As the video game industry continues to expand, consumers find themselves with a near-daily avalanche of new game releases, making it difficult to determine which titles are worth one’s attention and money. As a result, many of these launches find it difficult to remain relevant after its first week of release, already becoming a distant memory even for those who purchased it. This applies even moreso for smaller indie titles, which often don’t have the luxury of allowing a budget for post-release content, encouraging owners and new fans alike to give that title another shot. So, for an indie title to have a constantly playing fanbase not only beyond that first week, but over a year later is rather remarkable, and Psyonix’s arcade sports game Rocket League has managed to do just that.
Thanks to new features, stages, and cars arriving on a monthly basis, as well as a strongly supported eSports crowd, Rocket League manages to pull in impressive numbers, with an average of over thirty thousand users playing it daily over the past thirty days, as well as over fifty thousand at the time of writing, according to Steam Charts. And yet, despite the aforementioned new introductions, Psyonix has only added three new modes to the game since its release last July, with much of the main focus still lying on the game’s core Soccar mode. Neither of the first two modes were greeted with all that much fanfare, as Hockey failed to attract any sort of regular audience after its initial launch, and Hoops really only proved enticing to the more faithful of Rocket League players, with its reliance on technical aerial maneuvers pushing away the more casual audience. However, last month, Psyonix released the anticipated Rumble mode, which, thanks to some intriguing and unexpected depth as well as an appeal to both casual and hardcore players, has provided Rocket League fans its strongest motivator yet to continue returning to the field.
For those who are unaware, Rocket League’s Rumble mode introduced power-ups to the already chaotic, high-flying action of the game, granting new abilities to both aid and disrupt the ability to score for opponents and allies alike. Unlike the Mario Kart series, which is an allusion that is becoming easier to make due to the uniquely designed, fast-paced cars and, now thanks to Rumble, over-the-top items, these abilities are not placed on the field but instead granted after a certain period of time, allowing all players access to these game-changing powers. This limitation not only makes the ten second mark of the start of each game and after each goal some of the most anxiety-inducing moments in any game, like that slow ride up in a roller coaster before plummeting off the first peak, but also makes it more accessible by players of all skill levels, preventing players with plenty of free time to find the most optimal paths for collecting placed items on a field seconds after they spawn.
While there’’s only a relatively small amount of items available at the moment, each of the eleven power-ups offers a surprising amount of strategy behind it, as players consider not only the best possible moment to strike, but whether to use that power for offensive or defensive capabilities, as the majority of the power-ups offer both productive and destructive opportunities. For example, the Power Hitter item could be used to send a ball flying towards the opponent’s side of the field with a more powerful hit, or to destroy a well-positioned goalie as a teammate with the ball speeds towards the net. Or the Grappling Hook, which has already led to some impressive aerial goal highlights during the past month, but is less often used as a defensive measure, despite its powerful capability to disrupt the mode’s most controversial item, the Spike. Even weeks later, players are still finding new ways to manipulate the power-ups to meet their ends in creative ways, which is a welcome but unexpected benefit of Rocket League’s latest add-on.
Thanks to some smart decisions by Psyonix, Rumble has proven not only to be Rocket League’s most entertaining post-release mode yet, but also a mode capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the core experience, offering depth and accessibility alongside all the chaos on the field. As Rocket League’s audience continues to expand, fans can assuredly take this mode’s success as a strong indicator of Psyonix’s commitment to a worthy future for their biggest hit, proving that free updates can be just as influential to a game’s continued success as paid DLC.