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May 2021

Broomstick League

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: Blue Isle Publishing
Developer: Virtual Basement
Release Date: March 5, 2020


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PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'Broomstick League'

by Cody Medellin on April 13, 2020 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Broomstick League puts players in the sky to compete in up to 3 versus 3 matches with and against other would be wizards from around the world in a high flying, trick shot scoring battle for supremacy of the skies.

When EA had the license to create games based on the Harry Potter movies, it did what everyone else would've done and made the typical game adaptations as each film was released. There wasn't a Harry Potter movie releasing in 2003, so that's when the developer decided to create a game adaptation of the series' popular sport of Quidditch. Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup was met with mixed reviews from critics and fans, but fans of the franchise appreciated having a video game take on the fictional sport. There hasn't been a Quidditch game since then, but there's still a pocket of people who want a follow-up. For those people, Broomstick League is on Steam Early Access.

At first glance, this is Quidditch — minus the name and the Harry Potter license. The stadium is more tall than wide, and there's an invisible ceiling to ensure that you don't go too high. Your characters play both offense and defense, except you're using your magic to pull the ball toward you, pass it, knock it away from opponents, and fire it toward the goal. That goal also happens to be rather tiny, so you have to aim your shots instead of chucking it out there and hoping for the best.

Broomstick League actually plays more like a flying version of Rocket League thanks to some changes from the game's inspiration. For starters, the title can either be played in 1v1, 2v2, or 3v3 configurations, with no one occupying special roles on the team. There's only one ball, so no one can suddenly win by being a Seeker and grabbing a snitch to immediately take the win. Scoring a goal comes complete with explosive flair, followed by a taunt before the ball is reset in the center and the scramble begins anew.

For the most part, the game is easy to pick up, since it really mimics the accessible portions of Rocket League so well. It takes some time to get used to the act of flying, and dealing with cooldowns adds to that learning curve, since you have to condition yourself to not spam spells when things are going awry. In time, you'll be able to do the flashier things, like teleport in front of rushing players to catch them off guard. The speed of the game is slower than in similar titles, but it does well in helping you keep your bearings. An increased speed option would've been nice for those who have gotten used to the mechanics.

At the moment, there are only two things that stop Broomstick League from being a must-have title. The first is that it is quite tough to even get your hands reliably on the ball. Thanks to a lack of an indicator to let you know how far you are from the ball and a lack of visible range for your magnet spell, you can charge straight into the ball and find yourself getting nowhere close to it as the opponent deftly snatches it away. It's bad enough that it takes you far longer than usual to get through the tutorial, since you can't skip the objective outright. For a few players, this will be frustrating enough that they may see the opening scrum as something not worth participating in.

The second issue is something the developers can't necessarily work on, and that's the online community (or lack of it). Log on now, and you'll see a good number of people on the leaderboards, but try searching for a game, and you'll find that it's nearly impossible to find random people to play with. The game mitigates this by always filling up the slots with bots, so you aren't waiting an eternity to get a game going, but that is disappointing since the game is completely focused on online multiplayer, with no solo campaign or local multiplayer in sight. As a result, the game really needs some strong word of mouth to get that community active.

The presentation at the moment works well enough. The character models look fine, even though there's not much variety as far as the character creation options go. Often, you'll start to see the same bot configurations in the same match, which seems odd, since there are enough options to make enough distinctive bots for a 3v3 match. The arenas are rather sparse, as the more dazzling ones — with an arena with a large monster looming on the outside feel sparse without a crowd present. At the very least, the performance is good, so there's a minor chance of you getting dropped frames during heated skirmishes.

There's potential in Broomstick League. The simplification of the Quidditch concept works wonders, and while it'll take some practice to wrap your head around the more freeform movement and the range needed to pick up the ball, you'll find the concept quite easy to understand. Aside from some polish, all it really needs now is a community to keep it alive; that may come to fruition as the title progresses toward a release date.

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