Developed by Stunlock Studios and published by Funcom, Bloodline Champions is a free-to-play MOBA that pits Warm vs. Cold. Officially launched in 2011 (in the US), BC has a small but enduring community who continue to play through the various scenarios. The game includes a myriad of PvP arena game modes, PvE against bots, capture-the-flag, and domination-style game modes.
As a MOBA, BC provides lobby-based matchmaking but seems to have a smaller community of players to mix it up with. Once in a game, though things can get going pretty quickly and last for a while. It makes BC a reasonable place to mix-it-up and for some casual or hardcore MOBA action.
As a free-to-play game players can expect to play different champions each day (4 bloodlines randomly rotate) but can use freemium game currency or premium currency to buy into one permanently. Of course, purchasing premium currency from Funcom makes all this happen faster.
The game is also available on Steam (which is how I played it for this review.)
If you’re interested in a new MOBA and would like a quick rundown of what you can expect at a first glance, keep reading.
Graphics and sound: Not poor quality but not the greatest either
A lot of the graphics in Bloodline Champions feels like it’s more gritty than cartoony. Many of the bloodlines appear to be wrapped in an aesthetic that
The arenas are clearly rendered spaces with a lot of different aesthetics—from ghostly bricked ruins, a jungle-swamp filled with foliage and flowers, a grumbling Aztec temple, and so forth. In many my hero spawned in a “safe spot” with some portals out into the main battleground. The maps also seemed to have a set of split regions, lanes, or wide arenas with crossroads to funnel attackers together.
The visual field didn’t feel too busy in most cases and it was easy to focus on the champions doing battle. Although I did find myself losing track of the cursor sometimes because it wasn’t guiding my character (hotkeys were) sometimes I would mis-aim attacks because I didn’t know where I’d put my mouse.
The avatars are well rendered and well animated and stand out nicely from the rest of the background. They’re often detailed enough to enjoy and have a high enough contrast that any busy-bits or kibble connected to a garment or avatar don’t detract from being able to see where the champion is and what’s going on. And the FX did a fair job of giving an idea of where not to walk or who was throwing what.
The music in the game did not feel overwhelming—but neither was it that memorable. It’s easy to have the music from games that follow the format of BC and other MOBAs blend together.
Attacks and actions by various heroes fit their animations well enough and at times I could determine who I was about to fight by listening to the battle raging around the corner. Plus a few abilities have satisfying zorch or thwack sounds when they trigger (such as throwing down pools of inky death or thumping someone with a big weapon.)
Gameplay: It’s a MOBA…
The focus of Bloodline Champions appears to be to create a MOBA-styled game that excludes random damage tables—if you hit, you hit and it always does the same damage or effect. To this end the game touts itself as having 100% skill-based game play.
Like many other MOBAs, BC gives players an isometric view of the battlefield, WASD movement controls, and maps the primary abilities to left- and right-click on the mouse, while secondary abilities map to ‘Q’, ‘E’, ‘R’, ‘F’, and space. Through the game almost all abilities are aimed via the position of the cursor on the screen relative to the hero.
Maps also exhibit a bit of “fog of war,” so that it’s not possible to see enemy movement beyond a certain distance of physical obstruction.
The various heroes come from a set number of archetypical classes: melee attackers, ranged attackers, healers, and tanks. These refer back to the “bloodlines” (which are the champions in the game) and provide the players a style of play and a set of abilities.
Right now there are 27 bloodlines to choose from.
There’s a small number of gamemodes including PvP and player-vs-bots. For PvP arenas there are 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5. A Capture the Artifact mode also exists, which is kind of like capture the flag with the two artifacts—any team that manages to take hold of both artifacts for a set period of time wins the match (carrying an artifact, of course, can be interrupted by attacks.) Finally there’s a Conquest game mode where two teams fight over the battlefield to capture and control points.
Depending on the teams and the bloodlines in play, battles can be fairly swift or feel like they’re grinding on. For the most part, almost all the battles I was in decisively won when actual players were in the game in five to seven minutes; but games played alongside bots could last what felt like forever.
The controls take a moment to get used to for players not used to the keyboard-movement/ability hotkey setup combined with the mouse-aim; but after getting used to that it became rather intuitive. Each day 4 randomly rotated bloodlines unlock; playing day-to-day as a free player means learning a new bloodline and getting used to it for the first battle or two.
Freemium: Free-to-play with a cash shop, par for the course
Bloodline Champions is free-to-play but entices players to buy in by allowing players to purchase a Bloodline permanently (as a random rotating 4 Bloodlines are available for free every day.) There are, of course, also lots of aesthetic options such as skins, titles, avatars, and other visual perks available for premium currency.
The premium currency of BC is Funcom Points (as BC is published by Funcom) and this currency can be bought with money. Whereas the freemium currency is Blood Coins, received from playing the game. Funcom Points serve the same function as Blood Coins, but everything in the market is significantly cheaper in Funcom Points than Blood Coins.
Players can also opt to purchase Champion or Titan Edition of BC for $29.99 USD and $89.99 USD respectively. Champion edition unlocks 16 bloodlines; Titan edition also unlocks free VoIP, 20 outfits, and a 10% discount on Funcom Points.
Conclusion: Older-feeling game, available on Steam, but slightly small community
As a MOBA, Bloodline Champions fits the bill nicely. It has a set of expected game modes, and a matchmaking system for playing Arena games. However, I discovered that it often took a while to get into Arena games because very few players were playing at any one time.
Although there were almost 70 people online with me, most of them were way out of my league (as a newbie) and it could take 20 to 30 minutes to get a game going. As a result, I’ve only played four or five games total to prepare this review (and watched a lot of footage of gameplay on YouTube.) As far as first impressions go, this game would go better if you bring friends.
The community aside, BC is built with MOBA players in mind with the various game modes and the matchmaking. Although the limited number of maps and game modes in total feel like it’s fallen a little bit behind other games.
It’s worth checking out as a MOBA, but BC does exist in a game genre that’s dominated by much larger contenders with superior community numbers (such as League of Legends.) I’m not sure that veteran LoL players would find a home here; but people who want a slightly different gameplay control mechanism this is a game for it.