players were using their characters. The tank characters did a pretty good job of rushing right in to absorb most of the damage from the ranged characters, which then allowed midrange characters to surprise the gunners. At any rate, even though our time with the game was brief, we had some good fun and can easily see how a defined strategy could unfold in a particularly heated battle. A release date for Bloodline Champions has yet to be announced, but a beta for the game is currently ongoing.

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