Steel Circus – Speedball for the Champion Generation

Steel Circus is described by developer Iron Mountain Interactive as Rocket League meets Mario Strikers. I silently nod in agreement, but the first seconds of gameplay are enough to come up with a more fitting inspiration: Bitmap Brothers’ Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe.

Kids nowadays don’t know what Speedball 2 is so they wont know how it defined a generation. The name alone wasn’t going to help market Steel Circus, but Speedball 2 instantly comes to mind. It was your go-to violent arena sports game if your computer happened to be a Commodore Amiga or an Atari ST, but Brutal Deluxe was released in several other platforms. “Insanely fun” somehow falls short to describe it, because it truly had this special something that very few games ever managed to replicate, and none of the sequels or remakes managed to even come close. Ubisoft’s upcoming arena sports game Roller Champions is another interesting alternative.

That being said, I can play along to the above comparison. Steel Circus borrows from different arena sports games and doesn’t score many goals for originality, but the core mechanics and gameplay are on the right track.

Steel Circus Preview Winning Team

No Rules, Great Scotch

Steel Circus is a fast-paced multiplayer game of teamplay and supreme player coordination. There is no room for luck, apart from the extremely rare events where the ball tends to hit the metallic bumper and end up inside the goal, in the best pinball style. These haphazard moments will often decide a match, so it’s advised that you have a decent notion of geometry and the perks of bouncing the ball off walls. There is a significant gap between newcomers and expert players that will take some time to bridge, proof that Steel Circus has a margin for progression and that skill and split-second reasoning is what ultimately matters.

Great team combinations and eye-catching goals are incredibly rewarding. When a play tricks your opponent and results in a goal, you feel tempted to cheer and celebrate – there are emotes for that, obviously. When your adversaries take the upper hand and you’re on the receiving end of a stunning play, you feel humbled and learn from your mistakes. Steel Circus is all about tactics, improving your game and making the best of what each champion has to offer. There is never a dull moment with all the tackles and abilities going on.

While Steel Circus pits three players on each team, each player must embody a different champion. You can’t pick the same character as your teammates, which makes absolute sense. This final closed alpha test offered a selection of six champions, each one with their own unique statistics and skills. The plan is to have over 15 champions for the full release in early 2020.

Each champion has their own power, speed, sprint and health stats, but it will mostly come down to their skills and how you use them. Skills have a long cooldown time, so make sure you’re profiting from their timely use.

Steel Circus Preview Explosion

The latest champion is Acrid, a monstrous being that seems out of the Predator school of creatures. While powerful, he is extremely slow, an issue that doesn’t make him the best attacker. His rampage skill will turn him into a devastating slapping machine for a few seconds, perfect for clearing the field for his teammates. Putrid discharge is more of a damage skill, as Acrid spits a corrosive fluid that takes one health bar from whoever steps on it.

Shani was introduced early in development, but she only made it into the game recently. Hailing from Republic of Africa, this brilliant bioengineer is weak but comes with a handy spear that she can throw and then teleport to its location. She is also able to jump high in the air and strike down like lighting, stunning her opponent.

Schröder is primed to become a fan favorite, with his ability to bend reality for his own personal gain. His origins are as mysterious as he is sneaky, being capable of diving into the floor for a significant speed boost. Entering the floor and switching places with an opponent is his other skill, something that will come in handy when a player feels tempted to celebrate a goal before it happened.

Cap-x02 is a machine that was built to last… and score. It’s an all-round player with no real downsides to speak of. It is also able to summon a temporary barrier to stop other players and the ball from going through. This is very useful for defending purposes if you manage to pull it at the right time. Cap-x02 also turns into a turret for some destructive firepower.

Ellika is a powerful Pacific League officer with large experience in law enforcement. She shines through her sheer power and physical strength. Her skills include throwing her shield in bold Captain America fashion to stun her opponents, and she is also capable of creating a circular prison to incarcerate other players for a few crucial seconds.

Finally, we have the bagpipe-wielding Scottish stereotype Lochlan. Tough as nails as his physique will surely let on, he is able to slam the ground thanks to the robotic fist which replaces the arm that was crushed by a large rock – don’t ask. Playing the bagpipes will affect the players within range, preventing them from moving at full speed.

Champions in Steel Circus are neatly designed and sport a range of skills that should be enough to complicate your selection. You should get used to different champions though, as the character selection is done in a random order, meaning that the first player to pick could eventually choose your favorite.

Steel Circus Preview Score

Welcome to Dodge City

Steel Circus plays a fast and mean game of futuristic handball. Goals come in thick and fast and you can either win a game if you score ten goals or if you are in the lead when the five-minute match is over. Since there is no fixed goalkeeper, it’s up to you and your teammates to coordinate your efforts, possibly leaving one of you further back to prevent any sort of counterattack.

Health also comes into play closer to the end of the match. Suffer enough blows and you will be knocked off the game for a few vital seconds. It doesn’t take long to respawn, but those seconds may prove to be enough to turn the tide of the match. Occasionally a couple of power-ups will show up in the arena, with the players who are lucky to pick them up getting a significant health boost or seeing their skill cooldown time reset.

Tackles are the name of the game, with every player resorting to this move to stun their opponents for a second. There is even an XP reward for the player with the most tackles at the end of the match. However, you also have a dodge button which allows you to feint your opponent and leave him befuddled if the timing is just right.

The single arena currently available is a beautiful mesh of cyan and neon lights, set against a futuristic cityscape backdrop that is more detailed than it has any right to be. It’s stunning and crispy clear at the same time, making me eagerly excited for the premiere of the promised second arena. I look forward to seeing the new setting and backdrop, and the developers are aiming for over six arenas at launch. The current arena usually features three bumpers on each side of the field, but occasionally it shows up completely devoid of any obstacles, promoting straightforward play and goals scored from afar.

Steel Circus Preview Close Goal

I still can’t quite get to grips with the passing and shooting system, but I know this is a personal issue and I realize that the more I play, the better I get at it. Running and aiming isn’t entirely intuitive, and you’ll fail a lot of goals before getting the hang of it. It requires pinpoint accuracy to pass the ball to a teammate, but the best players will make it feel effortless and natural.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the introduction of a mini map. It’s not entirely obvious where the ball is when offscreen, although there is an indicator giving you a vague idea. Knowing where your teammates are positioned is also essential to get a superior overlook on the arena, so a mini map would be extremely useful in this regard.

Steel Circus will be free-to-play, but you can purchase an Early Access package giving you access to all current and future champions. An in-game store also offers several options such as champion skins, emotes and more.

Steel Circus is a game that plays well and is at its best when two rival teams show a clear grasp of the core mechanics and mastery of the individual skills. It offers an equal dose of chaos and tactics, being brutal but never violent, and suited for both a quick match and a substantial dose of competitive tackling. Early Access will hopefully reward it with the player base that it both deserves and needs to evolve, turning it from a niche game into a full-fledged eSports contender.

Will it ever reach the heights of Rocket League or Mario Strikers? It’s quite a steep challenge, but these champions may have a skill or two up their sleeves.

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Roller Champions – A Brutal Adrenaline Rush on Roller Skates

Some movies are best left forgotten, but others seem so avant-garde that it almost feels like there was some sorcery involved. Rollerball is one such perfect example, a movie where a brutal futuristic sport took center stage – and I don’t mean the dreadful remake, but the 1975 original which was jam-packed with timely social commentary.

Amidst a barrage of Tom Clancy games, Roller Champions was one of the most surprising announcements from Ubisoft at E3 2019. I’ll eat my shorts if the designers didn’t take inspiration from Rollerball in any way, seeing that the similarities are too deliberate to refute.

But as they usually say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and considering the grand scheme of things, we do need more futuristic sports games. After all, even Rocket League gets tiring after a while.

Roller Champions Preview High Speed Chase

Keep Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin’

Roller Champions is the kind of game that may deceive you and tempt you to discard it as micro-transaction ridden, pay-to-win garbage. I understand where you’re coming from and it will take a few matches to properly tune your mind into it. In less than an hour you should have a clearer view of the whole picture and that view will probably include the words “thrilling” and “fun.” You will probably want to throw a “#$%#!” in there as well, but that is all part of the healthy. no-holds-barred competitive spirit of Roller Champions.

The E3 2019 reveal came with a demo that was as barebones as they come in terms of content, but it was more than enough to show how the game will play. In that respect, it was fairly finetuned, with the bulk of the work surely falling upon the physics department. The skating feel had to be just right, and it mostly is, with a convincing sense of speed as you ride up walls and dodge rival players, with many falls and hilarity ensuing.

The core mechanics look simple enough, but you’ll soon find that this is a sport where skill and teamwork are of utmost importance. It’s not a simple matter of skating in an oval arena, you must rely on your teammates to clear the way for a successful goal attempt. There are many variables coming into play, one of them called pumping.

Roller Champions Preview Acrobatic Takedown

Pumping is a maneuver where the skater gains speed by bending the knees, something that would instantly make this Daenerys’ favorite sport. You only use it when going downhill, picking up speed until it’s time to start skating again. Pursuing your opponent from behind will take advantage of their draft, gaining speed to ultimately dash and barge onto them, sending the unlucky fellow in a spectacular spin.

When you have the ball, you can press a button to perform a daring last-second dodge that will leave your opponent befuddled. Jumping is another option to potentially avoid the incoming burst of fists and elbows.

Scoring a goal is a matter of throwing the ball through the hoop. It’s not as easy as it sounds since you must consider timing and aiming to successfully throw the ball, not to mention the vicious rival skaters trying to barge you off the track. But this comes with an interesting mechanic that is going to affect the outcome of every match – your goals are worth a different number of points according to the amount of laps your team completes before scoring. You can make a full lap in any direction but losing the ball to an opponent will reset the neon lap counters. A one-lap goal is worth one point, a two-lap goal is worth three points, while a three-lap goal earns you five points. Since the first team reaching five points wins, there is a significant risk/reward factor at play that you mustn’t ignore.

Roller Champions Preview Going For the Goal

If You Win It, They Will Come

Roller Champions puts a clever cosmetic spin to the XP system. Your performance in the arena will be rated according to goals, victories and other factors, increasing your fans, a.k.a. experience points. This will serve to unlock new gear, outfits, animations, customization items and even stuff for your fanbase, such as new celebration and outfits. It would be amazing if you could customize the crowd chants in any way, but that would lead us into dangerous territory that no publisher is willing to risk.

Sadly, the demo didn’t have any of the customization options unlocked. There was no way to mess around with your character – you couldn’t even pick a skater, in fact – and I can only guess what kind of options we’ll get. Hopefully Ubisoft won’t neglect this aspect since it is one of the areas that could make or break a free-to-play game – let’s have enough content to fiddle with without bumping into paywalls at every corner.

The Roller Champions demo featured two arenas set in Acapulco and Mexico. The sunny Acapulco arena feels cheerful and relaxed, but I preferred the Mexico indoor arena by a long margin. It’s best suited to the violent nature of the sport, the lighting is also tighter, and the overall mood is that this is in a more advanced shape graphically speaking.

Roller Champions Preview Mexico Arena Skating

Speaking of graphics, Roller Champions starts with a stylish intro that sadly doesn’t find proper correlation with the actual in-game models. The different personalities are patent, but these champions need a more refined art style, one that will make you hesitant when it comes to choosing one skater. I didn’t notice any specific stats differences between them such as speed or acceleration, but I’m willing to bet that this will happen when unlocks come into play, hopefully in a way that won’t break the game balance.

I’m convinced that many gamers scoffed when Ubisoft announced Roller Champions at E3 2019. I was one of them, rolling my eyes as I thought that this mix of Rollerball and Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe seemed too derivative and bland to stand a chance. 

Mea culpa, then, as I learned the basics during the first few matches and suddenly, I was having a lot of fun pumping and dodging, delighted by the sheer speed and acrobatic take downs. I felt the adrenaline rush and I can see it earning a decent fanbase capable of turning it into serious eSports material. I just love a good underdog story and Roller Champions has all the makings of one.

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EA and Nexon’s Game is FIFA Online 4

Today is the day, and we’re a mixture of disappointed, wondering why we were expecting something entirely different, and maybe a bit relieved. The joint EA and Nexon project that was due to be revealed is a FIFA Online 4 announcement.

fifa online 4 announcement

FIFA Online 4 is the sequel (duh) to the massively multiplayer online football/soccer title FIFA Online 3, which was released in 2012. Naturally, the five-year gap between games means things are improved on both the graphics and AI side of things, with a new “next-generation engine” being touted that powers improved player movement, stadium appearances, weather effects, and player AI. The five years of feedback from FIFA Online 3 players is also noted in the development of the new title.

FIFA Online 4 will indeed be on the show floor of G-Star 2017, with plans to enter a South Korean closed beta some time next month. After that, the plan is to have the game released next year before the start of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Our Thoughts

With all of the possibilities (both interesting and worrying) among ourselves and MMO fans, we all can now perhaps tilt our heads as well as maybe breathe a sigh of relief for the greater MMO-playing world. That said, are you at all interested in FIFA Online 4, or has the combination of EA and Nexon already made you flee?

Source: MMO Culture

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