Bleeding Edge doesn’t have much meat on its bones, but it’s certainly worth a shot.

Originality is overrated and overstated. Everything’s been done before, at least to some extent. The trick to successfully achieving originality isn’t necessarily inventing something genuinely new; creating something new out of what came before works just as well. Wearing ones influences on their sleeve can often help a game find its playerbase when it would otherwise languish in obscurity. In the case of Bleeding Edge, however, Ninja Theory borrows from so many places that it’s more efficient to just rattle them all off in a bulleted list. Which I will now do:

Anarchy Reigns’ technicolor aesthetic, melee focus, and to a lesser extent character designs.
Heroes of the Storm’s map structure and mount mechanism.
League of Legends’ rune system, allowing players to do some customization pre-game.
TF2‘s, and by extension Overwatch‘s, focus on team composition and mid-match adjustments over playing a “main”.
– a list of MOBA abilities transposed so clearly that I’m throwing DOTA in just because.
– Dollar store Danny Trejo is a character you can play, his name is El Bastardo and I love him.

If these comparisons don’t create a mental image for you, let me summarize: Bleeding Edge is a 4v4 objective focused game where one team of weirdos brawls, mostly in melee, with another. Characters come with a few abilities each, including 1 of 2 ultimates that they choose before spawn. Each of them feel distinct from each other despite many of their abilities being lifts from other team based games, and you’ll inevitably find favorites as they start to click in your brain.

As the game was optimized for controllers it feels more like a character action game than its MOBA roots would suggest. Most characters have a dodge button complete with plenty of invincible frames, and combos are a bit more involved than just mashing X once you start figuring out how to fit abilities in and reset your target so they don’t fly out of your swings. There’s also a lock on function, meaning landing abilities is guaranteed as long as you’re in range and they don’t time their dodge perfectly. It makes for satisfying plays, as well as exciting moments where you read an opponent and react just in time to ruin their plans. It’s fast, frantic, and surprisingly fresh, utilizing its frankensteined parts to great effect in a framework I just haven’t seen before despite its inspirations being so evident.

But there’s a problem. A big one, one that I would be remiss to not bring up: that’s the entire game.

BE doesn’t feel finished. I don’t mean to say it’s not functional, far from it; it’s quite polished and in my week of playing it I never encountered any significant performance issues or bugs. Rather it’s an issue with the content itself, or lack thereof. The game has one queue. THE queue. You enter it, and it quickly throws you into a match. What kind of match? Whichever one it chooses. You don’t get to be picky. Did you want to play ranked and see how you stack up? Tough power cells, there is no ranked. No leaderboards. No private matches. Just 10-ish minute games of the same two types over and over. The game‘s menu essentially consists of 3 options: start the queue, mod your characters, and quit Bleeding Edge.

I should touch on the mods, yeah? There’s two kinds of currency unlocked by playing the game: one for cosmetics and one for mods. A bit of an odd system as the game has no microtransactions, but it works. Cosmetics let you play dress up though the options as of right now are quite scant, largely consisting of some recolors and stickers for your hoverboard “mount”. Mods consist of 3 slottable doodads that tweak the characters’ abilities. Before you get too excited, we’re talking “increase damage of a move by 10%” here. Impactful stuff for certain as the right build can take a character from good to better, but not exactly game changing.

That lack of game-changing-ness is the crux of my issue with BE. I’ve already seen everything it has to offer multiple times over after just a week of nightly play. Additionally, it lacks the strategic depth that the games it took inspiration from have. Team comps broadly boil down to a healer, a tank with good CC, and two damage dealers. Teamfights are typically decided by which team killed whose healer first, and that’s assuming the other team is smart enough to not walk in 1 by 1 and get slaughtered. The barest amount of team coordination will have you starting far ahead of the randos that populate the game’s servers right now, and because there’s only one queue there’s no option to take your friends to a more suitable arena. Of course you could play this game solo, but that way madness lies.

I’ve been somewhat harsh so let me end on a positive note: I really do enjoy Bleeding Edge despite its shortcomings. It manages to strike a balance that is rarely seen, where wins feel satisfying while losses feel inconsequential because, well, they are. By having no stakes it manages to achieve the video game equivalent of a popcorn chomping action movie. Sometimes you just want to queue up with a few friends and stop people into the dirt, y’know? I don’t think it’s necessarily $30 good, but it’s included with a $5 Xbox Game Pass membership so I more than got my money’s worth from it. I like this game. I just wish there was more of it.