A certain degree of imagination.
Team-based battle arena games are a dime a dozen nowadays. From League of Legends to Overwatch, many of the recent games that fall in that genre seem derivative, hardly deviating from the tried-and-true formulas of the past. However, there are new releases, like Ninja Theory’s Bleeding Edge, that essentially is a melting pot of those popular titles while still doing something unique and maintaining a quality experience.
Like many team-based battle arena games, Bleeding Edge pins two teams of four against each other in a competitive, objective-based match. Whether you win or lose, you’ll earn experience attached to both your profile and the characters you use. You’ll also earn currency to unlock rewards including mods, skins, boards (the game’s mounts), and emotes.
Where it Bleeding Edge begins to deviate from the norm is in its gameplay. It is essentially an amalgamation of Overwatch, Heroes of the Storm, World of Warcraft‘s PvP arenas, and a simple hack and slash game. Yes, that is a long-winded comparison (and one that almost consists of all Blizzard games), but it captures elements of each culminating in a rather unique take on the genre.
There are two match types: Objective Control and Power Collection. Objective Control is similar to other Control or Capture the Flag modes where you have to capture and hold three points. However, the points that are active will cycle throughout the match.
The cycling points help keep the action moving throughout the map rather than having one team dominate one point for the duration of the match. It also gives the losing team a chance to come back. Essentially, the map resets, which means it gives each team an opportunity to gather themselves and set up for the next team fight.
Power Collection has two phases. The first comes when power cells are spawned around the map. After all of the power cells have been collected, a delivery phase begins where one or two points on the map become active for you to use to deliver your power cells. This takes a few moments and can be interrupted by enemy players.
The Power Collection mode also cycles its points, again, promoting more movement throughout the match rather than staying at any of the three points. The collection phase doubly promotes this as the spawn points for power cells are different in each phase. These power cells can be stolen if you kill an opposing player that collected some during the collection phase, which urges the losing team to engage in combat.
Both modes are fun, especially if you have a team that works well together. The familiarity of the Objective Control mode made it easy to adapt to the game’s hack and slash inspired mechanics while still presenting a fun take on a traditional mode. Power Collection I found a bit tedious, but fun nonetheless. The act of collecting and delivering just takes a bit away from the actual combat portions. However, it does add more stakes, making each team fight feel meaningful.
The five maps are all designed well, albeit, some are definitely stronger than others. Most notably, Skygarden. This map is far and away the one I had the most fun with. On the surface, it’s pretty standard. There are three points, with one at the center and the other two at each end of the map. However, each point has a switch that activates a circular AOE that burns anyone within it. Again, this gives the losing team a chance to take the point for themselves.
The weakest of the maps is the Aqueducts. Again, for the most part, the map has a traditional layout. However, the A and C points continuously circle around the arena. With the game’s focus on keeping the action moving throughout the map, I understand why this map exists. But unlike the other four maps, it’s more aggravating than anything. Especially when you’re trying to deliver some power cells, and you come across an electrical fence that one-shots you.
One main issue I have always had with any team-based battle arena game is camping or pushing the action to specific points that rewards staying put. There are some games that do it well; I know I’ve mentioned Overwatch a lot, but I think it is indicative of this. But mostly, any game that rewards a team for cheesing or camping is just bad design. I think it is really smart of Ninja Theory to design Bleeding Edge to always keep the action moving. The maps and mode design are really great, even if there are few options to choose from.
As mentioned, Bleeding Edge brings hack and slash mechanics to the battle arena genre, and does so successfully. Currently, there are 11 characters, all of which feel unique within their given roles.
There are three roles: DPS, Support, and Tank. Bleeding Edge recommends there be two DPS, one support, and one tank per team; however, you are freely able to choose whatever character you want. So, if you wanted a team composition of four DPS, you could, but unless the opposing team is a bunch of numbskulls, it is not the best strategy.
With how many battle arena games have introduced systems to standardize team comps, it is nice to see a game let people freely choose what they want, for better and for worse. While the four DPS comp wasn’t great, I’ve found success in having two tanks and two healers, and other odd comps that were against the game’s recommendation but still worked well.
There is a variety of characters to choose from in Bleeding Edge, each with their own unique style. Each character also has a set of basic abilities, specials, and supers (you choose one at the beginning of a match) to use.
The pool of DPS characters is the largest of the bunch, with five options both of the melee and ranged variety. However, I think the ranged options just stink. Especially Gizmo, who is armed to the teeth with giant guns, turrets, and even a mech (if you decide to choose that super). But even with all that ammunition, I felt the simplicity and close-ranged combat of a character like Daemon and Nidhoggr were both more effective and satisfying.
This notion is true of the ranged support characters as well. Two of the three supports use ranged attacks, and they just feel incredibly ineffective. In this case, it makes sense because they’re supposed to aid the team with healing or buffs. However, Kulev is a support that is more a hybrid that I found to be complete trash if he is your only support character on your team. Since he favors shielding allies or debuffing enemies, not much healing is going around. He does have a healing AOE, but it doesn’t feel like it does much by itself. That said, combined with Zero Cool or Miko’s heal, it has some use.
I only think this is a problem because the game recommends one support per team. If Kulev is you one support, not enough healing is going around and your team constantly dies. Of course, this could be a moot point if you have a god-tier Kulev player who just understands the character on your team. But this early into launch, players like this are few and far between.
The tank pool also only consists of three characters, all of which I think are fun to use and great for beginners. Since their survivability is high, it’s easy to just jump in with a tank and familiarize yourself with the basics of both match modes and the maps.
Each character can also equip three mods that buff certain abilities or stats. This can range from increasing the character’s base health to increasing the duration of an ability’s effect. While it may help a little, I never found them to be differentiating factors. Yes, I would favor some because they matched my playstyle, but it didn’t feel like it made a huge difference. This, in some ways, is a bummer, but having them make a difference may hinder it from ever becoming an actual competitive game.
While my qualms with Bleeding Edge‘s ranged characters may deter some, the eight melee characters are a blast to play as. With Ninja Theory as the developer, it makes sense that its melee hack and slash gameplay would be fun, simple, and intuitive. But the mix of the competitive battle arena genre and hack and slash gameplay is one I did not think could be done well. But if anyone was going to be able to, it would be the studio behind DmC: Devil May Cry, a game with brilliant hack and slash mechanics.
While I am pretty enthusiastic about Bleeding Edge, as it stands currently, there is certainly a lack of content there. Even compared to other launches of similar games, there really isn’t much to do. There really is only a quick play option, which randomly chooses a mode for you, a couple of quick tutorials, and a “Dojo” mode that lets you practice. That is it. There are also no filters or options when you join a match — you simply press “Fight” and start playing.
I can only assume more content will roll out for Bleeding Edge. As of now, the website does show the 12th character, but nothing more. While more maps would be great, simply adding more options when trying to find a match and a ranked mode would be great additions to add to the currently barren package.
Since this is an online-only game, it’s worth noting that I did have some lag issues throughout my experience. None of it made it unplayable, but it was definitely intrusive during team fights. Despite that, I was able to get into matches easily and quickly, which is nice, especially since there really is only one choice for getting into a match.
Bleeding Edge puts quality over quantity. The people at Ninja Theory have brought their expertise in the hack and slash genre and have translated it into a competitive experience that is both satisfying and distinct. But the lack of content and the boring ranged characters hinders it from really standing out amongst the overcrowded genre. Maybe in a few months, it will feel feature complete. But for now, Bleeding Edge will only have you strapped to your couch for a few hours before you decide to try something else out.