Before playing Roller Champions, I could count the things I knew about roller derby on one hand... well, a finger and a thumb actually. It’s played by people who wear skates and are braver than I, and most of their names are brilliant puns like 'Donna Thedead' and 'Hate Middleton.' After a few goes on Ubisoft's free-to-play, fast-paced skatey action, it was clear to me that Roller Champions – while not exactly the Rocket League challenger that so many people have labelled it – is a compelling team game that has the potential to gain a following.
First things first, this is a 3-on-3 game that’s all about carrying a ball around a track, scoring goals, and trying to keep your teeth in your mouth. The aim is simple: grab the ball, hold onto it for a full lap, and then, Quidditch-style, aim for a giant hoop to score a goal. The team that doesn’t have the ball will, naturally, attempt to rough you up in order to win back possession.
While this sounds impossible, it’s not. After a few matches, I learned how to use the track to my advantage, accelerating on the right trigger and "pumping" (crouching to go faster) on the left. This game is called Roller Champions, though, not Roller Champion. When you have the ball, it's important to keep your crew close, primed to block inevitable challenges from the other team. Granted, matches do feel like brawls at the beginning, but after a while, it clicks. Escaping a pun-named attacker by racing up a wall and pumping back down, giving your pal the opportunity to absolutely destroy the opposing player, is when you see that this is very much a team game.
If you want to offload the ball, transferring the pressure from your shoulders and onto someone else's, you'll have to wait for a teammate to call for the pass. Timing is key, here, as chances to pass, amidst the organised chaos, are few and far between. It's glorious when it all comes off but certainly a challenge, as you still have to be mindful of incoming tackles while planning your move.
Here, the Rocket League comparisons are valid. Understanding Roller Champions is one thing, but mastering it will be a whole other ball game... so to speak. Something as simple as learning to aim and score when a reticule pops up on screen is a level of accuracy that's going to take hours to truly get to grips with.
With its bright Fortnite-style, Roller Champions is easy on the eyes, and while it's light on character customisation at the minute, there are already a stack of emotes. Yep, even in complete chaos, there will be time to get a dab (or six) in after you manage to score. This first glimpse is a positive look at what's to come and a clear indicator that practice is going to be what makes perfect roller skills. Like almost everything else from E3, we're going to have to wait until 2020 to find out how long that takes.
Roller Champions is out on PC in 2020