This game has been by far the best free to play game that I have played on steam and it is currently one of the few that I am actually continuing to play because of the community and the continual support of the developers. This is a long review with a general pros and cons list at the bottom, if you wanna hear me ramble feel free to read but check out the botttom if youre scrolling through and want a quick synopsis.
About myself: College athlete with a huge interest in sports and gaming is one of my favorite hobbies. I enjoy MOBAs such as LOL, DOTA2, and Smite and play them frequently while also enjoying shooters and strategy games. Honestly sports games havent held much time with me simply because they are $60 new each year and the community disappears immediately for the new version and while fun it gets expensive. I downloaded this as my weekly free to play game (Cause I want to try new games and see what catches my eye) and got stuck playing all night. I wanted to beat the bots and after a while I did, I ran into some humans too on occasion and that was even better. I got my brother and a friend to get the game and now we are competing in the first esports season for this game on Team Shadow Fox (hence the [SFX] tag) If you see this review, feel free to add me as a friend and I will have no trouble playing with you if you need a teammate or just have a question about the game.
About the Game: Currently it is 3v3 airhockey/icehockey fused with the idea of a MOBA. You are able to select from a small pool of champions/characters/runners which are given a couple of abilities to work as a team and outscore your opponents. Game time is a short 5 minutes so you arent deeply committed to anything and the que times are only 1min long maximum. There is no pay to win element of this game as the "real money" currency is meant for asthetic skins or hats or unlocking a runner early. There is a regular in game currency used for picking from "implants" that can help customize your champion from improving his speed, defense, offense, or supporting your teammates. The in game currency with enough grinding will also certainly unlock champions you are hoping to play. There is also a free champion rotation to help players try them out and buff their champion pool.
Roles Currently are simple and the champion pool currently has 8 runners in it with more on the way. Strikers are designed to be fast and add power to their shots. Supports are designed for passing options as well as to buff their team or debuff their opponents such as speed ups, slocks, dislodging the puck. And of course the goalie who has abilities to help keep the puck out of your own net. Hopefully as new champions come out the strategies and playstyles will be as complex and diverse as one could hope for.
The Community: By far the reason I enjoy this game so much right now. First off, how frequently are you going to be able to speak to the game developers of some of the bigger companies like Riot or Blizzard and actually get a solid response? The developers will talk to you, get your opinions, tell you about upcoming game builds or runners, even friend you on steam. One even helped troubleshoot a graphical error I was encountering in one of the early patches this year. They are hard working and are continually working to improve the game and its player base all while having fun too. I know the game is still young, but I know these guys wont abandon it and leave it in the purgatory that is early acess alpha games.
They hold very frequent events and tournaments which is great for meeting other players, testing your skill and watching some of the best teams go head to head. It adds the fun competitive edge without going over the top. There are weekly mini tournaments with which to compete in that are low stress and fun while on the weekends there are solo player and team based tournaments which are designed for the serious competitors and the best players will compete in these. Oddly enough this is how I got roped into the game when I followed the twitch stream and some of the best players in the game (Hypnos and Pit) brought in a guy with less than 10hrs play time into what felt like a pro event. It was a lot of fun and nobody was too upset or frustrated with how lousy I was and we still came out ok. On top of that Spearhead games has a dedicated sports caster Jethro Tull who will make you feel like your actually at the arena. Finally all of the players who frequent the game all seem to be chill individuals who have no trouble helping out a new player, like new ideas, and are generally fun to play against. They will tell you gg and actually mean it.
My final Pros vs Cons list
-Free to play and not pay to win
-3v3 team competitive experience
-Short time comittment ~5min
-Well designed and balanced characters (Devs will make balance changes)
-Solid repeat player base
-Competitive tournaments and ranking system
-Decent soundtrack (repetitive after a few games though)
-Player base is friendly in game
-Devs listen and care both in forum and in streamed events and personal message even
-Devs will create runners based on fan suggestions (Obviously it needs to be feasible and balanced but it has happened)
-Community appears to be growing if only slowly
-Great game for groups of friends (Ideally 3 or 6)
Cons/What needs to improve
-Small player base (outside of events its tough finding a full match if you are solo, although this is improving)
-It's alpha so still a glitch here and there, mostly graphical, nothing debilitating
-Small Champion Pool (New game so its to be expected and it should grow)
-Ranking system is not necessarily tied with matchmaking system (New patch just came out, but currently there is nothing thats going to stop you from being matched with the weekend warrior if you are new)
-Ranking System is ELO which means its a solo player rating for a team based game (Currently this is the only feasible option, there arent enough players for a tiered system like LOL or Smite and this system will minimize the damage if you do get matched with a pro on your first day out)
-AI is nothing special, they look for straight line passes and shots even if it across the middle of your own goal with the other team in the way. If you have a full group there is no issue, but if not dont expect the bots to be carrying your butt to victory.
Finally any issues you do have with the game, the devs want to hear about them. Post in the forums, pitch ideas, visit the streams during tournaments. They will answer you, other players will answer you. Graphical glitch, they can help. Need friends to play with, I added 4 friends this week cause I posted I wanted to develop my sunday teams roster. The best thing you can do for yourself and this game is to download it, get two friends to download it, play together and compete. You wont be disappointed and if you are say so and check it out the next patch.