Stunlock Studio's "team arena brawler" has done Battlerite by me. I've been dipping back into it with the release of every new champion, and each time I say to myself "ah yeah, this is the update that's going to get me properly get back into this". You know what though? I think this is the update that's going to get me properly back into this.
Today sees the launch of patch 1.4. Matchmaking has been improved, there's a new cosmetic rewards system and season 1 of competitive play has begun in earnest (we've just been in the "pre-season" up till now). More important than all that though is the new melee champion, Jamila the Shadowblade Assassin, whose skill set somehow includes everything I want from a hero in my MOBA-lite-likes.
I'll dig into the rest of what's new in just a minute, but let's start with Jamila. I tend to play agile damage dealers whenever I've got the option, and part of the reason I like Battlerite so much is because every character is an agile damage dealer to some extent. Jamila isn't quite as nippy as some of Battlerite's other champions, but her specific spin on mobility involves leaping at walls and pirouetting off them, incapacitating anyone she passes through on the rebound. She can also hookshot to walls, and with the right battlerite selected she can leap off them using that ability too.
She's also got a shuriken that heals her or nearby allies when it does damage, a counter that turns her invisible and an ultimate that auto-aims and inflict a tonne of damage on a single opponent or a group. I'm absolutely willing to forgive the whole generic shadow assassin thing when her abilities are this fun.
Aside from the new hero, the addition I'm most pleased to see is a pre-game lobby for ranked games. As the devs say, the idea "is to enable players to create better, more strategic team compositions and allow for counter picking against the enemy team". I've only got a vague idea of who counters who, but it seems like a necessary move for high level play. The devs go through more details and explain the logic behind their decisions in this blog post from last month.
Elsewhere in patch 1.4, the way your earn cosmetic rewards has been changed to fit in with the seasons, each of which will run "for an average of 10 weeks". Instead of weekly quests you can now choose up to three sponsors, which will give you different cosmetic rewards for completing a certain number of daily quests over the season. I only have a passing interest in cosmetics, but I do like how this lets you set a long term reward for yourself and gives you an incentive to log in regularly.
Matchmaking has been tightened up: you'll now need to complete 10 placement matches if you haven't done any before, and 5 if you have. If a match is close, the outcome of it will effect your rank more than if it was a wipeout. It sounds a little counter intuitive to me - surely a rank should change more with an overwhelming defeat or loss - though the hope is that this will be less frustrating for players who feel like they've been matched with terrible teammates.
There are UI improvements and the like that I haven't mentioned here, so go and check out the update page for more. You'll also find details on the balance changes, which most notably include buffs to Oldur, everyone's favourite under-powered time owl.