Broomstick League isn’t your grandfather’s sport. Harry Potter is great and all, but for sports fans like me, its greatest contribution to society might be that of Quidditch. There was a standalone Quidditch game released by EA in 2003, but now independent developer Virtual Basement’s Broomstick League is almost here, delivering a new online Quidditch game by another name. We got a chance to play in a closed online beta and give you our thoughts. Does this early version live up to the greatest game played on a broom?
What is Broomstick League?
For those who haven’t earned admittance to Hogwarts, Quidditch is the grand sport of the wizarding world. It’s a game played on flying brooms, with the goal of grabbing a ball (called a quaffle) and throwing it through one of three of your opponent’s goals. There’s more to it than that, but for Broomstick League, that’s what’s most relevant, as the extra features and rules are discarded in favor of a more simplistic game.
Here, two teams face off together to score as many points as possible before the five-minute clock runs out. Teams can consist of as many as three players, and as few as one. There’s one goal for each team, and all goals are worth one point. That’s all there is to it, at least in the beta.
Simple to a Fault
Broomstick League is a simple game, and not just when it comes to its rules. There are no plans for a single-player mode, so there’s no franchise mode, star-player mode, seasons, or anything else one might find in a traditional sports game. There’s only a brief tutorial, a practice mode with up to 9 bots, and the basic online mode. This means each game feels more or less the same. Since there are no positions, penalties, or anything shaking up the core mechanics, matches often descend into a free-for-all. Everyone guns for the ball without much in the way of coordination or strategy.
Even the world itself feels empty, as the stadiums (called arenas here) are devoid of life. There are no fans (despite fake crowd noise and cheering), no coaches or back-up players standing on the sidelines, no referees since there are no rules to break, and no commentators. Matches consist of you, two teammates (or bots, if there aren’t enough players), your opponents, and an empty arena, of which there are only three right now. Even Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup on the PS2 had crowds.
This is a fantasy sports game, and it’s clear that Virtual Basement is going for the arcadey style of Rocket League. Whereas a typical sports game like Madden or FIFA would require realism, Broomstick League is allowed to mix things up by throwing in some wacky action and as many modes as the developers can think of. However, the game is ultra simplistic. With no penalties, no advanced ways of scoring or higher points from shooting the ball a great distance (like the three-point shot in basketball), no positions, no fighting, and only three basic magical spells, online matches in Broomstick League feel lifeless.
What could add variety to matches is those spells. One is a blast of energy that can knock the ball out of your opponent’s grip, send the ball through the goal if you don’t have possession of it and you’re close enough, or send the ball flying across the arena. Another is a dash move that teleports you forward; how far you go depends on how long you hold the button. The third spell is sadly broken, however. It’s supposed to be a magnet ability that draws the ball towards you, allowing you to rip it out of your opponent’s grip or grab it if it flies near you. In my first game, everyone, including the opposing team, complained in chat that this magnet ability doesn’t work–a rare bit of unity for opposing players.
Still, even though Broomstick League often feels overly simplistic and needs some fine-tuning, my first session with the beta ended up being over three hours long. By the time it was over, I felt like I made good friends, was featured in several live streams, and came away excited for more.
Life of a Professional Broomsticker
Wanting to dominate the world of professional Broomsticking since childhood, I finally found myself in a position to join a team. With a fairly comprehensive character customization system that includes gender, skin color, hairstyle and color, clothes, wand, broom, celebrations, and more, I was able to recreate myself in virtual form. You unlock more options the more you play and gain experience, though that’s all experience does in the beta. There’s also an online leaderboard that tracks stats, including wins, goals scored, interceptions, blocks, game MVPs, and assists. I thus set myself a challenge: become number one in the world and prove that I’ve got what it takes!
One of the first things I noticed was just how superb the controls in Broomstick League feel. Players have precise handling at their fingertips, with the ability to fly up or down, move in one of four directions, quickly dive, then come out of it to rocket straight up. Dodging is also a breeze with a simple press of the spacebar. The ball is easy to track thanks to a handy indicator, and there’s even a first-person option if you’re up for it–though you might want to pack a barf bag. That’s something Virtual Basement should look into once the beta is over, considering first-person shooting could be a huge when it comes to making shots.
I started at practice, like any good sports-athlete-doer-person, and immediately lost the ball to an AI-controlled bot, who scored on me within seconds and then dabbed. It’s not the best start, but every athlete needs a tragic backstory, and this more than qualifies. As I paused to write down notes for this article, I quickly realized that I gave up another three goals; as it turns out, the game doesn’t pause even in single-player mode. So, with an overwhelmingly successful introduction under my robes, I decided to hit the big leagues.
My online sessions were dynamic to say the least. My team of three dominated the first two matches and quickly began declaring ourselves the best team in the game…until we were swept in game three by a crew of new players. By the time I called it a night on my first day as a professional Broomsticker, I’d ended with 14 goals, 8 wins, and 5 losses. The consistent challenge online ultimately kept me from being number one in anything–except, perhaps, missed shots and broken dreams.
The Future of Broomstick League
Broomstick League is the kind of game where you can point to a lot of things that either need improvement or need to be added. Nonetheless, there’s a decent foundation here with a lot of potential. There’s no question that it’s a fun game, but Virtual Basement needs to put much more time into it. There needs to be more online modes and features, more life added to arenas, and some variation in the ruleset to give matches more depth.
Right now, Broomstick League is an enjoyable time, but the kind of thrills it provides may be short-lived. It’s the best Quidditch game we have, but that’s a limited category. With the beta over, I’m going to grab my broomstick and dream of getting a second chance–and maybe learn how to play a sports game.
Broomstick League releases into Early Access on March 3.