Brawl Stars is a worthy, if simple, Clash Royale successor. For quite a while there, it sounded like Brawl Stars wasn’t going to make it. Supercell’s free-to-play mobile shooter soft-launched in Canada in June 2017 and then reached a few more countries this past January, but the lethargic rollout suggested that Brawl Stars wasn’t prepared to join the likes of Clash Royale and Clash of Clans as an international smash.
Its creators agreed, apparently. During its 500-plus days in limited release, the Finnish studio reworked the controls and progression system, shifted the screen orientation, and made myriad other tweak. Supercell has a medical history of killing soft-launched games that couldn’t match its vision, but Brawl Stars finally emerged from the gauntlet alive, and seemingly better to have gone through it.
Brawl Stars smartly adapts team-based multiplayer shooters for mobile in a way that makes perfect sense for pocket-sized touch devices. It’s an objective-based shooter, a battle royale game, a MOBA-lite and much more, all wrapped up in an approachable and attractive package.
Both Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds happen to be huge on iOS and Android (and everywhere else) this year, but neither is definitely an optimal smartphone experience. These are certainly sufficient in the event you don’t have a current console or a capable PC, or you’re just hungry for competition on the go, but they’re awkward in all of the ways you’d expect from the mobile port. They’re cumbersome and imprecise, and don’t run along with on older devices. The oft-lengthy matches also aren’t perfect for hopping in for a simple fix.
Brawl Stars doesn’t suffer from these issues, because it’s developed for mobile and cognizant from the platform’s limitations. Matches typically last a few minutes, and also the top-down view means there’s no fussing having a camera. One virtual stick controls your character while another aims and fires your weapon; you can alternately tap the latter stick for a single shot in the nearest foe. And once your ” special ” attack charges, another virtual stick activates to aim and launch that.
That’s all there exists into it. It works impressively well: Movement and aiming both feel spot-on, and there’s essentially no learning curve to cope with. The matches are fast and fluid, and pretty satisfying despite their compact length. They’ll get the heart pumping too; I’ve already cursed aloud (to myself) at many random opponents (who can’t hear me) when gunned down in the heat of battle.
Gem Grab is the gemas gratis brawl stars experience, a three-on-three offering by which gleaming, purple gems pop from a hole in the center of the stage. Each team vies to get the first to claim 10 gems, then hold firm since the timer ticks down. But a properly-timed shotgun blast or luchador elbow drop will scatter the defeated player’s stash, quickly turning the tide within this entertaining mode.
More play options emerge when you gradually accumulate trophies. Showdown is Brawl Stars’ 10-player take on the battle royale, and can be found in both solo and duos variants. It’s pretty straightforward: you’ll fire away at foes and then try to survive, however the strategic twist includes health insurance and attack-boosting power cubes scattered in treasure boxes round the stage. In familiar battle royale fashion, the play area gradually shrinks over time – here, it’s with poison clouds that creep through the edges towards the middle of the map.
Bounty mode is like team deathmatch, with bonus points for taking out opponents with long kill streaks, whilst the MOBA-esque Heist sends your team off and away to destroy the enemies’ safe before they eradicate yours. Brawl Ball is … well, it’s soccer with guns. That’s pretty amusing.
The cartoonish look is sharp throughout, from your level backdrops to the characters themselves, having a solid mix of play styles within the currently 22-strong hero roster. An Elvis-esque cowboy with powerful pistols aujoxu has to be precisely aimed? A robot bartender who lobs explosive bottles for ample splash damage? How about a hero who can summon a lumbering bear to hunt down foes? They’re all here.
Granted, the characters don’t pack much personality beyond their vibrant looks, nevertheless the diversity in attack and attribute cocktails keeps things interesting. The heroes feel different on the battlefield, and you could quickly sense when some really are a better fit for play modes over others, or which a complementary team pairing provides a far more effective unit in battle
Brawl Stars’ diverse selection of genre riffs keeps things lively, and like Supercell’s older Clash Royale, this free-to-play game is extremely fairly monetized. It is possible to play just as much as you want without timers to wait (or pay) through, but you’ll only earn item box-unlocking tokens to your first number of matches of the long session. Beyond that, you’ll must wait for the tokens to recharge before earning any further rewards.
Even amidst a welcome array of distinctive play modes and characters, Brawl Stars sticks to the same basic gameplay elements throughout. It’s what assists in keeping the action so immediate and approachable, and it’s a big element of why Supercell’s latest game succeeds.
That also could be what ultimately limits its long term appeal, however. Brawl Stars has become streamlined to dramatic effect, but there’s little depth to the moment-to-moment gameplay. It doesn’t have the kind of strategic hook and outside-the-game tinkering that made Clash Royale this kind of worthy obsession and, eventually, an appropriate esport. Supercell might have competitive ambitions for Brawl Stars too, but I just don’t see enough tactical potential here to yield something which people would bother to look at. Soon enough, that same degree of simplicity could make initially excited players peel away in favour of fresher mobile distractions.
But who knows? Given the length of time Supercell spent tinkering with Brawl Stars before launch, it appears fair to assume that the studio may position the same sort of effort into keeping the video game lively and engaging for the long term. Even though not, Brawl Stars is a bite-sized treat that you could savor free of charge right now, plus it feels perfect on your smartphone