Roller Derby is a sport that is often overlooked in the extreme sports world. What is Roller Derby? Some readers may ask. It is a contact sport that involves skating on a track and hitting opponents. At the turn of the century, the sport was presented on a TV show called RollerJam. Just over 20 years after RollerJam was liquidated, Team Ubisoft and Team Ubisoft Montreal are once again betting on roller derbies with their sporting style: Roller Champions. The result is a fun distraction, but one that doesn’t seem to provide much reason to get back on track.
Roller Champions concept is simple. Groups of three rungs on an elliptical path. Like a standard roller derby session, it’s all about skating, but the trick for Roller Champions is that there’s a ball in play. Teams must maintain control of the ball in four different areas in sequence while driving. After passing all four zones with the ball, the goal net will open and the team will have to throw the ball through it to score a goal.
Roller Champions rules seem more intimidating than they really are. The areas are clearly marked along with the directions that the steering teams must follow in order to unlock the target. In this sense, the game is easy. The competition is based on the fact that it is a full contact sport. The defense can enter quickly with slides and big steps while trying to intercept every pass. The key to attacking is to find your teammates and keep up with your momentum by using the “pump” button to bend your knees and ride the slopes of the track. All this leads to quick sessions that are easy to pick up and play with friends and strangers alike.
The intensity increases as teams can complete additional rounds without losing the ball. Scoring after two laps is good with three points. Scoring after three laps means five points and is essentially an instant win. Whether your team is too late or you’re confident they’re much better than the other players on the track, taking multiple laps often makes games more exciting. The funny thing is, in my sessions my team would sometimes do a few laps because they didn’t pay attention to it or forgot to take the ball, so three or five times would be a lucky coincidence.
The basic Roller Champions experience is an intense and very fun game. Unfortunately, the rest of the game’s package is disappointing.
Roller Champions is a free game. As such, the game’s business model focuses on cosmetic elements for a custom player character. It looks good on paper. There is only one problem. The characters don’t look particularly good.
When I started my adventure with Roller Champions, I had the opportunity to create my own character. First of all, the models themselves are ugly. Sounds like something someone could hit together in the first week of modeling community college characters. It’s pretty flat and there aren’t many ways to customize it. You can choose outrageous skin tones, milky facial expressions, and a limited number of body shapes.
Even worse, these things are just about everywhere. At the start of every match, they stare at you with dead eyes, and when you win, they tap on their limbs in what’s known as a victory dance. It becomes funny for the wrong reasons.
This leads to a huge problem for the drum champions. Cosmetics that do not open look decent. Hairstyles, uniforms, pillowcases, skates, and more. But at the end of the day, I’m still wearing that bad look. There is only so much that can be done to improve it.
With cosmetics making up a large portion of unlockable items, this raises the question of exactly what long-term users are playing with. The game is fun enough to be fun for casual players now and then. For those who want to take Roller Champions seriously, there isn’t much else to strive for apart from these players. Leveling up increases the number of fans who attend matches, which is a fun new feature. Just don’t expect anything else.
Aside from the fast-paced and tidy core matches, there’s not much to do in Roller Champions at first. There is a Skatepark feature that allows users to practice their movements but it fades quickly. There is a Custom Match feature that allows players to designate a spectator, which seems to bode well for a potential foray into esports. Moreover, Ubisoft Montreal plans to introduce more features in the first year of the game. I hope so, because unfortunately the game offer is limited.
If I think I’m tough on Roller Champions, it’s because I had so much fun with it. It’s easy to learn, fun with both friends and strangers, and the sessions are refreshingly quick. Games often take five minutes or less. Plus, cross-platform play is available, so it won’t take you long to find a session.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to focus your game progress on cosmetics when your custom skater looks so cute. Add to that the limited availability of game modes at launch and Roller Champions will have a tough start. Fortunately, the basic experience is a lot of fun as it can greatly build momentum and score some goals in the future.
This review is based on the Ubisoft Connect digital code provided by the publisher. Furthermore, a portion of this review was conducted during a special event with servers running by other members of the gaming press, despite spending time outside the event bounds. Roller Champions is available on PC, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X | S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One are free to play. The game is rated E10+. For the latest information on video games, visit http://www.shacknews.com.