Battlerite is important for us all. Not only is it a highly successful early access title, but it’s born from a developer’s continued passion for an idea, without the shackles of publisher constraints. It’s also a game that’s delightfully simple but devilishly addictive.
While developer costs continue to spiral and the scope of titles - irrespective of genre - expands, it’s refreshing to see something so simple achieve commercial success. It hasn’t yet reached the dizzying heights of DOTA 2 or CS: GO, but it regularly boasts well over 10,000 concurrent players on Steam. A recent interview in PCGamer also detailed how Battlerite, having only released a few weeks prior, had already amassed 200,000 players.
For a development studio consisting of 25 only staff, out in the wilds of Skövde, Sweden, it’s amazing to think that they’ve achieved so much, in a short space of time. I’ve no doubt that many publishers wish they had helped support the game, though it’s understandable as to why Stunlock Studios chose to go it alone. Their relationship with Funcom was less than stellar. Certainly from my time with Bloodline Champions, Stunlock Studios’ previous title under Funcom, there was unquestionably an impression that the studio were being pushed from pillar to post for more and more revenue - much to the detriment of the game and its community.
What Stunlock Studios have created in Battlerite isn’t original (it’s a spiritual successor to their original title, Bloodline Champions) but it has been modernised for a competitive hungry audience. Bloodline Champions was unquestionably ahead of its time and yet now, player versus player combat is a must-have feature for almost every product. The fact Battlerite offers quick matches, with little time investment, makes it approachable and moreish. Where I’ll often want to play Paragon, I don’t always have an hour spare. In contrast I can comfortably load Battlerite, be in a match within seconds, and over the course of 60 matches play at least five games.
It’s rare to find a game that’s so immediate and one that, seemingly, covers a great deal of areas competitive players love. Where the likes of Guild Wars 2 or even Heroes of the Storm have been struggling to gain traction on Twitch and amongst famed PvPers, Battlerite regularly reaches the front page and has a dedicated following. Considering it has next to no marketing budget, it’s all word of mouth praise.
Battlerite, as far as I’m concerned, should be used as a benchmark for developers going forward. It has stuck to simple principles, hasn’t attempted to do too much, has achieved a solid level of polish and is asking for Early Access backers to continue to build on what’s already a largely complete game. Stunlock Studios have chosen to develop a game they know they can do well, without making lofty promises or demanding a fortune; it’s outrageously cheap to buy for all current and future Champions.
I’m certainly not suggesting games of scope shouldn’t be a possibility, but I think it’s fair to say that if developers are to wrestle control back from publishers and provide solid products, with community input, that don’t take five years to develop, the approach Battlerite has taken is a sensible one.
If you haven’t already tried Battlerite and while it’s certainly as far removed from an MMO as can be (though I’d love an MMO with its combat system and aesthetic) it’s great for filling your time. I personally can’t recommend it enough and between Black Desert Online and my first steps into Final Fantasy: A Realm Reborn, it’s regularly drawing my attention. If you don’t like competitive games it absolutely won’t be for you, but I’m sure there are lots of you out there who do.
Have you played Battlerite? Did you like it? Do you think smaller, more focused games are the future? Would you enjoy an MMO with a similar look and feel? Let me know.