Switchblade Is Like a Twisted Metal MOBA, But Really Needs an Audience
Switchblade is trying to break the MOBA mold, crossing the genre with battle-car mechanics straight from Twisted Metal and Rocket League.
Switchblade is a crazy beast. Relatively novice studio Lucid Games is attempting to take on the MOBA market at large, which is filled with some of the heaviest hitters in the industry. Even better, they are driving that momentum with a unique take–instead of a top-down League of Legends format, we see vehicle action more akin to Twisted Metal or Rocket League. While the game is absolutely worth booting up, especially to MOBA newcomers, there is one thing that it is lacking: an audience.
For anyone new to the MOBA scene, the genre focuses on large-scale arenas where teams of five or six charge head on to slay some mobs (smaller CPU creatures), level their character, claim objectives, and knock out opponents. While the Battle Royale scene has overtaken the genre meta from MOBAs, they still maintain a huge following. Some of the most prominent tournaments held yearly are all MOBA based, and at any given time Mixer and Twitch are dominated by players.
That being said, it’s worth noting that almost every MOBA looks very similar to the outside observer. They are typically third-person action based titles which deviate when it comes to metas and abilities. Frankly, it is an impossible market to break into in 2019. Unless, of course, you go for a hail mary and make something out of left field. Similar to how Tetris 99 is redefining what it means to be a Battle Royale game, Switchblade is attempting to offer a different perspective in what a MOBA game is.
While many things are the same between a Dota 2 and Switchblade, there are some major differences — the most significant of which being the fact that everything is a battle car. No more wizards, heroes, or gods — you are swapping out heroes for something more like Sweet Tooth. Truth be told, that alone makes the game far more approachable compared to other more dominating MOBAs. Thanks to headway made by arcadey battle-car games like Rocket League, it is much easier to convince my friends to pick up this game and get them to understand the rules.
Of course, the utilization of vehicles isn’t just cosmetic. Thanks to the newfound mobility, we get to add some speed to a MOBA, even if it is only visual. Some cars and tanks are faster than others, so you have to weigh your options of the 17 available vehicles. Do you want one that can pack a punch or one that can peel out of a messy situation with gusto? Thankfully, players can choose two in the beginning to interchange. With this in mind, the five-player pools always have some nice diversity with ten cars in the rotation.
Other than that, the game is by far and large similar enough to the MOBA scene where it isn’t going to make a huge difference. It has its own style of guardians, towers, and “jungle” objectives where the game will be instantly recognizable to fans of the genre. On the other end, everything is so well-explained and streamlined in the tutorial that beginners will not need to worry about getting lost in deeper mechanics.
This is by no means a comprehensive review of the game — it is still in Early Access, is limited to one map with one mode, and is still tweaking bugs. The game is by no means rough, but there is a healthy development life ahead of it. That is, if they can manage to work out its most significant issue.
And what is that predicament? At the end of the day, the biggest issue in the game is a fanbase, or lack there-of. Since the game launched on Steam, it has an all-time peak of 70 concurrent players — which doesn’t include a more healthy fanbase on the PS4. The Reddit community is equally tiny, with little to no action on the forum:
This leads to its own forms of difficulties. Without a steady fanbase, it is a pretty tall order to have new development on modes or maps that will split up the player base. Matchmaking is not nearly as quick as an Apex Legends or Fortnite game, and often you will get auto-filled with some bots. But overlooking those hindrances, the title itself is a fun experiment and likely the only MOBA I’m willing to try out with my non-MOBA playing friends.
If you are someone who has been digging the Rocket League scene and are looking for something slightly more strategic but with the same pick-up-and-play flair, go ahead and dive into Switchblade. By all means, it scratches a similar itch and is a good gateway drug to the genre at large. Still, it’s long term appeal may be at risk if the player count continues to dwindle.
Switchblade is a free-to-play MOBA currently available on PC and PS4; feel free to follow the game’s official Twitter along with developer Lucid Games.