First Impressions: How Do You Like the Pre-Launch Patch?

After several hours in the new patch, I’ve decided that I like this patch. The overall experience has actually been pretty positive for me, more so than I expected, but of course it hasn’t all been sunshine and roses either.

Because these are first impressions, I may be mistaken about some things. Maybe there are aspects I missed or misunderstood. If so, please feel free to correct me!

The New UI 2.0

It’s tough to judge UI 2.0 because we’re all coming from UI 1.0. If anything feels off or unintuitive or messy, it could be because we’re just used to the old interface. Just as Windows users feel that Mac is too simple, and Mac users feel that Windows is too clunky, UI 2.0 will be uncomfortable at first.┬áThere’s no way around that.

But for me, the new UI does feel pretty good.

The level of aesthetic polish is commendable. Keep in mind that I play in 1280 x 720 resolution: the old interface felt cramped and stuffy with that little screen space, whereas the new interface feels spacious and has room to breathe. The animations, the visual feedback, and the colors are all great. This alone makes me prefer the new UI despite some of its flaws.

Can you guess how many clicks it took to get here?

What kinds of flaws? Well, it takes too many clicks to get around. I understand that it was designed with consoles in mind, but a downside is still a downside even if there’s a good reason for it. The other big flaw is that certain UI elements are hard to scan. For example, while the friends list does distinguish between online and offline players, it’s not enough. Another example, some buttons don’t look like buttons and are hard to tell apart from image elements, textboxes, etc.

Minor nitpicks include having shortcut icons at the bottom left but the Back button at the top left, which can require a lot of mouse movement when switching between a lot of screens. It would be great if the shortcut icons showed on all pages.

Aesthetically, it looks great. At the very least, it feels like a modern UI with some intentionality behind it. I have no issue with the blue tint or the fact that it resembles some other high-profile games. As long as it’s functional and pleasing to the eye, I say let it be. Why reinvent the wheel?

The Battlerite System

Many have shared their thoughts on the system ever since the new system was clarified in the early patch notes, and most of the response has been positive. Put me in with them. I love it and find it to be a huge improvement over the old system, addressing a lot of the issues without introducing many downsides.

The only potential drawback is that we no longer have the ability to reactively pick our rites (e.g. you pick a Round 4 battlerite based on how the enemies played in the first three rounds), but I personally don’t think it’s a big deal. The majority of the time, battlerites are picked in response to the enemy team’s champions, not their builds. And since the new system allows us to see everyone’s champions before selecting a loadout, I see no reason to complain. Reactive builds were overrated.

The new loadout system is objectively banging

Obviously the balance is off at the moment. Some of the new builds are extremely strong and frustrating to play against, and a handful of champions have been propelled into god-tier infamy for what they can now do. Could it just be post-patch woes that just need to be ridden out as the meta finds equilibrium again? Or are these champions truly problematic? A bit too early to say. We’ll know better in a few weeks.

But overall, it’s a huge win for Battlerite. The number of viable builds is way bigger now, which means theorycrafters can have a lot more fun. While flavor-of-the-month builds will still be common, I don’t think it’ll be as big an issue anymore. The system now encourages building around playstyles rather than around the best options in a given tier, and I’m certain we’ll see a lot more variety between players of the same champion.

I’m excited, and I can’t wait to see how this affects tournaments.

The Battlegrounds Game Mode

I love the potential in Battlegrounds. Not only is it a great way for new players to train mechanics (get used to WASD movement, casting spells, learning kits and ranges, understanding the importance of pickups, etc.), but it could be its own esport if Stunlock actually softens some of its rough edges.

The respawn mechanic is excellent. There’s practically no downtime in Battlegrounds, so you spend more time actively having fun than waiting for the round to finish or waiting for the next round to start. I love the healing area at base, how quickly it heals, and the fact that base walls block projectiles. It’s all very clever and well-designed.

The gameplay itself is also quite smart, and I think Stunlock did well to go with this mode over something more traditional like Capture the Flag or Conquest. Many of us were worried that the Event Phase and the Assault Phase would each play once, but those concerns were unfounded. Making each Assault Phase only last 15 seconds provides good ebb-and-flow throughout a match, and alternating between Event Phases and Assault Phases makes it so that one team never really loses until the very end. Both are critical elements for a watchable esport. If Battlegrounds shares any similarities with other games, I wouldn’t know as I don’t play those other games.

Big Guardian, please die

All of the objectives in the Event Phase are well-designed. You’ve got Minions, Beasts, Balloon Escort, Challenger Dark Jumong, and Capture Point. Events award energy, and once you amass enough energy, you can attack the enemy’s Guardian. Since events aren’t winner-takes-all, you always have reason to keep fighting — even if you lose the event, you can still earn some energy. That little bit could be enough to enable your next Assault Phase. But I’m most impressed by how each event feels unique, yet they all manage to cause fights. On such a big map, I was concerned it’d feel empty. But it doesn’t. There’s always something going on nearby.

But Battlegrounds has at least three major flaws.

The first major flaw: Levels. From what I can tell, you gain XP when enemies are killed. As you earn XP, your champion gains Levels. As your Level increases, it takes longer for you to respawn and you deal more damage. I’m a big fan of that first mechanic (it prevents stalemates due to everyone always respawning just in time to defend), but that second mechanic sucks because it’s a “win-more” mechanic: if you win a fight, you become more likely to win the next fight. It’s the opposite of a comeback mechanic and that’s no bueno for a mode like this.

The second major flaw: Power Shards. Power Shards are pickups that spawn around the map, and champions can carry up to 10 of them at a time. Each one boosts your damage and they stack. If you die, you drop half of your Power Shards on the ground. While I’d have no problem with a temporary power boost, these carry-until-death Power Shards are too over the top. Once an enemy has 6 of them, they become very hard to kill. Once they have 10, killing them is close to impossible. And if the entire enemy team has 10, well… you’re boned. When combined with Levels, Power Shards prove problematic.

The Power Shard mechanic is questionable at best

The third major flaw: Guardians can be healed. I was ready to chalk this up to an oversight until I saw Guardian healing in the stats. Apparently it’s intentional? Well, I think it’s a terrible idea when you consider that the Assault Phase has a very narrow window for attack. The entire point of the game mode is to unlock Assault Phases, then coordinate as much damage as you can during each opening. Allowing the enemy team to undo some of that doesn’t fit well with the overall idea, in my opinion. I would prefer Guardians to be unhealable.

Overall, I find it to be a fun mode and I see a lot of potential in it, not just for newbies but as a competitive mode as well. It’s a shame that it has some of these flaws, and I can only hope that Stunlock will address them quickly and cleverly. As it is now, Battlegrounds is a bit frustrating to play. With some refinements, it could become an excellent mode all on its own.

That’s enough from me. What about you? How do you like the new patch and the new things it brought? Vote below and share your thoughts!

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Zanetski

He is the lead writer at Battlecrank. You can find him on the Battlecrank Discord.

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