Review: Brawl Stars
Brawl stars is a free to play action game from the creators of Clash of Clans. Brawl Stars is available for free on both iOS and Android.
Brawl stars is a rare game. In a sea of cash grabs and garbage that we call free to play mobile games, it's really a treat when one comes around that seems fair to both free to play players and those who want to spend some money. When Brawl Stars first came out I was hooked and couldn’t stop playing. Life got in the way and I just fell off the game. After a major update, I picked it back up, and can not understand why I didn't do so sooner.
Brawl Stars is basically a hero shooter. You have a wide variety of characters, each with their own personality and play style. It’s easy to find one that fits your play style but it's even easier to fall in love with them all.
Every character has a main attack and a special attack, and then once leveled up and upgraded, you get another ability called a star power. Every ability is unique to each player. Some characters are melee focused while others are able to take you down from long range; all have their pros and cons and it is balanced excellently. I never feel weaker or stronger than another character in most situations, the game comes down to getting in the right spots and on your skill.
Unlocking characters for free to play players can be a bit of a grind, but trust me, it’s doable. As you play, you earn trophies; there is something called “Trophy Road” which has you going up a trophy ladder. There are 10 brawlers to unlock just by going up the ladder. The other characters come from what’s called Brawl Boxes, which are earned by playing the game.
At the time of writing this there are 37 characters, and after more hours than I care to admit, I still have more to unlock. When you open up a box and you see you're getting a character it's one of those moments that make you cheer with excitement.
There are a lot of game modes that all play differently. The map layouts change daily keeping things fresh and unique. One constant in each map is high grass that you are able to hide in; making use of this in strategic ways is something that is always fun and rewarding. The main game mode is called Gem Grab. It’s a 3v3 mode where, in the center of the map, a gem will drop every few seconds. The first team to get and hold 10 gems will win. Whenever you die, you drop all your gems. There is definitely a risk reward here that makes every match interesting and unique.
While that’s the main mode (and the mode the tutorial will make you play) its not my favorite. To no surprise to anyone who knows my game style, my favorite is their take on the battle royale genre, in the mode called Showdown. Showdown can be played solo or with one friend. It’s 10 players or 5 teams of 2, last man or team standing wins.
They change up the normal rules of a battle royale in a very fitting way for this game. When the game starts, everyone starts in a fixed location, and you will see many boxes on the playing field. If you attack the boxes and break them you will get a power up. The amount of power ups you have is displayed over your head for everyone to see. When you kill someone they also drop a power up. The power ups are real game changers; they give you stronger attacks and more health. Being able to see the number of power ups a player has adds some planning to the game. If you have a much lower number than someone, you can't just run out and attack them, you need to strategize.
The team mode is called Duo Showdown and this changed the rules up even more. When you or your teammate dies, the surviving partner sees a respawn timer. If they can hold out for fifteen seconds the dead player will respawn. There is a downside to respawning, you will lose all the power ups that you had, this will make you very underpowered in the end of the round.
The other modes are all unique. One called Brawl Ball has you battling it out while playing soccer. Siege has you building a robot to attack the enemy base. Bounty, a team deathmatch like mode, where the more kills you get the higher your bounty. When you have a high bounty you're worth more points if you die. All of them are equally fun.
They have special event modes too. There is a boss battle that has you fighting a boss with increasing difficulty each time you complete it. Then there is a Big Game mode which is a 5 v 1, where the one is a player controlled bigger and more powerful version of the character they chose. There are so many modes it seems impossible to get bored with this game.
From a competitive side, the matchmaking is ok, not great. Each character has their own trophy count that goes up and down based on winning and losing. All of the characters trophy counts added together is your total trophy count. Your total is only used for trophy road rewards, not matchmaking. Matchmaking uses your characters individual trophy count. This is both good and bad. The good is when you get a new character that you didn’t get to level up yet, you're matched with characters that are similar level. The bad is if someone with a high trophy count and gets a new character they will most likely steamroll everyone from knowing the game so well. It’s a tough balance but overall it gets the job done.
For more competitive games there is a mode that will take you a long time to unlock called Power Play. In power play not only do you need to have a maxed out character but you also have to have their star power unlocked as well. Many games you enter you get some teammates that you wonder if they even know what game they are playing but in this mode that doesn’t really happen since it's a huge time commitment to make it there.
My only issue with this game is connection issues that can occur. There are times when I have a great connection but I get that dreaded poor signal pop up and the game lags uncontrollably. Luckily this doesn't happen too often.
They have their version of a battle pass called a Brawl Pass which costs the industry standard now of ten dollars. What I do not like about this one is most of the other games let you earn enough currency that you could buy the next seasons pass, but that's not the case here. What I did enjoy a lot are the quests that came with it, making me play with the variety of characters that are offered.
The presentation is absolutely gorgeous. All the character models look great and they do an amazing job of giving them all big personalities. I look forward to seeing what happens in this game in the months and even years to come.
Brawl Stars is a rare free to play game that always feels balanced to all players. I have sunk many hours into it and this time I do not plan on stopping. I give this one two thumbs up and recommend it to anyone and everyone. Adult, kid, it doesn’t matter this is a family friendly game everyone will love.
For more reviews, be sure to check out my thoughts on Google Stadia Super Mario 35, My Friend Pedro and my new podcast: Game Bites, the latest entry in The Spinchoon Podcast Network (check out Flix & a Six here). As always, check us out on Twitter @TheSpinchoon and I’m @Big_Broons.