What would you say to a frantic, high-intensity arena battle, but with rockets? If your answer is an emphatic “yes”, then you may be biasedly drawn to Rocket Arena, a new co-op arena battler by Nexon. With arena shooters hitting the scene at roughly a dime a dozen, does Nexon have the right formula to rocket their shooter to the forefront of your playlist, or is this just another shooter, not ready for liftoff?
Rocket Arena starts you off simply, with a modicum of choices, at least, for the closed beta. In the world of Crater, where Rocket Arena takes place, you have a 3-v-3 arena queue, a training area, and a Bot Battle. Graphically, Rocket Arena does a great job at making the characters and levels visually appealing. Blast effects consume the uniquely built fields that players will soon call home to some of their most rambunctious battles. Ideally, players would start with the training area, as it teaches new players exactly what they can expect from different battles and how to move about the gaming areas. My first mistake was believing that all shooters are created equal, and figured that I would simply learn by playing a few rounds. I quickly found out that the combat is much too frantic, and every second counts during each match, so learning on the fly is not an ideal situation.
When you queue for a 3-v-3 match, there are several possibilities for the kinds of matches you may end up playing. Once a level is selected players have the opportunity to select their desired hero for that level, out of the five available heroes that were available in the beta. As could be expected, every character has their own strengths and weaknesses. Amphora, a water-based hero, has exceptional movement abilities, and her weapon allows you to charge it up for a tremendous blast that exacts amazing damage if it hits. Blastbeard, on the other hand, has a large arcing shot, that is slower but doesn’t require any charge time. Depending on the match type could severely change your mind about the character that you choose.
There were three common matches that I spent the most time in when queuing in the 3vs matches. Knockout matches are where your team of 3 fights the opposite team, knocking them out when they take too much damage. MegaRocket battles, where large rockets drop from the sky, and your team must capture the rocket before the other team. MegaRocket battles are similar to King of the Hill matches in other games. Lastly, one of my favorite modes was Rocket Ball. In this match, teams essentially play a mixed form of football and basketball, where you have to obtain a ball and get it either into the goal by running it in or throwing it directly into the goal area. It was far more challenging than I expected. Throwing the ball out of bounds, or getting knocked out could cause the ball to respawn in the middle were fast paced, action packed battles take place.
Matches generally don’t last long, with RocketBall seeming to take the most time, primarily when you have two teams that are exceptional players, and they don’t score the 5 goals it takes to win. In those scenarios, the winner will be determined by the game clock, and whatever team just happens to be up when it expires. Trotting back to my earlier point, learning the ropes, of how to play Rocket Arena through the in-game training experiences is paramount to learning what to do, and when. One quick cautionary take happened to me during a MegaRocket Battle. I apparently had picked up a special bomb, not really knowing what it did or how to use it. After running through the training, I finally did understand how important those bombs can be to remove teams of players from occupied MegaRockets.
Winners of each match earn experience with their characters, progress on several challenges, and treasures that can be opened later to obtain costumes and special items. As players progress, they can earn upgrades that will help them in the course of battle, and generally feel more unique, as there are no rules against picking the same character on the same team like some other hero shooters. I’ve seen entire teams of Blastbeard during MegaRocket battles, all with the same outfit. In this way, it makes it easy to see which players are more competent with certain characters, simply because their different outfits point to a gamers’ experience with them.
For an arena shooter, Nexon certainly created a solid set of limited features that they will hopefully expand on in the future. I feel that, at this time, the hero selection and maps are too limited, and I dislike that I can’t simply queue only for certain matches. I love playing Rocket Ball, and I could see that, in and of itself, being an amazing game, if they expanded it properly. What we have in the meantime, during the closed beta, is an interesting title that has room to grow. There is fun to be had there, but with so many limits on the matches and characters, it has to grow, or face the possibility of lackluster player retention. I look forward to seeing what Nexon has in store for us on launch.