Brawl Stars is actually a worthy, if simple, Clash Royale successor. For a while there, it appeared 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 your gauntlet alive, and seemingly better to have experienced it.
Brawl Stars smartly adapts team-based multiplayer shooters for mobile in a way in which makes perfect sense for pocket-sized touch devices. It’s an objective-based shooter, a battle royale game, a MOBA-lite and a lot more, all wrapped up within an approachable and attractive package.
Both Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have been huge on iOS and Android (and everywhere else) this coming year, but neither is definitely an optimal smartphone experience. They are certainly good enough in the event you don’t have a current console or even a capable PC, or you’re just hungry for competition on the go, but they’re awkward in all the ways you’d expect from a mobile port. They’re cumbersome and imprecise, and don’t run along with on older devices. The oft-lengthy matches also aren’t ideal for hopping set for a quick fix.
Brawl Stars doesn’t are afflicted by these issues, because it’s designed for mobile and cognizant of 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 are able to alternately tap the second stick for a single shot on the nearest foe. And when your personal attack charges, another virtual stick activates to aim and launch that.
That’s all there is with it. It really 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 your heart pumping too; I’ve already cursed aloud (to myself) at many random opponents (who can’t hear me) when gunned down within the heat of battle.
Gem Grab will be the brawl stars android experience, a three-on-three offering where gleaming, purple gems pop from a hole in the middle of the stage. Each team vies to get the first one to claim 10 gems, then hold firm because the timer ticks down. But a well-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 try to survive, however the strategic twist comes with health and attack-boosting power cubes scattered in treasure boxes around the stage. In familiar battle royale fashion, the play area gradually shrinks as time passes – here, it’s with poison clouds that creep from your edges towards the center of the map.
Bounty mode is much like team deathmatch, with bonus points for taking out opponents with long kill streaks, as 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 towards the characters themselves, with a solid mix of play styles found within the currently 22-strong hero roster. An Elvis-esque cowboy with powerful pistols aujoxu should be precisely aimed? A robot bartender who lobs explosive bottles for ample splash damage? How about a hero that 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, but the diversity in attack and attribute cocktails keeps things interesting. The heroes feel different on the battlefield, and you may quickly sense when some are a better fit for play modes over others, or which a complementary team pairing creates a far more effective unit in battle
Brawl Stars’ diverse array of genre riffs keeps things lively, and like Supercell’s older Clash Royale, this free-to-play game is extremely fairly monetized. You can play as much as you desire with no timers to wait patiently (or pay) through, but you’ll only earn item box-unlocking tokens for the first handful of matches of the long session. Beyond that, you’ll have to wait for a tokens to recharge before earning any more rewards.
Even amidst a welcome selection of distinctive play modes and characters, Brawl Stars sticks for the same basic gameplay elements throughout. It’s what helps keep the action so immediate and approachable, and it’s a big a part of why Supercell’s latest game succeeds.
Which also may be what ultimately limits its long term appeal, however. Brawl Stars has become streamlined to dramatic effect, but there’s little depth towards the moment-to-moment gameplay. It doesn’t have the type of strategic hook and outside-the-game tinkering that made Clash Royale this type of worthy obsession and, eventually, an appropriate esport. Supercell may well have competitive ambitions for Brawl Stars too, however i just don’t see enough tactical potential here to yield something which people would bother to view. In time, that same amount of simplicity could make initially excited players peel away in support of fresher mobile distractions.
But that 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 game lively and interesting for the long haul. Even if not, Brawl Stars is really a bite-sized treat that you can savor at no cost today, and it also feels perfect on your smartphone