On May 21st, Velan Studios released “Knockout City”. The game is published by Electronic Arts under the EA Originals label. The title is a fun, fast-paced game that has scored very well among many reviewers. This time of year can be a drought of gaming titles that review well but Knockout City has been a surprise and should be nominated, if not win, a few awards at the end of the year. Here are the three things I like about the game, and a couple of suggestions.
Dodgeball makes for a unique game mode.
If you wanted to really get down into the genre of Knockout City, I suppose it’s a “third-person shooter” but you’re not shooting guns, you’re throwing dodgeballs. I don’t recall a dodgeball game outside of custom games in Halo. It’s an easy-to-follow system. Teams of three, play dodgeball against each other. You must hit an opponent twice to score one point. The first team to 10 wins the round. Win two of three rounds to win the match. There are variations of the game mode, such as a one on one, and a four on four mode but the primary game is three on three. If you’re tired of shooting things, throw dodgeballs instead.
Skilled players are rewarded.
If you think the game itself is simple, you’ll be surprised by how large the skill gap can be. Throwing the ball is the most basic action. When you throw, you can throw a curveball around objects. You can throw a lob over obstacles to hit your target. You can catch a ball thrown at you, and a perfect catch gives you a “fully charged” ball to make for a very strong counterattack. You can throw your teams which counts for two hits if you strike your opponent. Players can pass to their teammates which gives the receiving teammate the fully charged throw. This is a great mechanic in a 2 on 1 situation. Catching the ball is not difficult but if the attackers are passing between each other, it makes that catch far more difficult.
Simple to pick up, and a fresh breath of air.
The game is not difficult to pick up and the tutorial walks you through everything you need to know. It’s a fun, casual game that makes for a lot of great moments. You can treat it as a competitive game if you’d like but that’s certainly not required. If you feel like the “games as a service” trend is weighing you down, Knockout City brings back that casual video game feeling from a decade ago.
I do have a couple of suggestions that I believe may improve the game.
Ranked play that balances wins and losses.
At the moment, the ranked play in Knockout City rewards players for winning, but losses do not count against the player. This makes the ranking less about winning and losing, and more about grinding through ranked levels. While you don’t need to do this, it’s an option. I believe balancing losses into the ranking would provide a better outcome and give winning more meaning. A strength of this game is it’s casual play, but there is a casual playlist in place alongside ranked play.
Knockout City seems like it could take the tournament feature from Rocket League and casual-ize it into a more approachable mode. At this time, tournaments in Rocket League are only at scheduled times and they’re large enough that it’s a commitment to pay in them. Thanks to the casualness of Knockout City, I believe a tournament mode that matches 4 teams into a two-round tournament would be exciting.
Velan Studios is a small team. My suggestions are just that. The game is very good as is and I’m having a lot of fun playing it. If you like shooters and/or sports games, this is definitely one to pick up as the mechanics feel familiar but unique at the same time.