You have to give Rocket League a lot of credit – it pioneered a new wave of action sports games. Riding that wave is Roller Champions, a new free-to-play game from Ubisoft that blends the best of Rocket League with roller derby and it’s outstanding.
The basic premise of the game is that two teams of three players work together to bring a ball around an arena one, two or three times before shooting into a hoop that’s hanging on the wall. The number of times you go around the track impacts how many points each goal is worth (either one, three or five points, respectively) and the first to five points wins. Preventing you from scoring, of course, is the other team of players, who'll try to tackle you and take the ball away.
What makes this game special – and my new favorite PVP sports game – is that, besides being free-to-play, it’s easier to pick up and play than Rocket League.
Beginners welcome, pros wanted
While Rocket League really plays like a motorized soccer game where you use cars to push a ball from one end of the field to the other, Roller Champions is a bit like playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and basketball simultaneously. It's a wild combination that works surprisingly well – and, difficult as it may sound, it's actually much easier than Rocket League to pick up and play for new players.
That's not to say Rocket League is hard per se, or impossible to master, but it's a game that starts off easy and very, very quickly becomes more difficult as you try to outmaneuver your opponents. Rocket League’s issue, and one I’ve always thought was holding it back, is that basic skills required to play the game – namely, passing and shooting – require extraordinary timing to pull off.
Roller Champions eschews all that for a control scheme that you can largely pick up within the first minute. There’s pass, shoot and tackle, all of which are mapped to a single button. There are more complicated control mechanics here that will separate the novices from the pros like pumping (i.e. picking up speed when going down an incline) and dodging (which can be done when you're holding the ball) but the bare bones mechanics don’t require an extraordinarily high level of skill.
It’s mechanics like those that will help Roller Champions foster a dedicated online community and, perhaps one day, a small eSports scene in the same vein as Rocket League. Until then, I’m totally fine for Roller Champions to be the English Football League to Rocket League’s Premier League.
The battle of the ball
And look, on a very basic level, Roller Champions and Rocket League share a lot in common: they’re both three-on-three competitive games that have a similar aesthetic. They both task your team to work together to move the ball from Point A to Point B. And, most importantly, they let one person on your team (sometimes more) just be a total troll.
That last part is an important aspect in both games.
In Rocket League, having someone guard the goal is a pretty effective strategy – same as it is in Roller Champions. But Champions ramps the troll-meter up a bit by allowing you to tackle anyone on the other team at any point – whether they’re carrying the ball or not.
Not only is tackling a lot easier to pull off in Roller Champions but it offers the same joyful feeling you got from playing NFL Blitz or NHL Hitz. The result can only be described as euphoria as you watch your opponent who, very likely didn’t see you coming, pick themselves up from the ground as you skate away.
Better with friends, but not bad by yourself
OK, admittedly that last bit might make me sound like a horrible troll who goes around griefing his opponents. I promise I don’t do that… often. Most of the time I’m focused on being a good teammate by setting up a block, passing a long ball down the track or taking a hit for the team.
All of that coordination is obviously more fun (and more cohesive) when you’re playing with a friend. But the best part about Roller Champions being so easy to pick up and play is that it doesn’t matter as much who you get partnered with – it’s fairly easy to get back into a groove no matter who your teammates are.
Rocket League, because of its high skill cap can be really intimidating for new players and frustrating for folks who want the best teammates – which, really isn't a lot of fun for either player.
You'll still be able to out-maneuver and out-play your opponents once you get good at Roller Champions, but your teammates won’t be as bad, or rather, can’t be as bad as they are in Rocket League because of how easy the game is to control. For that reason, it’s the game we’ll switch over to when it comes to PC in 2020.
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