First unveiled at E3 2019, Roller Champions is a sports title unlike anything we have seen before from Ubisoft. Unlike Steep and Rider's Republic, which are both grounded in reality, Roller Champions is based on a completely fictional sport that has been dreamt up by the developers. Its gameplay sees you try and outmanoeuvre your opponents to score goals whilst racing across arenas in roller-skaters. Recently, I was invited to partake in the game's closed beta, and I was able to play a handful of matches to get a taste for what it has to offer.
The goal of Roller Champions' 3vs3 matches is to score five goals before your competitors. Players can skate across the arena in any direction they wish (they don't have to follow a linear path), and they can roam along the sides of the area to evade other players. When it comes to scoring goals, there's a great sense of risk for reward present. In order for the goal to open up, you need to complete a lap of the arena by dashing through several brightly lit checkpoints. One lap will net you one point, two laps is three points, and three laps will reward you with the winning score of five points (provided you make the shot).
This risk for reward nature is what really kept me invested in Roller Champions. It meant that there was still a flicker of hope to overcome the odds, even if my team was losing 4-0. It was a real rush to charge through each checkpoint dodging my opponents and knowing that the goal was approaching ever closer. I did find this approach to be a bit of a double-edge sword, however. When I was pitted against players out of my league, I found that matches could be over in a matter of seconds and then I'd be sat queuing up for another game. Hopefully this is something that can be mitigated with Ranked Mode, as it should be able to divide players based on their skill levels and prevent issues like this.
Braving it as a lone wolf almost always ended badly for me in Roller Champions, as I soon found the ball wrestled out of my hands if I didn't utilise the other players around me. When you notice a rival closing in for a tackle you can pass the ball to a teammate, and you can also signal for them to pass the ball if you see them entering a tricky spot. For scoring goals, the ball doesn't have to be in your personal possession, as long as it's a team member holding onto the ball when completing laps, so a well timed pass is often the best option.
Whilst I did enjoy the core gameplay present, I'm unsure how much it will be able to hold my attention over time. Even when playing the beta, I did find myself craving a bit more variety to help spice things up, as there was just the one game mode present. Rocket League similarly just has one core style of gameplay, but Psyonix have kept things fresh over the years through aspects like the Rocket Labs prototype levels and game-altering mutators. Hopefully my worries will be put to rest when the game finally launches, as we don't know at present just how many game modes and quirky mechanics will be present during release.
Within the game there's an obscene amount of cosmetics available for you to be able to kit out your rising champion in style. There's new outfits, hairstyles, roller skates and much more that can be purchased within the Item Shop using an in-game currency known as Wheels. Similar to Fall Guys, these items are rated by rarity and they rotate in the store over time, so you'll need to act fast if you spot an item you fancy. There's also what is known as Lootballs which contain one randomised item inside. The beta didn't make it clear how microtransactions would function in the game (it's free-to-play, after all), but I would guess that your money could be spent on purchasing more Wheels and Lootballs.
There's also a progression system featured known as the Roller Pass. This is split into several tiers and to be able to progress, you'll need to gather a set amount of fans by completing matches and daily challenges. The Roller Pass includes rewards such as Wheels, Lootballs and cosmetics you won't otherwise find in the Item Store. As well as a free lane, there's also a Premium lane of the Roller Pass that's said to contain some exclusive goodies. I'm not too sure just what the Premium lane of the Roller Pass includes, however, as this was just filled with (literal) question marks within the open beta.
Alongside playing matches and customising your character, you can also group up and hang out with friends within an open arena known as the Skatepark. What sets the Skatepark apart from any other training area is how vibrant and alive it feels. As soon as you dive in you'll see many other players roaming around and completing tricks, and there's a competitive edge, as you'll encounter challenges that pit you against those around you.
From what I played within the beta, Roller Champions appears to have a solid foundation as its action is kept engaging through a great sense of risk for reward. A victory always feels attainable due to its scoring system, and there's a constant sense of danger too, as your opponents can snatch the win in a matter of seconds. I hope though that more game modes are present at release so that its gameplay isn't in danger of feeling repetitive. Be sure to check back when Roller Champions makes a full release later in 2021.