Spotlight On - Bloodline Champions
We take a look at this upcoming free-to-play real-time arena combat game. (Spoiler warning: It may look like DOTA, but brother, it ain't DOTA.)
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By now, we're all familiar with the house that DOTA (Defense of the Ancients, the tactical Warcraft III mod) built. And while Bloodline Champions may look like DOTA, it really is not. This student-project-turned-free-to-play game with teams of up to five versus five in arenas in fully real-time combat isn't determined by hit-or-miss dice rolls or by your character's level because there won't be any character levels. The developer is focusing on building an easy-to-jump-into competitive game that's a lot more welcoming to beginners but still has enough depth to reward skillful, organized play.
Bloodline Champions includes an overhead view, team-based multiplayer, and a focus on controlling a single, tiny character from one of 16 different "bloodlines." These are the game's different character classes, which include frontline fighters, melee damage dealers, ranged damaged dealers, and healers. (Stunlock plans to introduce eight more between now and the game's launch.) And once you've chosen your bloodline, you do, in fact, control that single character as it sprints around an arena, much like DOTA, using a handful of special powers in battle--but there are very key differences here. One, there are no experience points or levels and absolutely no persistent advancement aside from some accoutrements you can get for your account profile (such as badges and achievements you can earn). This solves the seemingly age-old problem of having momentum swing against you in a game of DOTA (or similar game where experience levels come into play).
In those games, even though everyone begins with a level-one character, all players gain experience points from killing off characters from the opposing team. If the opposing team gets the upper hand, it generally ends up being at a higher experience level than your team and has a strong momentum advantage that often carries through the rest of the match…making the rest of the match seem frustrating (and occasionally pointless) for the losing team. In Bloodline Champions, no characters ever gain any levels, which means that even if you're killed off and respawning for the fifth time, your character is no more or less powerful than any other character in the game, and you can still make a difference.
The other major gameplay difference in the DOTA formula has to do with combat; it takes place in real time and is based on your mouse-based aiming skills. This means there isn't any random dice rolling to determine whether or not your hero dodges an incoming attack. You aim your attacks using your mouse cursor (while moving your character using the W, A, S, and D keys), and it's up to your enemies to dodge out of the way (in real time, frantically pounding their own W, A, S, or D keys) or get whacked. All characters have seven abilities, including a single ultimate power, which can be activated once you've scored enough hits in battle to fill up a power meter. And as it turns out, the typical game of Bloodline Champions isn't a long, grueling battle either; many matches take just 10 to 15 minutes or less. In fact, sessions of the game's standard mode, Arena (a straightforward head-to-head match mode), often last closer to five minutes. The game also has two other modes, Conquest (a node-capture mode, just like the one made popular by the Battlefield series) and Capture the Flag.
Stunlock intends to keep the game updated over time with a steady stream of free map updates, a rotating list of available heroes for free play, and additional perks available for those players that kick in some money, such as access to off-season bloodlines, and some cosmetic options, such as apparel for bloodlines. However, the developer points out that everything that can be purchased for real money can also be purchased with blood coins, in-game currency you can earn from playing. In other words, no one will ever need to pay real money to access any in-game content. In any case, the game has gone into open beta and is planned to launch either this December or January.