Everyone loves rocket launchers in games, don’t they? They always seem to pack a punch and feel so satisfying to use when trying to fend off enemies or vehicles. So what if I told you there’s a new title that is solely dedicated to blasting rockets at the opposing team until you slay them off? Rocket Arena is developed by Final Strike Games and published by EA, it was released on 14th July 2020 for the PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4.
Rocket Arena was first announced at EA Play 2020 and my initial thoughts were positive. I recall seeing the trailer and thinking this could actually be a solid, unique title. It had an aura of Super Smash Bros with the aesthetics of Fortnite and Overwatch mashed up together. The developers gave a talk about their roadmap for the title and the fact it would have season progression and a battle pass system. The whole presentation was crying out “Free To Play” to anyone watching.
It was then surprising when I looked at pre-order information, there are two editions priced at £24.99 and £34.99. Instantly I was inclined to dodge this at launch as I knew it was a high price point for a game of its calibre with so many other titles offering battle pass systems. Fast forward to three weeks after launch and the developers and EA has opted to make the game free to play if you have EA access on consoles or Origin access on PC. The game recently went on sale for £4.99 for the standard edition and £8.74 for the mythic edition. This screamed out hints of a totally free to play coming soon as they attempt to fill the servers with more players.
So what is Rocket Arena then? Rocket Arena is a third-person shooter, which is totally online multiplayer based. You’ll be glad to hear that it’s another title that adds to the cross platform play and progression era. Cross platform can be enabled or disabled simply by accessing the settings within the game menus, so if you’re like me and want to steer clear of PC players then disabled is the way forward. It is however fantastic if you have friends on other platforms or want to speed up your matchmaking time periods.
Rocket Arena boasts a lineup of unique characters with their own personality, different abilities, rocket power and skills. The launch characters comprise; Amphora, Blastbeard, Boone, Flux, Izell, Jayto, Kayi, Mysteen, Plink, Rev and Topnotch. There is plenty of choice here and I really enjoyed playing with each of them individually and discovering their strong and weak points, their differing abilities and cosmetic features. The variants are extremely different from Topnotch’s ability to lock-on to enemies to Rev’s thrown mines and quick rush hoverboard to speed away from high intensity situations. You’ll find it a long process of finding out who suits your playstyle and who your main go to character is. The art style is very cartoony and a similar style of game, like Realm Royale and Fortnite, but don’t let this trick you into thinking this game is just for kids because it’s truly not.
Every mode on Rocket Arena is 3v3, so if you’re planning on playing with over two friends you’re a little out of luck. Characters cannot be duplicated in the modes, meaning if you and your mate enjoy the same character you must make the ultimate sacrifice and choose someone else. You’ll be introduced to a tutorial, which is brief when you boot up the game for the first time before you can unlock access to all other modes on offer. This will teach you the basics of combat, movement and ability use. Along the way you’ll be able to unlock various artefacts that will grant you stat boosts, these will grant you slightly higher damage or a speedier cool down on abilities for instance. Whilst these are useful, they don’t overpower you and you’ll be able to choose three different artefacts to be assigned to the character.
There are several modes you can choose from on Rocket Arena. If you just want casual, fun times, then you can choose from a few here. Knockout is the main and most frequent mode that is played and the most competitive in terms of combat. The objective is to use rockets, abilities, and items to knock your opponents out of the arena to confirm the kill. Score limit is set at twenty, so the first team to reach twenty knockout wins.
Rocketball is the next mode and probably the most fun for me personally. The aim here is to pick up the ball and take it to the opponent’s goal and score. You can score by running, throwing or blasting the ball into the enemy team’s goal.
Next is Mega Rocket, which spawns randomly generated capture zones sporadically around the map. The goal is to capture and defend these until you capture the area. Once that area is captured you gain a point for your team. First to five of these wins the game.
The final game mode available is treasure hunt where the task is to collect as many coins dotted around the map as possible in between holding a treasure chest for a period. This appeared the most fast and frantic mode with the least amount of combat as players seem focused on gathering treasure than killing.
There is one game mode you can play if you don’t want to pit yourself against human players and that is Rocketbot Attack. This allows you and your friends to slay AI robots, this is a good way to level up your character and gain experience. Practice, customs and private game modes all exist, so if you’re wanting just time with friends only then you can absolutely do that. There is a base of solid foundations here for a game rich in content to carry it forward to success.
So how does the game play then? I’ll be honest and say that I struggled with Rocket Arena at the start. It is fast and frantic and you’ll never see a player sitting still unless they are AFK. One thing I noticed is this is a game that thrives on communication and teamwork, especially in the objective based modes. Playing alone to me was very frustrating as it is difficult to track what random teammates are going to do next, as it’s so fast paced. In a first-person shooter for instance, you do get a sense of what action someone will take next.
Where Rocket Arena really shined is when playing with friends. Through communication and our character selection we thrived as a team and won an awful lot of games. It’s clear that if you have three players targeting a specific string character, they are being taken down quicker than if you play alone. There are some balancing issues which are quite frustrating and although I can’t pinpoint them exactly, it felt as though some characters were extremely weak compared with others. There appeared to be an abundance of players picking the same three characters, Topnotch, Blastbeard and Rev. It is satisfying, however, when you do get a Knockout and send your opponent flying off the map. There are the health bars above the enemies that show how close they are to being knocked out of the game. When the health bar is red with lines through it, this indicates that they are on the brink of being knocked out. This also applies to your own health bar, which is displayed in a central location at the bottom of the screen.
It is frustrating when you’re going hell for leather trying to pinpoint your accuracy towards the enemy who is almost out of health, only for them to find cover and recover to start their fight again. The frustration, however, turns into determination to get your own back and quickly gather the troops to try to wipe out that individual who is stronger than their fellow team mates. In that respect the game is brilliant at creating rivalry.
The control system is simple, all characters can jump with the simple tap of the A button. Ability use is marked in the bottom right corner of the screen, these functions are accessed by using the shoulder and trigger buttons. Abilities of course have different cool down timers before you can use them again to stop them being spammed. So timing is key to some of these, for example Rev has a hoverboard and you can use this to speed from one area of the map to another and do a mega kick at the end of the action sending the enemy flying. This is effective in a mode like Mega Rocket, where you want to clear players away from the objective and stop it from being captured.
Graphically the game does a great job, it is vivid in colour and pleasing to the eye. There are ten maps available with two more coming in mid August 2020, they differ in style with great themes and locations. Sound effects and music are what you’d expect from a game like Rocket Arena with calming music and over enthusiastic voicing from the characters.
Overall, I enjoy Rocket Arena but in extremely short bursts. I can’t help but feel that not launching this as a free to play title at launch damaged the game before it even started. Now they have changed stance with pricing and making it free to play on EA access, we hopefully will see more player base trickling through. What holds Rocket Arena up is the endless amount of cosmetic unlockables for characters which would take hours and hours to complete. What holds Rocket Arena up in longevity is the Blast Pass system which can be purchased each season and the fact every player has its own unlockables and ranking system up to level 100. The recently added Season 1 playlist with a unique ranking system also gives opportunity for more competitive action and play time. There are some balancing issues and I found its lack of stat tracking a worry. There doesn’t seem to be any indication of how many games you have won, how many you’ve lost, how many knockouts you have. These points would all be welcome additions. So essentially Rocket Arena is a barrage of good fun and a grind to earn items and cosmetics for characters. It is a game I’d like to keep dipping in and out of, but they need to open the gates to free to play now to keep this title on the radar.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rocket Arena Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
User Review( vote)
Rocket Arena is fantastic fun alone or with friends, with a few balancing issues to be sorted in future it has a promising future!
- Plenty of characters, modes and maps to play through.
- So much to unlock in terms of cosmetics.
- Crossplay and battle pass add longevity.
- Can feel unbalanced.
- No stat tracking.
- Can struggle to keep your attention for long sessions.