Dodgeball, dodge and throw balls. I wish there was more to say, but there is very little to add to this preview. In development by 313 Studios since early 2017, this title has a long way to go before it can be classified as anything more than a working demo.
The core gameplay revolves around two teams of ten tossing rubber at high velocity at each other. To remove a player from the field a ball must be caught by an opposing team member or they must be struck by a ball thrown by an opposing team member. Simple in design yet poorly executed, there is no reticle or crosshair for the player to use and once a ball is picked up it almost completely blocks the player's view. I found myself becoming frustrated with the collision detection as direct strikes would simply bounce harmlessly off an enemy player instead of removing them from the field. I tested this multiple times by standing face to face with an enemy player and pelting them with ball after ball, all to no effect. Dodgeball attempts to spice things up with several special balls, each are colour coded to stand out from the standard red. These special balls explode on impact or cause the player to be unable to move, with a small area of effect. These balls make hitting another player slightly easier but do little to make the title any more dynamic.
Movement controls are simple, too simple, there is no dodge mechanic or even a sprint button, this makes traversing environments less than engaging. Since everyone moves at the same speed, it is relatively easy to track an enemy and make a shot at them. Some maps offer additional launch pads and speed boosts, but ultimately they are not positioned in a way to be useful as the easiest way to tag another player is to stand by the midway point, where the balls respawn, and tag an enemy when they are ball-less.
There are a total of four maps to choose from: Gym, Island, Lava and Moon. Each come with their own environmental twist. While adding environmental hazards and platforms, these aspects have not been utilised in way to complement the core gameplay. The Moon map for example, is a large dome with low gravity and a large area to move. This makes hitting another while mid air a breeze and offers no benefit to the player, in fact it slows the pace of the game by a significant margin.
With no soundtrack present, players instead get to listen to a variety of ambient sounds depending on the level. All sound, including effects, can only be described as placeholders taken from a variety of stock libraries and do not inspire the same kind of energy that the videos on Steam would suggest.
Dodgeball is riddled with bugs, from textures not loading to an error message every time the title closes. I am all for small developers trying to fund projects, without Indie developers we would not have such a rich variety of active gaming genres and innovations. However to ask for money for a title with minimal custom assets and buggy core mechanics is an insult to the buyer. 313 Studios offer a lot of transparency on their website, allowing access to the development roadmap and blog. I applaud this level of openness, however there is nothing here that inspires any confidence that Dodgeball will develop into anything worthwhile.
Dodgeball is available now on Steam early access for £3.99.