Brawl Stars recently got a major update that turned the game sideways – in both a figurative and literal sense – and people are steaming mad. Brawl Stars now plays in landscape with dual-stick controls for moving and firing, and the progression system is changed. Now, characters have power points that players collect from Brawl Boxes and the shop, similar to collecting cards in Clash Royale (Free). Players now open Brawl Boxes with keys, which are earned from playing matches, and coins are a separate, new resource. Why are people mad?
Reddit user u/p-O-rtal sums it up in a massive post compiling community feedback. Basically, landscape is far too zoomed out and has a massive negative effect on gameplay and balance, as now the entire width of the map is visible to players at once. Not to mention the effect it has on the aesthetic, and to how players engage with the game. The controls also add a significant element of inaccuracy that didn’t exist with tap-to-play, and limits the accessibility for disabled players. Auto attacking also comes under criticism. The progression feels slower and less unique, though it makes Brawl Boxes more rewarding to open. Also, the progress transfer from the previous system is seen as inconsistent. The whole post is worth reading, and Supercell decided to respond to it directly.
Supercell says that landscape was a tough decision, but it was done in part to help with the game’s retention before it goes global. The company also recognizes that the new controls have an effect on characters like Piper, Colt, and Brock in particular. Updates could fix many of the things like the maps, but it will take a lot of time to add these changes, and this had a massive impact on the community.
The move to landscape is certainly controversial, but it makes sense, as the controls in portrait seemed always a bit awkward to use in a two-handed way. While firing feels a lot more natural now with a familiar dual-stick setup, the inaccuracy is absolutely a problem that I did not notice before with the controls. The game’s new zoomed-out view is a problem: I noticed in a few bounty matches that it was a lot easier to pin a team back because you could easily keep track of where everyone is if they’re visible, especially near their spawn.
It’s such a weird update because it doesn’t feel like the kind of polished title that Supercell even had with the first release of Brawl Stars, which was also making money for a while in Canada. This landscape update feels like it was hacked together. The zoomed-out view feels like cheating. Heck, it looks identical to forcing the portrait version to work in landscape via a jailbreak tweak.
The whole thing feels like it’s gone backwards: if the launch version was released as an overhauled update to the landscape version, it’d probably feel like an improvement. That initial soft launch felt like playing a polished product, whereas this feels like playing a beta.
I was certain that Brawl Stars would someday escape soft launch and go global, but at this point, I’m not sure. If Supercell is releasing what feels like a hacked-together landscape update to the game and thinking that was acceptable, what does that bode for the game’s future? Of course, we need to keep in context that Brawl Stars in its previous form probably would have still done fine just by nature of being a Supercell title, and because it was monetizing well for some time.
But Supercell might be trying to make it another billion-dollar title like the Clash games, and I don’t think they’ve figured it out. And I don’t want a promising title to die because it won’t make enough money for a company that already pulls in billions. Hopefully Supercell figures out how to make Brawl Stars click in a way that’s acceptable for everyone, because there’s no reason this title has to die in soft launch.