EA recently introduced a new competitor in the free to play shooter genre titled Rocket Arena, a lighthearted and visually vibrant third-person shooter that features a number of unique characters to throw down with in the arena. It doesn't take the rocket in its name lightly either, as many of the characters can use firepower in unique ways. Rocket Arena comes loaded with 10 characters at the start and recently added an 11th character (Flux) to kick off its first season on July 28th, and while the experience still has some kinks to work out, there's a lot of fun to be had here. So, if you were curious about how it plays, you've come to the right place.
Rocket Arena is a team-based competitive shooter at its core, though it does have a few other modes that change up the gameplay a bit, including a sports-themed mode called Rocketball that has you attempting to score the ball in your opponent's goal. The main mode though is Knockout, and that's honestly where most of the fun lies, as when everything clicks here you'll quickly be booting up another match.
Knockout is a 3 vs 3 competitive mode that has you using rockets, items powerups, and your character's individual special abilities to send your opponents careening towards the sky and out of the arena, and you'll battle back and forth until one team has scored enough to secure the win. Rocket Arena rewards accuracy over spray fire, as each successive hit on an opponent will not only send your opponent further into the air but will also fill up their blast meter. Eventually, they will be put in a mode called Megablast Danger, and at that point, one more hit will send them careening out of the arena and knocking down a life for their team.
That's where the doge ability comes in, as you'll need to break up successive hits from enemies to make sure you can have enough time to recover and keep from going into Megablast Danger, and you can also pick up items that set mine traps to keep your enemies distracted or ones that give you a speed boost to get you out of an enemy cluster, and all these strategies will be necessary to stay out of the sky and in the fight.
You'll also need to utilize your character's individual abilities, and they each pack 3 core abilities you'll need to master. Each character caters to a particular playstyle, though you should get to know at least a few of them, as if someone else chooses your character in a lobby you won't be able to select them for the round.
My goto heroes ended up being Amphora, Boone, and Topnotch, though I enjoyed my time with others like Izell and Plink. Amphora is a dream for those who want versatility, as her Hydro Form allows you to turn into a pool of water and move along the ground until you find an enemy. Once you encounter someone you can hit the button and unleash a water cyclone that funnels upward, uppercutting the enemy and damaging them multiple times as it also knocks then back. She can also launch 3 homing mines that will bounce off objects, and it's like having a small Flak cannon. Her core ability is a Charged Torpedo, which you can charge. That trifecta is incredibly useful, and it was with her that I really got swept up in the frenetic but entertaining chaos that this game can offer.
Boone, on the other hand, is better at long range (as his scoped rifle clearly shows), but he has abilities that come in handy when up-close is absolutely necessary. His little bird buddy Zik is perched on his shoulder and allows you to call on him to use his wings to lift you higher and even hover a bit while you're lining up a sniper shot. When someone can get you in a corner, Boone has a short-range Blunderblast that can do nice damage, but his most handy ability is Zik's Vortez, which fires a wind vortex that does damage to the enemy you aim it at but more importantly blasts you back, getting you back at range in a flash.
While there are one or two characters I ended up not liking, most of the initial group was entertaining to play, and the look of the world is delightful. Stages like Frostwind Grove, Shimmering Depths, and Icefall Keep are absolutely gorgeous and feel right out of a Pixar movie. The same can be said for the character designs themselves, and combined with the more arcadey shooting mechanics made for a quite entertaining Friday night gaming session with some friends. There's enough strategy to keep you coming back, and the Blast Pass and unlockable costumes will ensure you keep coming back.
That said, there are some issues. The Artifact system allows you to gain boosts from items you unlock along the way, and they gain levels as you level up. Most of these upgrades though level up at a snail's pace, and they just aren't very interesting either. Since they are the main source of any sort of buffs throughout the game, that's a bit of a bummer. If the game could introduce at least one other layer to the game's depth of customization, it could really hit on all cylinders.
The other main issues are with the online side of gameplay, and it's mostly to do with private matches. If you head into the Ranked Matches or even Social Matches without getting a feel for how the game moves, you're going to get wrecked. Sure you could do the practice mode solo, but again, that doesn't really give you a feel for the tempo and the speed at which you need to aim and move. That's what Private Matches are for, but with three friends playing online at the same time, we couldn't actually get a Private Match started for most of the modes, as they don't allow Bots. That means you have to have a live player for each slot, and if you don't have an even number, you're kind of left with an unbalanced match that will make it rather fruitless.
The only match type that has bots is Knockout, so, unfortunately, you're going to just have to dive into the other live modes to get the feel for Rocketball, Mega Rocket, RocketBot Attack, or Treasure Hunt. If the game could add in Bots to those modes eventually, however, that would make getting acclimated to the game even better, and take away the by default 3 or 4 matches of getting owned and not really having that much fun.0comments
Despite those quirks, Rocket Arena managed to capture my attention and a sense of ridiculous and chaotic fun that I had been missing to be honest, and it's something I will go back to throughout the season. In short, Rocket Arena is a really fun time, and here's hoping it sticks around for a while.
What do you think of Rocket Arena? Let us know in the comments or find me on Twitter to talk all things gaming @MattAguilarCB!