Update: In a statement, Battlerite game director Peter Ilves confirmed that casual arena will return:
"We knew the pre-launch patch was going to be a risky update with tons of things coming at once and at the same time we saw this as a last opportunity to try out some big changes in Early Access. We have always listened to our community and we will be re-introducing the Casual Arena queue without further delay. Arena will stay as our main game mode in Battlerite while Battlegrounds will be active in a beta mode for a few weeks for additional testing. The team is working hard now to polish all the new features to have the game in a good state and to meet the fans expectations for our official launch on November 8th."
Battlerite is an action-oriented multiplayer game that's all about teamfights. It's something of a MOBA spinoff: there are no creeps to farm or towers to defend, just enemies to kill, which is a system we very much enjoyed. But in a recent update, developer Stunlock Studios has taken the game in a different direction.
Battlerite's new game mode, battlegrounds, is an "objective-based 3v3 mode" that smacks more of traditional MOBA systems. It's split into two phases: an "event phase where players fight to secure or complete objectives," and an assault phase where on team attacks the defending team. You win by destroying the enemy Guardian (think crystal).
"Battlegrounds introduces a number of new mechanics as well as some refined mechanics previously used in brawls such as Respawn, Capture Points, NPC’s and Balloons, Power Shards, a Minimap function, an in-game level system, Brush and Guardians," Stunlock said, adding that a simultaneous update also refreshed Battlerite's UI and selection systems.
While arguably an exciting new direction for Battlerite, the game's community is less than pleased. Battlerite commands a 91 percent positive rating on Steam, but in the two days since battlegrounds was added, review positivity has dropped to 31 percent. A quick glance at Steam user reviews, the Battlerite community forum and the Battlerite Reddit shows the outrage has less to do with battlegrounds and more to do with the mode it seemingly replaced, the 'casual arena' which players used as both a testing ground for new characters and a de facto unranked quick play queue.
Naturally, player feedback has been mixed, with some in favor of unifying the arena queue and others longing for the casual days of old. The gist seems to be that battlegrounds would be welcomed as an addition, but stings as a replacement. I've reached out to Stunlock Studios regarding the fate of casual arena and will update this story if I receive a reply.
The battlegrounds hubbub comes on the heels of Stunlock announcing Battlerite's upcoming Early Access graduation. As previously reported, it will officially release on November 8, after which it will be free-to-play. Players can still purchase the Early Access version for $20 to unlock all current and future champions.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated Battlerite would be on sale for $10 in the week leading up to its free-to-play launch. This is not the case. Additionally, players will still be able to pay for the game in order to unlock all current and future champions. However, while the Early Access version costs $20, Stunlock says the champion bundle will "likely … cost more once the game is released."