Quick battling in Bloodline Champions

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The gong is struck and the fight begins on this ancient battle arena sequestered away on top of a plateau. On my right is the tank, a towering, half-armored Glutton that would put sumo wrestlers to shame; on my left is a lithe Alchemist, staff and potions at the ready; and I'm the Igniter, short, stout, and full of fire. Together, we make up the “Cold Team” and our enemies are the “Warm Team” who have their own unique mix of characters, each of which with their own special abilities and spells. Who will win as we charge towards each other?

Bloodline Champions , being published by Funcom and developed by Stunlock Studios, is a free-to-play multiplayer battle arena game that focuses on skill over luck as the determining factor in deciding the winner. Gone are critical hits, passive abilities, and ability range caps. Instead, all attacks have a specific amount of damage inflicted (or health restored for heals) and every attack must be aimed and directed with your cursor, not locked-on to a target.

Don't count on clicking an enemy once and watching as your character auto-attacks him or her without your help. All abilities, including attacks, must be aimed at where the enemy will be and relies on the player being able to predict their targets' movements, when the best time to attack is, and to know what ability is best utilized in order to escape an enemy trap. Evasions, teleports, stuns, pulls, pushes, buffs, and debuffs are happening at all times during a round.

Although at first glance, BLC appears to be inspired by DotA-style games, there are some major differences: there are no character levels, no NPCs, and no items. It's all about running into a tiny arena (there are a few corners to use for line-of-sight dodging) and kill the other champions immediately. Most of the rounds I played lasted less than one minute and in some cases, only twenty seconds as the losing team gets stunned multiple times while area-of-effect damage and debuffs pile on faster than a Heavy can scream in pain as he meets the cold blade of a Spy.

The frantic pace of the fights, made so by the small battleground being quickly and constantly filled with explosions, spells, and fighters of varying sizes, makes it hard for an arena battle newbie like me to follow the multitude of characters and keep track of abilities being used. Most of the time, I played a support character and tried to stay behind my team, but I usually ended up watching helplessly as the enemy jumped over the heads of my allies, pushed me away to a corner, stuned and/or turned me to ice, and literally shattered my body to pieces before heading off to then easily kill the rest of my team. Remember, this all happened in the first twenty seconds of the match.

In other games, my quick and helpless deaths might be enough to demoralize me, but in BLC there's no time to pout. The next round starts almost immediately after the previous ends (I was playing the most common mode: Arena, first to four wins) and I had to act fast if I wanted to avoid the same fate! Fifteen seconds in, I die again and two more rounds later, the Warm Team has won 4-0 and everyone's shuffled back to the lobby to sign up for another five minute battle.

Bloodline Champions is a merciless, blood-filled competition that leaves no room for error. There are no minions for you to hide behind, no towers to defend you, and no magical item shop that lets you buy potions. You must know your abilities, the enemy's abilities, and your allies' abilities in order to to win a battle. The agile fingers and quick thinking of professional Starcraft players will be needed in order to efficiently utilize your skills and come out of the arena successfully.

And while that fierce competition may be too fast for my slow hands (I'm going to keep trying and hopefully as I learn the different champion's abilities, it'll get easier to predict their actions), gamers looking for a highly skill-based, competitive arena game with a fast pace will fall in love with Bloodline Champions. Bloodline Champions is currently in closed beta, and our good friends over at GamesRadar are having a beta key giveaway so head on over there to get one!