Showcased during the recent Nintendo Direct, Velan Studios’ Knockout City is a team-based action dodgeball game with a similar vibe and energy to games like Splatoon and Ninjala. As another title in the slate of EA Originals, this online-focused “dodge-brawler”–as the developers call it–is the next online game coming from EA that aims to be a fun and accessible take on classic multiplayer battles. Ahead of its launch on May 21, which will have a free trial for a set amount of time, select players will even be able to get some hands-on time with the upcoming closed beta on February 20.
Before the game’s public reveal, I had a chance to get some early hands-on time with the upcoming Closed Beta while also speaking with Velan Studios CEO Karthik Bala about the game’s making. The core concept of Knockout City is that it’s a fast-paced and tactical take on the familiar game of dodgeball. Set in a future metropolis that’s run by different gangs, you’ll take your new “dodge-brawler” up the ranks, customizing their look and style, honing your skills with a variety of different attack balls, and even coming up with tactical ways to use your own teammates as cannonballs to strike against the opposing team.
From my hands-on with Knockout City, I found it to be a surprisingly accessible approach to the conceit of an arena-style action game. Without worrying about choosing the right set of perks, gear options, or even character classes, the game keeps all players on a level playing field and gives all the tools they need to win. When you manage to grab a ball on the field, you can charge it up and fire it at your opponent. However, your opponent can still evade the projectile or even catch it in mid-air. The latter is risky, and it will require careful timing, and if you’re up against a crafty opponent, they can use fake-out moves and gestures to catch you off-guard.
Knockout City takes a back-to-basics approach to team-based multiplayer battles. Yet, the moment-to-moment entanglements you can have with other foes have some echoes to a fighting game, and there were some thrilling moments during a match where I was chasing another player to land a critical strike against them. In my chat with the CEO of Velan Studios, he stated that after nearly six years in development, seeing where the game will evolve with the community will be a fun exercise.
“We’ve been working at this game in a cave, so now we’re going to be sharing that with our player community, and if we get a passionate group of players playing, we want to be able to evolve it, with the player community,” stated Bala. “That’s core to our mission and we’ll see where we can take it. We think we’ve got a super tight core that’s also super fun. We’ve been experimenting with different rule sets and ways to expand on that core, and we see a lot of different possibilities. But I think we’re going to be surprised by what players start dealing with the game as well and where those roads might lead. And so as a developer and as a gamer that’s what’s got me jazzed, and I’m really excited to see where we can take it, with our player community.”
At launch, Knockout City will be playable as a free trial for all players for a limited time on PC (Steam/Origin), PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch. Though they didn’t specify for how long this free trial period will last, Bela stated that all players will have access to the full game during this time. Once the trial is up, the whole game will cost $20 for those who want to keep playing. Along with this open approach at launch, Knockout City will also have full cross-play and cross-progression between every version of the game, allowing everyone to play together and keep their progress regardless of where they play. During the developer breakdown of the game, the team also stressed that while microtransaction options are in the game, it will only be for cosmetic items, which can be acquired from in-game currency in-game. Players looking to get some hands-on time with the game will be able to join the upcoming closed beta test that lasts from February 20-21. The beta will showcase three maps and let players try out the customization options for characters and compete in 3v3 team KO battles.
My early hands-on with Knockout City showed a game with a lot of promise. It doesn’t go for an experience that offers a robust suite of unlockable upgrades, perks, and character classes to unlock, yet it still offers a fun and fast multiplayer experience that brings out the more crazy and imaginative side of dodgeball. The developers have plans to support the game well after launch with seasons and timed events as well, so we can expect to hear more from the game in the future.
For more on Knockout City and the other games revealed during the Nintendo Direct, be sure to check out our roundup of games shown off during the stream.