Roller Champions is Ubisoft’s free-to-play, roller derby style competitive online game. The premise is straightforward: throw the ball into the goal and the first team to five points wins. Roller Champions is easy to pick up, but there are some strategy options to give you something to think about and experiment with.
Matches are 3v3 and take place in a variety of different themed arenas/locations. It’s a standard roller derby track but encased with high, clear glass walls around the inner/outer circle, which allows players more space to skate and more ways to strategize. There’s a single ball and both teams are fighting for possession; your goal is to get the ball and take it at least once around the track, uninterrupted.
Once you get around the track at least once you can throw the ball into the circular goal on the glass wall of the arena. The more times you lap the track, without losing possession completely, the more points you can earn once you score a goal. But if the other team gets the ball, your lap(s) reset, creating a risk-reward system where you’re encouraged to go for as many laps as you can. Because of how laps and goals are related, it’s possible to win off one goal.
Laps around the track don’t have to be completed by you alone. Your teammates can skate ahead of you and call for a pass (using Y on an Xbox Controller) and you could execute that pass (also by pressing Y). Passing was a great way to move the ball along the track quickly but it could also be used as a fast way to avoid losing possession when you get cornered.
Visual cues and smart in-game announcements help players keep track of the action. When you complete a full lap and have the option to score, the circular goal is filled in with the glowing color of your team. The number of laps you complete is indicated by subtle neon lines across the glass walls and the announcer mentions laps, resets, and comments when wipe-outs, tackles, and clutch moments go down on the track. He definitely helped me understand and feel more invested in my matches.
Also, anyone on the track can get tackled at any time, so while I wasn’t the best goal scorer I did enjoy knocking down my opponents to regain possession for my team or preemptively ramming into the competition to protect my ball-carrying teammates.
My most joyous match was one where my team played, seemingly, worse than our opponents. We were down 3-0 with only a minute or two left on the clock (if you reach the end of the seven-minute match the team with the most points wins) but we had a great run at the end: we completed enough laps that when we finally did score we got five points and won the whole thing. Like with all sports, the best team doesn’t always win and I felt satisfied with our stolen victory.
Sometimes your opponents can feel impossible to catch up to, but in that event you can always go around the track in the opposite direction to get ahead of them. The same can apply to offense if you want to get the ball passed to you.
You can freely rotate the camera, and the fact that the track is circular makes it easier to keep track of the action. Still, there were times when I didn’t realize someone was directly behind me and it can be a pain to skate, dodge, and control the camera all at once. Visual indicators when opponents are behind you would help, but perhaps this was intentionally left out for balance purposes.
It didn’t take long to get a grasp of Roller Champions and I had enough fun that I can say it’s worth trying out. Still, it’s unclear if it’ll have the customization and charm that the best free-to-play games use to keep players around. It will take a few more hours and some matches with friends to tell whether or not this game will have a lasting impact.