Rocket Arena review: Has enough fuel in the tank to get off the ground

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Rocket Arena has all of the makings of a fun arena multiplayer shooter, but will a high cost of entry keep this rocket from launching?

Title: Rocket Arena
Developer: Final Strike Games
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PC, PS4 (reviewed on) and Xbox One
Release Date: July 14, 2020

I’ve been craving a good team-based competitive arena game. I play a fair amount of Bleeding Edge, but it’s a little content deficient at the moment, and I’m not sure the community is going to keep sticking around. It’s also not a pure shooter, which is another thing I am looking for. However, it is free with Xbox Game Pass. Enter Rocket Arena from Final Strike Games and Electronic Arts.

When I first saw the reveal trailer, it immediately drew me in. Granted it’s almost entirely rocket based, as the name suggests, but it looked to have the core elements of a solid online shooter.

Vibrant and colorful cast of characters with their own unique abilities? Check. Upgrades, loadouts, and unlockable skins by playing characters? Check. Multiple unique maps and match types? Check. Social matches, ranked matches and private matches? Check. Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One and PC can be enabled by the player? Check. Free to play? So there’s the hangup.

Rocket Arena boasts a $30 price tag. While that’s less than the normal $60 price tag of games, I, like many, likely was taken aback by Rocket Arena not being a free to play game. There are so many competitive games out there — both free and paid — that it’s very easy for a new IP like Rocket Arena to get lost in the shuffle and struggle to grow a player base. Add in that there is a shop that requires premium currency, and that a battle pass named a “Blast Pass” will be added (like every multiplayer game) and that $30 is even tougher to swallow.

Rocket Arena
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All that said, for the price of $30, there’s a lot in Rocket Arena to love. Starting off with a quick tutorial that covers everything you need to know, you’ll quickly realize how easy it is to pick up a controller, play and hold your own. But the gameplay can be surprisingly deep, and as you keep playing, you’ll see how big of a difference a character is in the hands of an experienced, skilled player versus a newcomer.

Each of the game’s characters have a fun and unique style to them. You have the cannon-toting pirate Blastbeard that’s great for AOE damage, the explorer Boone with a sniper rifle, the tech kid Plink that can blink across the map, and Kayi with her grappling hook, to name a few. Each character has a unique weapon, three unique abilities, and loadouts. Furthermore, each character has 100 levels of progression. The more you play a character, you rank them up and unlock skins, currency, and skins/effects for your totems, megablasts and return trails. That’s something every game like this should have to incentivize you to keep playing.

One thing doesn’t change across these characters… you need to lead your shots. Some characters are better at shooting players out of the sky, some are better for getting characters off of a point, and some should try to be in the air at all times.

Rocket Arena
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The maps are numerous and each has a unique look and feel to them. You have Frostwind Grove (an icy castle and courtyard), The Golden Zephyr (a flying cruise ship), and the Temples of Jaaqua (a jungle temple) to name a few. Each has different gameplay elements and flairs to them. Some have jump pads that shoot you across the map. Some have geysers that blast you up vertically. What they all have in common are item pickups and an element of verticality. Items on every map can give you things like speed boosts, bombs to throw, or a rocket magnet that collects enemy rockets. As for the vertical nature of maps, they all have high points on them that you can reach, which ties into the core gameplay mechanics.

We already know about the shooting and the abilities, but at your core disposal are double and triple jumps. To reach even higher spots on the map, you can shoot a rocket downward towards a wall and it will boost you upward. The last element is a dodge that makes you immune to damage and rockets for a brief moment. You can save yourself from taking extra damage, or to provide a quick escape from death. Death in Rocket Arena comes from being taking too much damage in the form of a Smash Bros. style health bar. When you finally take enough damage, it’s called a megablast and you’ll shoot upward and into a dome forcefield in the arena. Then a couple of seconds later you’ll respawn. A timely use of your dodge can save you from death, and items in your loadout can affect the cooldown of dodge, so everything really plays into one another.

Rocket Arena
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Game modes are Mega Rocket (capturing a point five times to win), Treasure Hunt (holding a treasure chest and picking up coins to win), Knockout (getting the most kills), and Rocketball (trying to score on the enemy’s goal). All modes are 3v3 and are social (regular) games or ranked. There are also private matches.

It all sounds great, right? It’s a fun game and even more fun with a group of friends. Unfortunately, there are some issues to mention. I’m reviewing/playing Rocket Arena on PS4, and I’ve been disconnected after matches or have the game crash numerous times. There’s also a problem of players leaving during a match, which can leave you in a 1v3 scenario. That’s happened in about 1/10 matches I play. And then, there’s the price tag. It’s up to you how you value this package, but if you’re going to have a cash shop and a battle pass, I think the $30 entry should be much lower or non-existent.

NOTE: At the time of this review posting, the first competitive season has started, the Blast Pass has launched, and the developer gave an update video on what’s released and what’s coming. The Blast Pass features 100 levels of skins, customizables, premium currency and more. A new free hero was added. Coming in August is the first event, which also brings two free maps and event playlists and a 2v2 Knockout mode. Then in September comes Runaway Megadon and two Mythic Events — Crystal Reef and Fort Rocket. It’s good to see that the game will be supported and has already been updated — something I’ve criticized Bleeding Edge for.

That said, the game is already discounted severely. It’s currently on sale for $5.09 in the PSN Store. Whether that’s a move towards free to play, or to get more players in due to a low player amount, I can’t say. I’m both happy by the temporary discount and concerned the player base isn’t there, despite crossplay. But a $5 entry is much more palatable than $30. 

8. <em>Rocket Arena</em> is a fun game that offers a lot of features that players ask for all of the time in other games. You’ll have to ask yourself if you like this style of gameplay and the art style, but the game is well designed and a blast to play. If it goes free to play eventually, I think it can have sustained success.. Final Strike Games. . Rocket Arena

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.