Broomstick League Is Entertaining But Might Be Outdone by a Game From 2003
Broomstick League is now available on Steam Early Access, but at current it looks as if it's being bested by a similar game from 2003.
In 2018, Blue Isle Studios introduced a game mode called Broomstick League to its popular standalone game Citadel: Forged with Fire. The mode saw 10 players on broomsticks, zooming around an arena trying to score goals with a singular ball. The mode obviously drew in a good deal of fans, as 2020 has seen a standalone version of Broomstick League arrive on Steam Early Access.
The aim in Broomstick League is simple; grab the ball, maybe pass it to another player, use magic spells to turn the tables, but ultimately, try and lob the ball into the other team’s singular goal. Originally, the mod allowed 5v5 matches, but since launching as a standalone title, the player count has been significantly reduced to a maximum of 3v3 matches. However, that’s fair enough; my assumption is that the game became too chaotic, in the same way that Rocket League‘s 4v4 Chaos mode is only just bearable. However, despite being 3v3 or even 2v2, Broomstick League still feels messy, primarily because it doesn’t encourage teamwork.
Unless I got lucky and landed a game with players who wanted to work as a team, the majority of the time I found myself hovering, watching everyone fight for the ball. The matches are treated more like a free-for-all than a team match, with hardly any passing taking place. Then again, players probably don’t know when they can pass because half of Broomstick League‘s problems seem to come from lack of indication.
It’s not entirely clear when you can pass the ball to your teammate, or even where they are off-camera. When you do see them, there’s a faint circle surrounding them, and the indicator to show your spell charging up feels too hidden in plain sight. To add to that, most of the arenas don’t establish the team sides well enough. There’s a lack of decorations, such as flags, or team-colored markings. The goals themselves aren’t particularly colorful either. I will admit, when someone does eventually pass the ball, you get a notification warning you of an incoming pass, but unless you have ball cam turned on, knowing where it’s coming from is troublesome.
Players can use their wands to gain the upper hand by performing spells. A Blast spell allows players to blow the ball away, or out of the opponent’s hands. A Blink spell allows the player to teleport a certain distance depending on how long the spell is charged. A Magnet spell allows you to reel a free ball towards you, provided that you’re within range. The spells (once activated) do have cooldown timers that stop excessive use, so spamming a spell won’t take place in the arena.
Ignoring the lack of teamwork, I was impressed with how seamless flying feels. Players aren’t restricted to where they can fly within the arena, and the act of flying up and down is fluid. The boost refills when not in use, but when activated, it doesn’t feel like you’re flying much faster. Instead, you get visual effects that simulate the feeling of speed. The only thing that ruins the flight is when you toggle ball cam on. The camera locks to the ball as expected, but you lose the freedom of moving about fluidly which feels unnatural. Taking the same approach to ball cam as Rocket League would help hugely, allowing free movement while locked to the ball.
Broomstick League as a whole reminds me of EA’s 2003 title Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, a game that found players taking part in the magical sport of Quidditch. You were able to play alongside Chasers, Beaters, Keepers, and Seekers with two teams of 5 that fought one another to win the match. The difference is that Quidditch World Cup has more going on, and strangely feels more polished.
In Quiddish World Cup players are encouraged to work as a team, passing indicators are clear, the arenas clearly distinguish which side belongs to what team, and there’s even an audience that adds atmosphere. Broomstick League seems to fail at bringing the arenas to life — except with one arena sporting a mythical creature that pops its head up in the background. Broomstick League, instead of feeling like a renowned sport, feels more like an illegal back-alley wizard sport, hidden in dungeons and secluded areas.
You can make your witch or wizard customized to how you want them to look. Hairstyles, eye color, cape emblems, wand types, broomstick types, goal explosions and more are all changeable. Currently the choices are a bit lacking, but there’s an in-game store where in-game currency earned through playing matches can be used to unlock more cosmetics. There seem to be loads of room for new additions, which is fantastic and keeps the player motivated to play matches and earn more currency.
There needs to be more action added too, be that with some more camera shake, lens flares, more impactful boost animations, and even a more cinematic replay. It’d be nice to even see players being knocked off of their broomsticks, or just hanging on, something to give the game some exhilarating moments. Right now, Broomstick League feels too slow and gentle for a sport that feels like it’s meant to be tough and fast.
The fact that Broomstick League is in early access means that there’s loads of room for improvement, but it also means there’s a lot of issues. While it’s fun, the inability to rebind keys is frustrating, especially when playing with a controller. It feels way more comfortable, but some buttons have two functions bound to one trigger. The information in the game world also needs to be more clear, with clearer team sides and more accessible ways of locating the ball and teammates.
Ultimately though, Broomstick League feels wonderfully fun, especially when teamwork does eventually come into play. However, introducing more ways to encourage the players to work as a team would be great. At the moment, I think that could include maybe introducing more points for passing, or making the goals smaller to counter those who seem to never miss a shot. I just feel that there needs to be a lot more atmosphere added to the game to ensure that it’s not bested by Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup, a game that’s over 15 years old at this point.