Roller Champions is Ubisoft’s attempt to steal some of Rocket League's spotlight as a family-friendly esport.
Rocket League is the popular esport hardly anyone’s heard about. Rocket League, which features a family-friendly premise and a high skill ceiling, has had a recent peak viewership of almost 85,000 viewers during a recent online event. There’s no blood, gore, or shooting in Rocket League, and that’s a factor in its mild success. While it doesn’t seem to be in a position to take on the likes of Fortnite anytime soon, Rocket League still occupies a niche of family-friendly esports. It's a position that’s yet to be challenged.
A New Challenger
Until now, that is. Following in the footsteps of Rocket League, Ubisoft is attempting to challenge the niche dominance of Rocket League with a similar family-friendly title of its own: Roller Champions, developed by Ubisoft Montreal. This roller derby themed game already has advertised one leg up over its rocket-powered competition - when it releases, it will be free to play! However, as of right now it’s only available to play if you’ve signed up for the closed alpha period beforehand, which is currently going on. If other free-to-play titles are any indication, though, there will be more chances to play the game as it develops.
So what makes Roller Champions comparable in fun to Rocket League? For one thing, the roller derby theme is a pretty creative take. I can’t think of many other games that featured roller skates, and the only one that stands out for quality in my mind is Jet Set Radio. There’s no emphasis on tricks in Roller Champions, though. Instead, the emphasis is on speed and scoring goals.
The Game Itself
The rules are relatively straightforward. After a team grabs the ball, they have to complete a number of laps around the roller derby arena. Then, they can toss it through the goal to score. The more laps completed, the more points a goal is worth, up to three laps worth five points. It’s this gameplay feature of laps that makes Roller Champions so competitive, as it makes for a risk/reward scenario. Do you score as soon as you complete one lap around for a guaranteed point? Or do you risk the other team catching up to you and tackling you, resetting your lap progress and snatching the ball for themselves?
Making those laps is easier if you can build up sufficient speed. That’s another tactic that’ll take time for players to master, especially if you’re playing on a mouse and keyboard. It is possible to play this game on the traditional mouse and keyboard. But the game recommends right when you boot it up that you use a controller. Of course, with the game being on PC, the true beauty of a PC isn’t solely in the mouse and keyboard; it’s being able to use whatever controller you want! (On a related note, Roller Champions is simultaneously in development for consoles.)
Skills and Strategy
Ubisoft is attempting to make a high skill ceiling for this game by teaching strategies for it beyond just making laps and tossing the ball. So far their strategy guide covers topics like controlling the flow of the game and opportunities to intercept the ball. Indeed, there have been some players on YouTube who have come up with some pretty high-level gameplay. But just like Rocket League, the barrier for entry is relatively low. During my (very) short time so far with the closed alpha, I’ve been on the winning team almost every single public game so far. I could tell I was being carried though. Take that how you will, but keep in mind the game is obviously nowhere near finished.
The closed alpha for Roller Champions is, well, currently closed, so they’re not accepting new players at this time. That said, you can always head over to Roller Champions’ official website (linked to at the beginning of this article) to register for future opportunities to play. Then you can judge for yourself if Roller Champions can hold a candle to Rocket League.