E3 2019 Hands-on – Roller Champions

The beauty of E3 is there’s always a game that shows up from out of nowhere, from someone you would have never expected. Your first impressions are that you will definitely not like what’s being offered, but after a play session, you end up putting the damn thing in your top five best games of the show. Let me introduce you to Roller Champions, a living breathing proof of what I just described.

Roller Champions is a very unique sports game that features elements from roller derby, rugby, football, and weirdly enough, quidditch? Your objective is gain possession of the ball, perform a counter-clockwise lap around the arena, and then throw the ball into a ring-shaped goal in order to score a point. If you do two complete laps without losing possession before throwing the ball, your goal will be worth three points. A three-lap shot is worth five points, also known as an instant win. The first to score five points wins the match. It’s just that easy to grasp.

The controls are fantastic. They’re incredibly easy to learn and are very responsive. When your team has the ball, you can call for a pass with a button. Doing so will result in a 100% accurate pass to you over the next few seconds. You can jump, dodge, and accelerate in order to avoid tackles, as well as perform a few air tricks that act solely as taunts against your opponent. Whenever you’re playing defense, your objective is basically to steal the ball from your opponent: tackling doesn’t result in a foul in any shape or form, you can go berserk at will. Finally, whenever you’re ready to shoot the ball into the ring-shaped goal, you’ll need to aim it properly. Hold a button for a reticile to appear onscreen, move the right analog stick to aim properly, and release it in order to attempt a shot. Remember, you’re always on the move, so you’ll need to have quick reflexes.

The most important aspect of Roller Champions is that I was having a lot of fun with. It took me a mere two minutes to understand the rules. I was scoring lots of goals and basically acting as my team’s captain (even handing out orders to the Ubisoft staff member who was supposed to be the actual captain) before I could even notice. Just like Rocket League, the core gameplay of Roller Champions is stupidly easy to understand: do a lap and score a goal. Yet you can do some complex maneuvers and dodge like a champ if you put some time into what the game has to offer in terms of gameplay. That’s when you know the developer has created a great sports title.

Roller Champions has all the ingredients to become a successful e-sport, as it features simple rules, great controls, and an addictive gameplay loop. Being a free-to-play title, I still don’t know what Ubisoft is planning when it comes to its monetization practices, but the game felt surprisingly robust and devoid of pay-to-win mechanics. Who knows, we might be looking at the next Rocket League to steal the e-sport spotlight after all…