App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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First, MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) took the PC world by storm. Now they’ve set their sights on mobile. Mobile MOBAs. That’s right, I said it. Of course since playing a game on a phone versus playing it on a computer can be fundamentally different experiences, at least as far as controls go, a number of these titles have diverged from the norm and experimented with various gameplay elements. Champs: Battlegrounds marks the latest attempt at doing things differently for iOS, but in its effort to set itself apart it’s also strayed a little too far from the path.
Champs: Battlegrounds is an odd hybrid of turn-based and real time gameplay. Each character has an energy bar that fills over time (and fills faster when they’re standing on special symbols on the ground), with various abilities available at different tier. First there’s movement, followed by a basic attack, then a simple skill, and finally an ultimate attack. Each action requires a larger and larger chunk of energy, so managing each character’s ability and movement is vital. However, while the interface is more of a typical turn-based point-and-click affair, the action all happens in real time.
There’s a decent selection of characters to pick from, split between two different groups. The first houses the cute, weaker heroes and the second is full of the more “grown up” powerful ones. It’s possible to upgrade the basic heroes to one of two more advanced options, but aside from recouping the initial cost of the low-end unit there’s no real benefit to doing so. Still, it’s nice to see a wide selection. It’s also nice to see that each hero only has two unique skills as it makes planning out actions in the middle of a match a lot easier.
Unfortunately the real time/turn-based combo doesn’t really work all that well. It feels too slow when compared to most real time games, and too fast for turn-based. If the interface isn’t getting in the way of the action, the characters are taking too long to move. Or they waste an action (and precious energy) by attacking a square that an enemy just stepped out of. Sometimes - actually most of the time - I’ve even had to input the same command multiple times because the camera angle coupled with the tiny terrain tiles resulted in me tapping the wrong spot several times over. And since it’s all real time, having to attempt an action over and over again is a big problem.
There’s a good MOBA framework to Champs: Battlegrounds, but its combination of real time and turn-based mechanics get in the way of the fun. It’s not too bad for a match or two but any more than that and the cracks - really, really irritating cracks - start to overwhelm everything.