Due to the shift in Hearthstone to the Standard format coming within the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring games that, while not in the “top” esports, are fun and rewarding to play while I farm gold and figure out the new Standard. Expect first-glance impressions on these popular games.
This week, I’m going to start with what is arguably one of the more popular minor esports: Rocket League. To play, I went to a friend’s house to game with them on their Xbox One. We spent about 3 hours playing: the first hour was mostly learning the controls and strategy and the following two were spent shooting balls into goals.
I used the “Paladin” car, but many players we encountered used the “Merc” car. After a bit of research, this seems based in the fact that its hitbox is larger, thus making it easier to hit the ball. By far, the most complex maneuvers in Rocket League involve hitting the ball in the air by launching your car with “boost”.
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After playing for 3 hours, I feel like the game resembles childhood sports more than anything. Often, not understanding strategy, children will chase after the ball in a clump, all hoping to get the ball. Much the same can be said for Rocket League. In large numbers, players often become devoid of strategy and all run for the ball. Thus, removing the ball from the clump often guarantees a goal.
My friend and I worked in tandem: Usually, I’d pass them the ball, and they would shoot. With the clump of players running around, we were able to win several games this way. However, once we tried entering 2v2, other teams were coordinated as well, making scoring much harder without mechanical skill. Finally, we went 1v1 against each other and my friend’s time playing the game quickly showed. They were just better at scoring goals with crazy maneuvers that I had no chance of pulling off without investing more time into the game.
Overall, Rocket League is definitely fun and competitive. It’s easy to pick up but hard to master, much like many top esports (usually MOBAs). However, the game’s competitive scene is tiny. In 2015, the game had about nine thousand dollars of prize money awarded in about 50 tournaments. This is not a viable scene for a competitive player, so unless the major tournament organizations pick up the scene and drive it, it will be limited to a small but loyal playerbase with few tournaments. It may be that Rocket League will be another of the many multiplayer action games on Steam that simply didn’t take off.