When Ninja Theory announced they were working on a 4v4 team fighter I was curious to see their take on the already crowded genre. Better know for single-player experiences like DmC: Devil May Cry and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a focus on PvP seemed like quite a departure for the Cambridge-based studio. With the launch of the closed beta, I have been hands-on with the game for about 4 hours. I am pleased to say my first impressions of Bleeding Edge are positive. It appears to be shaping up to be an interesting and polished take on a genre we have come to know well over the past few years.
Less Overwatch, More MOBAwatch
Focussing for the most part on melee combat, each of the 11 playable characters in the beta has a basic attack that can be chained in combos. With the exception of a couple of ranged heroes, these characters feel more akin to ones you may find in a hack and slash game, as opposed to a team-based one. Given the studio’s heritage, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, in a world saturated with hero shooters, it is a welcome change for the genre.
As well as their basic attacks, each hero comes equipped with 2 abilities. These abilities are what really help to define Bleeding Edge as its own beast. Each of the abilities feel so varied from one another and they all have their own benefits and drawbacks. This makes character selection and team composition all the more important and crucial to victory.
Alongside the prior abilities; each hero also has a choice of two ultimate abilities. These range from an exceedingly strong healing beam to the ability to poses an enemy for a short time. For the most part, each one I tried felt good to use and a well-timed cast had a significant impact on a battle.
A good handful of the abilities are casts as opposed to instantaneous actions. The precise nature of these attacks combined with the third-person camera help make the ability usage feel important and deliberate. Well-considered ability usage in coordination with teammates can have a crucial impact on the flow and outcome of a battle. These abilities and their implementation means each match of Bleeding Edge plays out like more like a MOBA as opposed to a game of Overwatch.
Bleeding Edge’s heroes aren’t limited to their base stats. They can customised and improved upon through mods. Three mods can be active at any one time. The benefits provided by each mod varies from shortened ability cooldowns to increased health or damage. Out of the gate, the beta offered up a decent selection of mods for each hero. By default, three mods were unlocked, with more becoming available through two means.
Firstly, the mods can be earned through progression. As each hero increases in level, more mods became available for them to use. However, the mods also appear to be available for direct purchase with two currencies. The first is earned through gameplay, implying the other must be purchased through microtransactions. I am curious to see how much impact the mods have on builds later in the game. If they offer a significant benefit I worry that the ability to directly purchase these could verge into pay for power territory.
On top of the mod system, there is a plethora of options to customise the look of each hero. The beta offered boards (mounts for navigating the maps quicker), trails, emotes and the promise of skins in the full game. From what I could see everything could be bought directly for in-game currency, with the option to use a premium alternative if desired. The creative director, Rahni Tucker, has stated the game won’t feature loot boxes. This should eliminate the reliance on RNG when it comes to earning cosmetics.
On The Edge of Excellence
Whilst I enjoyed my time in the beta, there are a couple of rough edges I hope to see sanded down before the game’s full release in March.
There was one character that I felt stood above the rest in terms of power. El Bastardo, a tank hero had a few too many things helping his survivability. Each basic attack grants him additional shields and his ‘Empower’ ability allows him to life-steal off of enemies. As well as this, one of his ultimates makes him completely invulnerable for 5 seconds. When combined with a good healer I found him almost impossible to take down. Leaving my lack of skill out of the equation; he was definitely giving me the most trouble. Games such as Bleeding Edge will always have some kind of meta. Whilst the majority of the characters I played as felt balanced, El Bastardo stood out as being a little bit too powerful.
Another issue I had in the beta was the amount of people leaving during games. Around half of the matches I played at least one person would leave. Whether this was down to being on the losing team or simply disconnecting, it started to become frustrating. From what I experienced, the game did not try to fill the empty slot either. Being a person down in a losing game really felt like the final nail in the coffin. If a penalty system were to be put in place cases like this may occur less often.
Besides a couple of balancing issues and small fixes, Bleeding Edge is shaping up to be a very competent hero fighter. In a sea of competition, it seems to be different enough to swim on its own. It launches on March 24th for PC Xbox One via Game Pass.
Games like Bleeding Edge sometimes fail to establish an early player base. This can sometimes mean them not receiving the ongoing support they desperately need. Microsoft’s backing and the game’s widespread availability through Game Pass will hopefully result in a well-polished game that sees support well into the future.