Bloodline Champions (Steam version) is a top-down F2P game with high hopes – to create a game where players can play against each other in an arena that rewards skill, not repetition or luck. If you’ve ever heard of the term “e-sports”, this game is a prime candidate. It’s all about aiming, timing, reacting, and making the right decisions – and it’s HARD.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as a game that rewards skill wouldn’t be very rewarding if it was easy. BLC does away with almost every mechanic that could ever be attributed to luck, refining the PvP genre into a game that revolves only around teamwork, coordination, and execution.
Bloodline Champions was created by an indie development group called Stunlock Studios. While the game was in Closed Beta, it was picked up by publisher Funcom. That’s the way it’s been ever since. Just last year, BLC was released on Steam, so you can download the game there with convenience.
What makes BLC so centered on skill? For that answer, we turn to their design philosophy:
- No targeting system. Some PvP games, like WoW Arena, have a targeting mechanic where you click on an enemy, cast your spell, and the spell will hit the enemy. In BLC, every spell is aim-based: projectiles, ground-targeted, directional, etc. Not only do you have to aim at your enemy, you can dodge their attacks, too!
- No power from levels. In MMORPGs, power is relative to your character’s level. An 80 Warlock is inherently stronger than a 60 Warlock. In BLC, every character starts on the same footing because there are no character levels.
- No random numbers. Every ability in BLC deals a set amount of damage, lasts for a set duration, performs a set action, etc. In other words, every time you use an ability, it will consistently do the same exact thing. No critical hits, no dodge chances, no X% chance to trigger an effect.
- No mana. In similar games, the power of a character is often limited by their mana resource. You cast a spell, it consumes some of your mana, and if you cast too many times, you need to replenish your mana. In BLC, there are no mana costs, only cooldowns (the time it takes before you can cast that ability again).
In the end, everything relies on the player, and that’s what makes this game both difficult and rewarding. If you can hit all of your spells, you’ll feel hot pride bubbling up in your gut. If you miss all of your spells, there’s no one to blame but yourself.
Before each game, you can choose from a pool of 25+ characters called “bloodlines.” These bloodlines are divided into 4 classifications (healer, ranged, melee, tank) and each bloodline has a unique set of abilities that generally fall in line with their classification. With that said, each bloodline has its own unique playstyle.
The official standard mode for BLC is a 3v3 Deathmatch Arena. Both teams start at opposite ends of a map and duke it out to see which one is the last team standing. However, there are a few game modes to play:
- Arena. Round-based format. When a team eliminates the other team, they receive a point. The first team to reach a set number of points wins the game.
- Capture the Artifact. Each team has an Artifact on their side of the map. Retrieving the other team’s Artifact and bringing it back to yours grants a point. The first team to reach a set number of points wins the game.
- Conquest. Each team starts with a number of points and fights to take control of various locations across the map. Owning a location transfers points from the enemy team to yours. The more locations in ownership, the faster the transfer rate. The first team to deplete the enemy team’s points wins the game.
In a game as skill-based as BLC, it’d make sense for it to have a few in-game features that promote competition. Fortunately, there are.
First, matchmaking. There are three different matchmaking queues available: Solo (play with 5 other solo queue players in a 3v3), Ranked 2v2 (create a team with another player), or Ranked 3v3 (create a team with 2 other players). The matchmaking system does its best to match you up against players close to your skill level.
Second, tournaments. BLC has regular automated tournaments (usually one or two every night) that are separated into North American and European due to the latency between the two continents. Anyone can join these tournaments and the winners are rewarded with in-game prizes.
Bloodline Champions is amazing for a free-to-play game. You really can play this game and become a top player without ever having to spend a dime. Every game you complete earns you an in-game currency called bloodcoins, which can be used to unlock bloodlines and buy cosmetic items. Bloodlines and cosmetic items can also be unlocked with Funcom points, which are purchased using real money.
Unlock bloodlines? Yes. For free players, there is a rotation system in place that lets you choose from 8 bloodlines for free. Every 3 days, 4 of those 8 bloodlines rotate to something else. This lets you get a feel for each bloodline without having the game become stale.
At first, this unlock system can be frustrating, but if you complete the in-game tutorials, you can unlock 2 bloodlines for free. Afterwards, if you play frequently (let’s say an hour or two a day), it should only take about 7-10 days for each bloodline you want to unlock. Not ideal, but reasonable for free-to-play.
If you play BLC through Steam, there are 2 starter packs that you can buy. These packs were released in October 2012 and grant you a few in-game goodies, and more importantly, they unlock bloodlines for you. The Beginners Pack ($9.99) starts you off with 8 bloodlines, while the Supreme Pack ($24.99) starts you off with 24 bloodlines.
Despite the awesome gameplay, BLC has suffered from poor management, clunky servers, and small playerbase issues ever since its launch in 2010. Some of these issues have been rectified over the years, however, and the game is very playable in its current state.
Recently, the game has seen a resurgence in popularity, particularly with the introduction of the starter packs. The playerbase is slowly increasing in size. While the game is in a down state for now, there may still be a future for it yet.
Don’t be put off by BLC’s currently small population. The game itself is well-designed and an absolute blast to play. If you are competitive at heart and you love a good challenge, BLC (Steam version) may be the PvP game for you. My only warning is that you prepare yourself for the learning curve and be patient with matchmaking times.
If you can get past those problems, you’ll have lots of fun. There are a few community-driven efforts to help new players, such as: