Brawl Stars Review: Supercell’s superb free-to-play game that you need to play
Played On: Mobile
When I think of mobile games that exemplify high quality gameplay and concepts as well as the ability to garner a solid word of mouth that generates an excellent player base, the immediate name that jumps out of my mouth is Supercell. Likely best known for big names titles like Clash of Clans, Boom Beach, and Clash Royale, Supercell is a developer that I’m always impressed with and once their good old word of mouth magic finally came to me of their new game, Brawl Stars, I just had to see what I was missing.
Thankfully, I listened to that word of mouth as Brawl Stars takes what I loved about the Clash games and implements them in a game filled with fun characters, interesting game modes, and addictive gameplay.
Normally, Supercell often has more strategy-based games that have players strategically place soldiers and other units to attack enemy bases all while players have their fingers crossed that their attacks are successful. While I enjoy this kind of gameplay, I love that Supercell gives more power to the players with complete player control in Brawl Stars. Rather than tap and pray, players can move their characters freely and aim their attacks on other players. That’s right, attacking enemy bases is no more and with a bevy of characters to choose from, there’re plenty of options for players to take other players down head-on.
Now, what would a Supercell game be without a set of fun characters to take control of, right? Brawl Stars, currently, brings together an eclectic group of 24 different characters with unique ways to play. These characters basically shift into specific type of classes: brawlers, splash-damage inflictors, shooters, and “engineer” types. The character diversity is pretty solid although I did notice some copycats whose playstyle is only varied slightly. Characters like Colt and Rico both utilize fairly long-range guns that can let players fire at enemies from afar. However, they are both slightly varied with Rico’s gumballs being able to bounce of walls and Colt’s super move letting players blast through walls. Sure, there are other characters that play similarly to other, but there’s enough variation but in to make players want to try every character out.
They’ll especially want to try every character considering how it’s crucial to not just be one and done in Brawl Stars in order to progress. While I originally found myself playing as Shelly because I was doing really well with her, I noticed that I wasn’t earning as many trophies from winning matches and was going against what seemed like harder opponents. Earning trophies is important, like in other Supercell games, as it allows players to earn new rewards and even new characters and I was seeing that I hit a bit of a wall. That is until a nice little hint appeared while I was waiting for a game to load that informed me of how matching and earning trophies works.
Player matching and trophy accumulation are centered around character level, so trying out new characters and being versatile with more than just one character is beneficial in both battle and progression. This might seem annoying to certain players, but I actually like how Brawl Stars makes you have to be versatile. It stops players from just using one character to dominate and experience the versatility the game has to offer. Not to mention, this makes earning new characters more exciting as I was more interested in trying them out to earn more trophies.
I will say that the character unlocks, while fun and exciting, can feel a little too random. There’re a small handful of characters that unlock through trophy progression, but most are acquired through random loot boxes. These loot boxes aren’t hard to earn or anything like that but having to rely on being lucky in loot boxes to get new characters was kind of a letdown. I would have been fine with a few, but it’s literally most of the roster.
Even without earning most of the characters, though, Supercell does a great job displaying their moves as I was learning about most of the characters through player interaction. Just playing against other players in a variety of game modes was incredibly helpful in understanding character ranges, movement, and playstyle without ever having to earn them.
Supercell includes a variety of game modes that allow players to duke it on varying map layouts and earn different kinds of in-game currency. One of my favorite modes, Showdown, is a nice spin on battle-royale and pits ten players against one another to fight to the death. There’s a lot of great detail put into this mode and it’s a great way to see and learn what characters strengths and weaknesses are. Not to mention, there’s a ton of strategy that can be put into the game mode as being able to camouflage in grass areas, fighting around barriers, and competition for power cubes that heighten your character’s power and health make each match unique.
The map layout’s also never stay the same as the map changes between all the game modes every 24 hours to keep each game mode fresh. Power box positions will change and even spawn points will change. There is also a constant supply of in-game currency that gives players the opportunity to earn loot boxes for free, upgrade characters, and tickets that let players hop in on timed events. There’re also gems that allow players to buy loot boxes and even get random characters. I will say that the pay to win aspects still bugs me, even though it’s pretty typical for mobile games, but I don’t feel like its an intrusive part of the game and it doesn’t feel required to get good content.
Brawl Stars also has some game modes that allow players to work together to take down enemy teams. There’s a duo battle-royale mode that lets players work together to be the last team standing and a slew of other modes that brings players together.
Gem Grab has players work against an enemy team to collect the most gems before time runs out is just one of the modes players can come together. Bounty, a mode where players engage in a team deathmatch styled match, and Heist, a mode where players work together to destroy an enemy safe, help round out some other team-based modes. These game modes are solid and work well with the 24 changes the game goes through. However, the other three game modes, Siege, Brawl Ball, and Event Mode, are very lackluster and highlight some balancing certain characters need.
Siege is a mode that switches games every 24 hours between Brawl Ball, the game’s version of soccer, and Bot Drop, which has teams scrounge for nuts and bolts to summon a robot to take down an enemy base. While I really like Bot Drop, even when it feels a little unfair when teams can horde nuts and bolts, Brawl Ball was not so fun and made me realize some of the balancing that needs to happen to make this game mode fairer. Often times, El Primo players would just be able to walk the ball in even if he was getting fired at by everyone because his health is so high. Also, I constantly noticed that anytime I was on a team with Barley, a splash damage character, I would lose because they wouldn’t able to be to do enough damage and would die incredibly quick. Personally, I also hate Bo’s Catch a Fox Super move, where he lays hidden mines on the battlefield, because it’s completely undetectable and does way too much damage.
Event mode felt a little under-whelming as well as the mode doesn’t have much replayability to it and never offers enough reward to make playing it feel worth it. The concepts of it are great, with players working together in a horde mode or take down a giant boss, but it was never a concept that was engaging for me to come back for seconds.
There’s so much greatness that comes from Brawl Stars, though, that it far out-weighs any nitpicks or issues I have with it. It’s an excellent mobile game that has a lot to offer and shows why Supercell is such a mobile powerhouse. The game shows a strong, new direction for the company without them losing those special roots that players, including myself, have grown to love.