Any multiplayer game that makes me push up my glasses and lean forward in my chair is right up my alley, and Roller Champions, the hyper-competitive roller derby, certainly appeals to that competitive sensibility. I split my sides as my team relentlessly tackled the enemy team in a highly toxic manner, fist pumped to zero onlookers in my living room as I heroically sunk a nail-biting shot, and devised a strategy with my team to pull off crazy stunts just for a laugh, and all of that was an absolute blast. But although I’ve only played for a short time as of now, I’m already a little concerned that the experience might already feel a little played out after the initial climb to learn the ropes has been overcome. Though it’s a solid start to what could be my next team-based competitive addiction, it also feels in danger of becoming repetitive rather quickly.
At its best, Roller Champions reminds me a lot of its pseudo-sport brethren, Rocket League, where a simple concept became endlessly entertaining as I honed my skills and pulled off trickier maneuvers. Should I try to tackle the ball carrier, or should I speed ahead and try to intercept the ball when they shoot for a point? Should I try dodging my pursuers, or should I throw the ball down the loop in hopes a teammate can recover it? Communicating with my squad and devising a strategy to dominate the competition became increasingly important as my opponents’ tactics evolved, and that’s exactly the kind of dynamic I want in this kind of fast, team-based contest.
But while it nails its core rollerblading mode, it’s also very one-note and lacking in variety. All three of the courses are near-identical oval arenas with most of the changes being entirely cosmetic that don’t impact gameplay at all. And although there’s quite a bit of strategy in finding ways to literally run circles around your opponents, I also found myself reaching a very high skill level really quickly, and that made things start to feel quite stale after only a short time playing. It’s not that skating around with a squad and smashing a ball through the goal isn’t fun, it’s just that there isn’t much to it in this 1.0 version. I wish there was a bit more meat on the bone, because I could see myself losing interest once every match feels like a carbon copy of the one prior.
The good news is that there are some seasonal modes like 2v2 and “hot potato” coming with the first season that will likely mix things up a bit. Both modes are temporary playlists, but are poised to offer some unique experience that might help stave off the tedium I began to feel after a few hours of play. If developer Ubisoft Montreal can keep that content drip coming, then that would put Roller Champions in a great spot to remain relevant long after it’s launched. But as someone who’s put thousands of hours into live-service games, I know all too well how big of an “if” that is. That said, at least there are lots of cosmetics unlockables to chase through the season pass and daily store offerings, so there are certainly quite a few reasons to keep grinding and get my avatar looking even more epic.
Another thing that could go a long way to improving Roller Champions’ longevity is the ranked playlist, which pits players against one another according to their skill. The fact that cosmetics unlock as you reach greater and greater heights in the ranked ladder is a great incentive to assemble a squad and hone my skill until I reach the top of the leaderboard.
So far I’m really enjoying Roller Champions even in this early launch state, but I’m even more excited to see what it will become once the community gets extremely competitive and the developer starts adding more content.