Almost every power has a secondary or even tertiary effect. For example, the Engineer's tractor beam (the Ex version of the Flamethrower) drags enemies towards the Engineer, slows them and their attack speed, and damages them. Remembering all the side-effects for one character's seven abilities is hard enough; you'll have to play for a long time to know all twenty.
Once your hand crabs up sufficiently and you practise enough on the bot-populated single-player training arenas, you will get used to the system. It's best to play all the classes you can first, to get to know their abilities, then pick one or two and stick to them so you can learn them for the Ranked matches. These take three forms (solo, team and the yet-to-be-implemented Tournaments), but are fundamentally the same simple maps you see elsewhere, with simple Capture The Artefact, Team Deathmatch and Conquest game types providing a little variety. They're not complicated and there's not a huge variety. They're just arenas for you to demonstrate your skill.
The skill lies in the fact that most abilities are ranged and on cooldown timers – and you and your targets are always moving. Combining with an ally, knowing when to attack and when to retreat and working out good class combinations with your friends become second nature quickly. As you play, you'll level up, but this is more a reflection of how much time you've 'invested' than a source of any tangible benefits. You'll also rank up by playing well in matches; this is much more significant, and allows the game to balance matches more effectively.
There's more polish on show here than Poland. It's easy to find, join and start games, even with the relatively small current population. The game is mostly lag-free but deals with it efficiently when it's present, and it copes well with unstable internet connections; players who quit games regularly get tagged as "leavers" and find it harder to get games. If someone does leave in your game, you're unlikely to win – but don't worry, it will all be over quickly.
Meanwhile, it's carried over a lot of that cartoon love from Warcraft III, so characters are cutely drawn, with easily-identifiable animations and distinct postures. They're even different sizes, which affects how much they block movement and how big a target they are. The interface is perfectly user-friendly and, at all the resolutions we tried, it never intruded. The designers have obviously played a lot of online games.
You get small amounts of in-game change ("Blood coins") from playing matches – but with these it might take you a thousand matches to save up for that Frog suit. There are also Tournament coins from performing well in tournaments and which allow exclusive content, but they haven't been implemented yet.
The real money is Funcom points, but this doesn't affect match outcomes and is only used for buying cosmetic changes if you really want to express your love for the game. There are three versions of the game available: a totally free version which has four character classes on rotation; a Champion edition which is Ł25 for the main 16 classes (and Ł8 for an extra four classes); and a Titan edition that is a whopping Ł75 but includes access to all once and future classes, as well as Store discounts and a wodge of Funcom points. Alternatively, you can just buy Funcom points and unlock classes individually.
Joining the swollen ranks of the free-to-play army, Bloodline Champions should elbow its way to the front. It's intelligently designed, skilful and quick to play, and intentionally egalitarian. Anyone can join this game, even on the free version, and excel. It is a pity the free version is so limited, but if you like it, the Champion edition isn't expensive. Compared to that frog suit, anyway.
8 / 10