Collectible card battler Rebel Bots: Xoil Wars has some big-name backers: Animoca Brands, Ubisoft and Overwolf. But its recently released beta is not where it needs to be, writes Polemos game expert Daniel ‘Mogglin’ Allday.
After almost two years in development, the Rebel Bots: Xoil Wars beta is out, giving players the chance to test how well the game is balanced and find the bugs.
But from battle bots that come back to life and become unkillable, to unplayable games where the turn system of the cards frequently malfunctions, there’s clearly still a lot that needs to be done to bring the game up to scratch – even at this early stage.
This mobile strategy card battler isn’t going to win any awards for graphics either. It‘s made entirely of 2D assets of mixed quality, all with slightly cartoonish designs.
One good thing about this build is that it can run on older versions of Android. (The oldest I found was Android 9.0).
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Simple for first timers?
The team behind Rebel Bots: Xoil Wars planned to “create simple first-time user experiences for non-NFT players”, but there’s nothing about the game’s current on-boarding experience that is any smoother than other blockchain games.
To sign in with the QR code, players need to have already set up a MetaMask Polygon wallet on a mobile device. That wallet also needs to have assets in it.
The “step-by-step guide” explaining how to do all this just links out to a MetaMask support page, instructions that would be difficult for a non-crypto player to understand.
The “wallet connect” option is not available on PC, but is instead used for mobile versions where it directly connects to the MetaMask application.
This is definitely not a simple experience for first time, non-NFT players.
To play you need at least one land NFT and three battle bot NFTs.
After login, players are met by their land NFT, manifested in-game. Each block of land has one of six possible regions: Quantum Peaks, Crimson Crater, Bronze Canyon, Talos Terra, Plasma Plains and Asimov’s Ridge. These regions will also set the background of the battle arena, be it your land or your opponent’s.
Each piece of land has seven buildings. In the beta, only four of the buildings and the statue, which acts as a leaderboard, are accessible.
Players can check the skills and cards of their battle bots in the Fighting Bots’ Barracks. This is where they will also select the three fighter blocks they want to use in battle and what formation they will take in the arena (see image below), which is important for strategy.
In the Fighting Bots Factory, players can build new Fighting Bots and store parts:
There’s not much to see in the Xoil Silo, just a fill bar that indicates how much Xoil you have collected and how close you are to capacity (see image below). The same goes for the Spark Capacitor. There’s just a line bar that shows how many you have collected.
The buildings which are yet to come are:
Headquarters – used to communicate with other Kingdom players
Parts shop – place to buy and trade parts
Intel Command – used to deliver you updates about the game
There is another small building that is not yet accessible but it wasn’t clear it was. It could be the PvE mode.
The current look of Rebel Bots land in-game
The design of the Xoil Wars land is underwhelming. There has been no improvement since the NFT artwork was released in June 2022. Two of the four buildings just show information that is already visible at the top of the main screen.
The only playable version of the game in beta is the multiplayer, which is better than just having PvE.
The multiplayer battles take around 30 minutes to complete which is a bit too long for my liking for this style of game. I only had to wait, on average, one-and-a-half minutes to find a real player to go up against, which was a nice surprise.
It would have been better if they made their matches shorter, by balancing for less trophies, but this is a design choice, and it will be interesting to see what their community thinks of it.
Battles would normally cost energy, but in the beta the cost is set to zero.
Typical card mechanics
The game itself has been designed to use well-known gameplay mechanics that other card game players will instantly recognise and it has managed to deliver on that.
There’s a Mulligan stage at the beginning of the game where players can re-draw any unwanted cards from the first hand. Your new cards are pulled on to the play area to use, or to target enemies. There’s buffs and debuffs that are well-known, but renamed to fit the robot theme.
With a total of 14 buffs, 11 debuffs and 7 powers in the game it is far from the complicated strategies of similar games and much less than I anticipated considering the amount of time this beta has been in development.
The actions/effects of the cards work well to create a strategic game, but the descriptions lack substance. The actions are described in very simple terms, such as “Attack a random player” and “Attack the closest player”. The effects just name the buff or debuff, with no creative descriptions.
The bug hunt
A large amount of bugs have been discovered by the Rebel Bots community.
This is exactly what beta testing is for, but taking into consideration the two years of development time spent on this game, I would have thought much more internal testing would have been done to iron out any creases before releasing the beta – especially given they have decided to start their Season 1 leagues in this build and there is prize money up for grabs.
Five bugs were fixed in the 0.9.8 update, which saw the beta taken down for seven days and the leaderboard reset after a community vote.
There is clearly a lot more building happening behind the scenes to get this game to market.