The latest game from Clash of Clans and Clash Royale maker Supercell is out now in Canada and other regions for its soft launch period on iOS and Android (coming soon). Brawl Stars is probably best described as a top-down version of Overwatch for your mobile phone. A cast of 15 heroes shoots it out in various competitive multiplayer matches lasting about three minutes each. Each hero can be upgraded, customized with skins, and your account levels up and earns perks as you go too. In short, it’s yet another amazingly addictive game from the studio that can’t seem to do any wrong. This is our Brawl Stars review.
What is Brawl Stars?
Brawl Stars is a team-based top-down shooter at heart, mixed in with the sort of progression and loot boxes you’ve come to know and love/hate from both Clash games. The good thing here? There’s no timer to open a loot box, and there is no “time to build” mechanic. The only real time limited factor is on how many coins you can earn from a given match type before it changes maps (which happens daily). And since coins are what you use for loot boxes, and loot boxes get new heroes, skins, and upgrades, well… you see quickly how impatience could cost you a lot of money. But if you’re patient, all that progress can be earned in-game just by playing.
There are four match types, spread across many different maps. Bounty has two teams of 3 facing off against each other to collect stars from the map and from killing other players. The team with the most stars at the end of the 3 minutes wins. The kicker? As you kill other players, your star worth goes up, so if someone kills you and you’ve been on a hot streak – boom. The game could turn tables. Another mode is Smash and Grab – here two teams of three collect gems spawning in the center of a mine. The first team to 10 gems that’s able to hold onto them for about 20 seconds without going under 10 wins. Same rule as Bounty applies – if you die, you drop your gems and they’re up for grabs. There’s also Heist, where the two teams of 3 have to protect a safe full of loot while trying to get the other team’s. And lastly, there’s Showdown – a 10 player battle royale on a constantly shrinking map with gas killing those who linger too long on the fringe. It’s simply last man standing, as you gather elixir to become stronger and stave off death. It’s like the Hunger Games, but you know – cute.
Control is Key
There are two modes of control in Brawl Stars: Joystick to Move and Tap to Move. The former is default on larger devices like the iPhone 7 Plus, while the latter is defaulted on smaller devices. Either works well, and I’d encourage you to play with both in practice matches to see what works best. I prefer the joystick mode, as it’s most like what I’m used to, but the tap to move frees up the lower left portion of the screen from the obstruction of your thumb which can be a tactical advantage. In tap to move, you’ve got to swipe to shoot your enemy, which is decidedly less accurate than the tap to shoot you use when in joystick mode. Either way, you’ll probably get a hand cramp with Joystick to Move, so beware.
Upgrades, Hero Customization, and Brawl Boxes
As you play, you’ll earn coins to spend on brawl boxes, or you can buy the real-money currency of Gems to buy them as well. Some will see this as Pay to Win, so buyer beware – the loot boxes come with hero upgrade potions that can be used to increase health, attack, and super move power. But you can also earn all the same upgrades via playing the game, and there’s a cap on the progression of each hero. So one player or whale can’t always buy his or her way to being more powerful forever; there’s a ceiling.
There are also skins to buy for each hero, and you earn new heroes from the loot boxes. If you get a duplicate, they’re turned into Chips, which are used to outright buy new heroes you might be missing. Each hero has their own strengths and weaknesses, super powers, and so forth. There are 15 right now, with more planned to be released regularly. You can’t buy a hero for gems directly. Each brawl box costs 100 coins or 10 gems, and you’ll be able to earn a few each day before running out of coins to earn for free daily. Plus you get coins by earning trophies with your heroes, so you can always keep playing and ranking up to get more coins.
Be my friend?
Of course, what good would a social mobile game like Brawl Stars be without clans or guilds? In this case, they’re called Bands – in keeping with the Wild West cartoony theme of the game. Right now, they’re not much more than a place to chat, practice or play with friends, and see who can earn the most trophies. But eventually, here’s hoping Supercell adds in some sort of competitive Band PVP modes. Tournaments and the like are undoubtedly planned, as the debut livestream of the game (above) shows off just how well Brawl Stars lends itself to esports.
Final Brawl Stars Review Thoughts
Supercell is one of a few mobile developers that not only seems to be incapable of making a bad game, but they also monetize them fairly. When a game can make something like RNG feel fair, you know it’s on the right track. Brawl Stars action is immediately accessible, its real-time PVP doesn’t intimidate, and its style and charm are through the roof. It’s missing a bit of the UI flair the Clash games bleed, but it more than makes up for that visual polish with some of the best competitive action I’ve ever had on mobile or even console and PC. Brawl Stars is highly recommended, and I would kill to see this come to the Nintendo Switch one day… please, Supercell? Branch into consoles? In short, download it as soon as it’s available to you, or if you have a Canadian iTunes account like I do. This one’s going to be huge.