Broomstick League takes the flying broomsticks and magic of Harry Potter's quidditch and gives the sport a Rocket League-style makeover. The Early Access version launched earlier this month, pitting two teams of up to three wizards against each other in magical arenas, one of which is inside a cage belonging to a giant. He's the league's biggest fan.
Like Rocket League, it looks pretty straightforward at first glance. There's a big ball, two teams, and you need to knock the ball into the opposing team's portal. You can draw the ball towards you if you're close enough, or use another spell to push it away to get it out of an opponent's grasp. Once you've got the ball, you can pass it to a better positioned (or more competent) teammate, or you can try to take a shot and charge up for extra oomph. There's not a lot to remember or worry about, and a brisk tutorial will quickly get you up to speed—but it's more nuanced than it at first appears.
The broomstick is the real star. Broomstick League would be completely undone if the flying wasn't up to snuff, but thankfully it's fantastic. The broomstick's a nimble device that can pick up speed when you're plummeting downwards, which combined with the dash gives you a lot of options for getting where you need to be quickly. It's precise, responsive, and it's never going to be the controls stopping you from getting into position. It’s very reassuring. When I’m speeding across the arena, I’ve got the unbreakable and delusional confidence of someone who is definitely poised to become a Harry Potter villain.
Unfortunately my own responses frequently let me down. The broomstick is great; the pilot is crap. I've spent a lot of time being outmanoeuvred by more skilful wizards, who keep finding holes in my defences or snatching the ball out of my hands at the last second. They’re not pulling off complicated stunts, but you need a lot of spatial awareness and a communicative team if you’re going to score some goals. The latter is easier said than done, however, when you’re in a team full of bots.
Broomstick League gets games going quickly, often before there are any players. I've started a match where the opposing team was all bots, and others where I was the only human player on my team, facing an all-human team. Players get added to in-progress matches, but that can be pretty dispiriting. I feel very bad for the two players who sauntered into a game after I'd already secured a 10-goal lead, and as it’s happened to me, I can sympathise. The alternative, however, where I’m endlessly waiting for players and doing nothing in the meantime, is definitely worse.
As well as keeping an eye on the ball, your opponents and your team, you've also got to watch your cooldowns. That means you can't spam the Blast attack, Broomstick League's tackle, and have to time everything perfectly. I appreciate that it encourages restraint and using magic tactically, but spells are also far too easy to waste.
I still have no idea when to tackle. There’s so little feedback when using the spell that I never know if I’m going to knock the ball out of my opponent’s hands or if they’re just going to float away unscathed. When I do manage to time it right, through sheer luck, it’s anyone’s guess what direction the ball is going to fly off in, which can occasionally be a bit exciting, but is mostly just frustrating.
The teleporting Blink spell at least gives you a silhouette-shaped target, but there’s no guarantee you’ll reach it. I’ve ended up short of where I placed the silhouette, so it seems like there’s a maximum range that’s just not being made clear anywhere. It’s extremely handy, of course, and there’s no feeling better than using it to land right on the ball, it just needs a clearer target.
Drawing the ball towards you similarly lacks enough feedback, and I’ve lost count of the number of times when it’s just flown right through me while I’ve been holding down the correct button. The only instruction is to hold down the button when you’re near, but there definitely seem to be other considerations that aren’t mentioned.
These aren’t insurmountable problems. They absolutely get in the way of the game right now, but just a bit more clarity would likely have a dramatic effect. A few more spells wouldn’t go amiss, either. I’d love to specialise as a defender or an attacker with a particular magical loadout, but it doesn’t look like it’s on the cards. The only customisation right now is cosmetic. You can unlock new wands, broomsticks, emblems and the like, but until you’ve played a bunch of matches, you’re limited to some very basic options—aside from the countless emblems that seem to represent streamers I’ve never heard of before.
It’s got promise, then, even if you’d rather punch Harry Potter than be him. And there’s still a lot of development time left to iron out the issues—it’s expected to stay in Early Access for 9-12 months. If you do decide to hop on your broomstick, it’s definitely worth roping a couple of friends into joining you, lowering the chances of getting stuck with the terrible bots.