After several delays, Ubisoft’s free roller derby game Roller Champions It’s now live, and I’m here to say it’s 100% a video game you can play if you want to.
Roller Champions pits two teams of three against each other in a race to score five points on a supercharged roller derby track. The rules are simple: pick up the ball, take it around the track (in any direction) and pass it through a hoop to score a point. Make three turns before the dunk – increasing the risk that the ball will be withdrawn by the opposing team – and you’ll earn three points; do five laps and you’ll get five points and an automatic win. That’s it!
Unfortunately, the gameplay is as simplistic as the rules are. This is unavoidable to some extent – arenas are small and matches last a maximum of seven minutes – but even given these relatively tight limits, there’s not much you can do. Organized and coordinated teams might find it fun to learn to pass, pump and score effectively as a unit, but Roller Champion’s limits are so limited that collecting matches are, well, dull.
It’s not even interesting the way team sports sometimes are when everyone involved sucks at whatever is being played, because there’s always that a guy who’s serious and knows what he’s doing, and whichever team he’s on will dominate. Yes, that’s a broad generality, but it’s my experience: the team with the well-dressed guy is the team that will win.
The biggest problem with Roller Champions, I think, is that it’s not violent enough. You can lift your elbows or throw a flying tackle to check on other players, but not much else, and they recover almost immediately. You can’t, say, catch someone from behind and throw them into the woods, or throw them into the count with a vicious clothesline, or throw them on the tracks and keep them there while your teammates beat them up. I’m not saying that Roller Champions would be better as a battle royale on wheels, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not. no saying that too.
It is strange to me that Roller Champions has been postponed not just once, but twice (opens in new tab)because the gameplay I’ve experienced looks virtually identical to what was shown in the E3 trailer for 2019 (opens in new tab). I understand that game development is complex and difficult, especially in the midst of a pandemic, but it’s been almost three years now, and from a casual perspective, it doesn’t look like the game has changed significantly.
It’s also a little wobbly. Roller Champions feels more stable today than it did yesterday when it was released: my first six attempts to play resulted in one game and five crashes. Ubisoft later said there were connectivity issues caused by an unexpected surge in players, and I played several matches with just one glitch today. This is better, but still not great, obviously, and some players are still having questions. Queue times can also be iffy: Quick play matches are pretty solid now, but it took me four tries, waiting over two minutes each time, before I was able to get into a ranked match.
Ultimately, Roller Champions is a safe, generic, and completely numbers-based game. family friendly (opens in new tab) roller derby that shows occasional moments of fun. You can’t go wrong with the price – it’s free, mind you – but I don’t think I would hold my breath hoping it would become the next Rocket League either. You can check it out for yourself at ubisoft. with (opens in new tab).