Champions Arena, a free-to-play, turn-based role-playing game (RPG) with optional NFTs, launched to the public on mobile and PC this week, offering players a fun and mobile-first experience with a colorful cast of characters.
Developed by OneUniverse/Uniflow and published by Gala Games, Champions Arena is now fully released for iOS on the App Store, for Android on the Google Play Store, and for PC users via Gala Games’ launcher on its website.
Champions Arena is addictive, with a solid core gameplay loop that had me hooked for hours. And as a PC gamer, this is actually one of the few mobile games I would gladly play in my free time. Here’s my take on Champions Arena.
Watch our video review—or continue reading below.
Into the Arena
Champions Arena offers two primary game modes: Arena and Campaign. While both active play modes involve the same turn-based RPG action, Arena is the real-time player-versus-player (PvP) mode, and Campaign is a player-versus-computer mode that slowly moves players across a world map after winning a certain number of games. Ranked Arena matches are the only game type where players can earn a determined amount of GALA tokens for wins.
In a Campaign or Arena match, players can have up to four characters, or Champions, on their side. Matches play out in a 4v4 format, with one gamer’s team fighting another. There are tanks, damage-dealers, and healers—it’s good to have one of each in every match. 4v4 feels right—if this game had been a 5v5, matches might become too long or complex for more casual players.
There are also three alliances to be aware of: red, yellow, and blue, also known as Destruction, Harmony, and Prosperity, respectively. Every character belongs to one color or alliance, and playing cards that match that character’s alliance when it’s their turn is generally a good idea, because it often increases damage or unlocks an extra effect.
Games in Champions Arena are typically fast-paced and short. Each of the eight characters in battle gets a turn to act, whether it’s by dealing damage or aiding teammates.
At each character’s turn, the player can combine cards to level them up once or move cards around to strategize. Combining two one-star cards creates a single, more powerful two-star card, for example. The more stars, the more powerful the card. Other than that, the cards themselves are not overly complex, instead offering a few stats and details like that of a Pokemon game.
So while some advanced trading card game (TCG) players may find the card mechanics a bit simplistic, RPG fans and seasoned mobile gamers will be able to pick up on the card mechanics quickly.
Mini cinematics will occur during a match when a character deals higher levels of damage. Thankfully, these cinematics are very short and the animations are generally appealing. While they are nice to have, they are repetitive—as characters only say the same handful of voice lines and execute the same mini-cinematic every match—and not as graphically sharp as the rest of the game.
A cast of Champions
Overall, there’s a wide variety of appealing characters, from sultry vampires to monsters, robots, elves, animals, and muscular gunmen. I loved the look of the Harmony-allied Champions like Sophia and Feraella, as well as some of the Destruction alliance’s characters like Kage and Violet, to name a few. Some of the characters feel heavily inspired by existing games or movies (i.e. Sophia closely resembles Nintendo’s Zelda), but that doesn’t really bother me or take away from my enjoyment of the game overall.
The game offers 68 total Champions at time of writing, but most players will need to unlock them via buying gems, which can then be used to summon a random character. You could theoretically unlock many characters for free (I unlocked six for free in just a few hours), but it would take a while.
Characters can also be minted as NFTs, which can be traded and will also maximize your GALA earnings in Arena matches. Players must have at least one NFT character on their side in an Arena match in order to be eligible to win GALA token rewards.
Champions must be manually leveled up via the menu screens. Character gear can be purchased in-game or obtained as a reward through one of Champions Arena’s many free reward features. There’s no shortage of shop items players can spend real money on via gems, however, to give their characters various boosts.
Character skills cannot be customized, nor can their physical appearance be modified. That lack of customization and current lack of different “skins” may be disappointing to some players, particularly those used to hit games like League of Legends and Fortnite that offer lots of premium cosmetic options.
Players can also “link” characters to each other, allowing one Champion’s level to automatically match the other’s higher level—for a price. It costs 100 gems to link two characters, which is roughly $0.97 worth of GALA at time of writing, or about $0.73 on the iOS app.
The primary way to unlock new characters in Champions Arena is via the “summoning” feature, which is a gacha mechanic. Gacha games work like toy vending machines, giving players a random chance of getting any given character, thus eliminating player choice from the equation.
That’s unfortunate, and it could frustrate players who only want to pay to unlock a handful of specific characters without spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.
That said, if a player unlocks a duplicate of a character they already own, the duplicate can be dissolved and used to “promote” or increase the star level of the other character.
Players can also try buying a character NFT on a secondary marketplace, but those prices may vary. As of this writing, Champions Arena character NFTs start at 0.1 ETH (about $165) on the OpenSea marketplace.
On Champions Arena’s mobile iOS version, a chest of 3,000 “paid gems” costs about $29. On Gala Games’ website, a chest of 3,000 paid gems is listed at 0.019 ETH, or $31. Right now, it appears that buying gems through Gala directly does not give players lower prices.
Considering that it costs between 200 and 1,000 gems (about $2 to $10.60) to summon one Champion, it could be a better deal to take your chances with the gacha mechanic than to buy an NFT of a specific Champion on secondary.
Champions Arena’s graphics are great overall. The character models are detailed and colorful, animations are smooth, and the game assets are sharp on iOS. The game loads quickly and is virtually free of performance-related issues. The PC version of Champions Arena feels like it was ported from the mobile version, so it could benefit from a graphics upgrade. I strongly recommend playing this game on mobile over PC—it just feels like a better fit, including from a UI perspective.
Meanwhile, the audio in Champions Arena can feel a bit repetitive after even just 10 matches. Each character only has one or two main voice lines, so you’ll likely get tired of hearing your characters say the same thing every time they fight. You can, however, just play the game without sound—there are no cues that would require a player to listen to the game.
The game is awash with free idle rewards, as well as shops where tickets, scrolls, chests, gems, battle passes, and more can be purchased with fiat currency or crypto, which is then converted into the game’s synthetic gems currency.
The sheer number of idle achievements in the game that grant players “gold,” another synthetic game currency, may be a bit overwhelming to those unfamiliar with mobile games. But it feels great and is a part of what makes the game addictive—you can get tens of thousands of gold in-game with just a few clicks between matches.
Some players may be turned off by the amount of items and content that has been paywalled, but it’s pretty much par for the course for modern mobile games. Also, a lot of items can be earned for free—it just takes more time and a bit of luck.
Overall, Champions Arena is a fun, solid mobile game for RPG and TCG fans looking for a new fantasy game with low stakes to spend some crypto on. It’s casual-friendly for those seeking a mobile distraction, but also has a built-in ranked competitive system for grinders looking to earn GALA tokens—and possibly win back some of the money spent turning their characters into NFTs.
While it doesn’t stand out from the crowd when it comes to rich lore or a distinctive game world, there’s plenty of charming characters to unlock, buttons to click, and matches to win in Champions Arena.