Disclaimer: The views that I have presented here are of my own. Also, I like to make Bull puns.
While concluding my last piece about Brawl Stars, I was left perplexed by why Brawl Stars didn’t have Brawl Pass. Well, guess what? There’s a Brawl Pass now! (Well, technically since May 2020) And it’s quite good in my opinion!
So, besides the simple verdict of “is gud”, I wanted to explore the Brawl Pass and what I really like about it. After playing and finishing 4 out of the 5 seasons released so far, I’d like to think that I have played through enough Seasons to give a somewhat insightful analysis? (You be the judge!)
So without further ado, here’s my list of what I think makes the Brawl Pass specially gud
The Brawl Pass is like most regular Season Passes in terms of accessibility, but with an exception. There is a free track and a paid track. F2P players can play the free track while those with some dough to spend can reap the rewards from the paid track.
However, the Brawl Pass takes this a step further by modifying the system that allows even the F2P players enjoy the Premium Brawl pass entirely free of cost! And this was achieved through 2 steps,
1. Removing gems from Brawl Boxes,
2. Allowing the purchase of Brawl Pass with Gems (Hard currency)
By removing Gems from Brawl Boxes, Supercell eliminated the randomness of the gem wallet amongst the players and added them as separate products in the Brawl Pass FREE track. In every season of the Brawl Pass, a player can get upto 90 gems by playing through all the tiers in the Brawl Pass.
A premium brawl pass costs ~170-250 gems which means a F2P player can grind a free Premium Pass every 2 seasons. With the source of gems being a lever that they could control precisely, they could afford to price the Season Pass with gems instead of IAP’s and thereby increasing the accessibility of the Brawl Pass feature to even more players!
They could have done the easy thing and just gated the Premium Pass behind an IAP. But, they didn’t. Rather they looked back at the game, made tweaks to the game economy for the long term good and made the Brawl Pass even better on release.(Sound Familiar?)
2. Changes to Core Progression
The introduction of Brawl Pass also brought along drastic changes to the core-game progression, which can be summarized into,
- Removal of Star Tokens
- Removal of Tickets
- Removal of Brawl Box and Big Box progress counters from the home screen.
- Introduction of Quests as primary progression
If you are interested as to what Star Tokens and Tickets do, check out my older article here.
By removing alternate currencies that were the sources of game progress and introducing quests, the Brawl Stars team streamlined the core-game progress with the Brawl Pass progress track. Now, the only way to progress through the Brawl Pass is by earning tokens from playing matches, or by finishing the quests.
The quest system in the Brawl Pass is quite nice and purposeful. It gives the players something to do because for most players, trophy grinding is not really a priority. So, I reckon this should have helped re engaging some bored players.
Some of the types of quests available to the players are,
- Daily Quests – Quests with a 24 hour timer that renew everyday. These are easy, 1-2 session activities that gives the player a reason to login every day for a quick injection of tokens (Even if you run out of the ones you can grind from matches). Each daily quest gives 100 tokens.
- Season Quests – These quests do not come with a time limit, and naturally require more time and effort to complete. And in turn offer more tokens to the players for their hard work.
- Players get 2 quests twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays and they are usually worth 250 or 500 tokens (With some rare exceptions of 1000 token quests).
- Premium Quests – Out of the 4 seasonal quests that the player gets, 2 of them are premium quests, which is basically reserved for players who own the premium Brawl Pass. These quests are always worth 250 tokens with no time limit.
- Event Quests – With the removal of tickets (And token betting/multiplying system), now all the special event modes (Big Game, Robo Rumble etc.) are free access events available over the weekend. These quests surface on the weekend with a max limit of 5 completions. Giving the players another reason to play the special events.
The quests are designed thoughtfully with an almost endless variety thanks to the large arsenal of brawlers and modes available in Brawl Stars with something to engage the players both in the short term, long term and also intertwines with the events system! Another great decision!
3. Brawl Pass Content/Design
Along with changes with the core-progression, the team also has made meaningful improvements in the actual Pass design and content (In my humble opinion, of course). Starting with,
- The Free Track – The free track in the Brawl Pass has no empty slots. There is a reward in every tiers to be earned. Which is not something new, but still neat! Additionally, the free track is the only track where gems can be earned as a singular source in the entire game. (Besides IAP)
- The Paid/Premium Track – The premium track, conversely has some gaps in the track occasionally. However, it makes up for it with exclusive Brawl Pass content such as new Brawlers, Brawler Pins (Emoji equivalents) and also skins for the aforementioned new Brawlers and more!
- The player also unlocks a free skin for an existing brawler as the very first reward in the premium track. Very nice!
- Placement of Content – Besides the usual distribution of Brawl Boxes, Gems and Power Points. The Brawl Pass does something extra. i.e unlock new playable content (Brawler) smack in the middle of the Pass (Tier 30).
- I for one applaud this decision because usually the high value content is reserved for the last tiers in most Battle Passes, but Brawl Stars doubles down on the engaging users by giving them new content halfway through the pass, while ensuring that the players don’t get bored and churn out mid progress! Smort.
- As for the later tiers, the player can still look forward to unlocking unique skins and Pins for their unlocked brawler as a way to show off to the players who didn’t/couldn’t finish the pass.
- Introducing Chromatic Brawlers – Chromatic brawlers are a new rarity of brawlers that was introduced with the Brawl Pass. This refers to a dynamic rarity that changes with seasons. All new Brawlers released in the Pass are of Chromatic rarity.
- Chromatic brawlers can still be unlocked regular via Boxes in-game. However, their chances of unlock increases as through multiple seasons, with the unlock chance being lowest during their release.
- Again, the intention here is clear. i.e for the F2P players to have a chance to unlock and experience the “exclusive” brawlers in the Premium track without having ever having to pay for it.
- New Seasonal Maps – With every new season, new themed maps were added to the rotation which brought about some freshness to the gameplay, which was starting to feel a little repetitive, even with the rotational maps and modes.
- End Season Content – Players who finish the Brawl Pass have the option to unlock a Big Box for every 500 tokens earned. The missions at this point prove particularly useful since you still feel like you can come to the game, complete missions and earn the boxes even though the main drivers for finishing the season is no longer present.
4. Pacing and Pricing
The pace of progress in the Brawl Pass is standard in a sense, where the players progress through the first 10 tiers on D1 and the grind starts to pick up slowly from there. The pace is accelerated as the multitude of quests rack up.
With fairly regular play (i.e 1-2 sessions a day and finishing all quests), players will be able comfortably finish the pass which lasts for 60 days. (Which is quite long indeed). Based on my play, I was able to finish all 70 tiers in 30 days without the premium quests. Which is about half the the time of the actual pass.
The pricing and value of the Brawl Pass again, standard in a sense where the average value of a pass is ~12-14x of the purchase cost. It is important to note that this value is in relative to the premium track of the regular Premium Pass (169 Gems) and not the Bundled Premium Pass (Premium Pass + X Tiers) which is priced at 249 gems.
P. S – You can always choose to skip Tier unlock requirements by spending 30 gems if you ever find yourself in a tough spot.
But in terms of value, you might as well go for the Brawl Pass bundle where the value of gems/tiers reduces as you increase your progress but never equal to or below the direct gem option.
5. Tweaks/Changes Post Launch
Post launch, the Brawl Stars and Brawl Pass have added some changes to address some underlying concerns with the system , which has mostly got to do with the pacing and endgame engagement of the Brawl Pass.
- Increased Tiers – First change was the increase in the number of tiers from 60 to 70 in Season 2. (Without change in price). My speculation being that players were reaching the end earlier than intended, hence some more tiers were added to increase value and also increase the engagement period of the Pass.
- Addition of Map Maker and Community Maps – The addition of player/community maps was both a boon and curse in my opinion. It brought a lot of excitement in the game. The community and content creators were buzzing singing both praises and curses via memes and videos. You could see some truly brilliant (And maybe a little twisted) maps in the game that were insanely fun and sometimes frustrating to play.
- Players can submit their maps, rate other players maps for some tokens and the highest voted maps would get a spotlight position in the Mode selection screen for a day.
- This was by far the biggest addition to Brawl Stars since the Brawl Pass, and has gone through a myriad of balancing changes post launch. (A topic that deserves a separate article)
- Addition of new Gadgets – Gadgets were brought into the game before the Brawl Pass, as a way of adding more depth to Brawlers via the addition of a new skill (with limited use). The Brawl Stars team had initially released 1 gadget for all Brawlers on launch. Now, they are adding a second gadget for all brawlers as we speak.
- UI Updates – An update to the mode selection screen after the introduction of the Community Maps feature. The primary method of navigation in this screen went from vertical scrolling to horizontal scrolling, which now mirrors the UI navigation in the Brawl Pass and Trophy Road.
Now that I have covered what I liked about the Pass, it’s time for the spice.
What can be better?
The Brawl Stars team has a gotten a lot of things right. Though their capacity to make well thought and planned large scale changes to the game before even thinking of introducing anything new was already demonstrated in Clash of Clans, they have proved it once again in Brawl Stars with meaningful updates and changes that made the Brawl Pass integral to the game not just another bolted on feature.
However, the fact that the Brawl Pass is so content rich and core to the game’s progression is what holds it back.
Lack of Endgame Activities (Or alternatively, increased gap between seasons)
The content required to create a new pass is demanding at the very least. Creating and balancing a new brawler along with their star powers and gadgets (Atleast 1 each for launch), along with the additional requirements of new skins, pins takes a toll on time, which can be seen in the duration of the Pass, which is more than 2 months.
The Missions and events in-game make sure that even the average player will be able to finish all 70 tiers way before than intended. Which means for the more engaged players, they will have finished the pass even before the halfway mark. You can only spam a new brawler for so long before you get bored. So, many a times I have seen myself losing interest in the game after I’ve completed the pass. And though the grindable boxes help, they’re not enough in my opinion.
What’s the solution?
There are multiple ways to tackle this, with an obvious solution being reducing the duration of the Pass. But this would require operational changes considering Supercell’s limited team size. Other options to explore could be,
- Brawl Pass exclusive leaderboard tied with Event/Mode – Brawl Stars has no shortage of leaderboards. With Brawler leaderboards, Total trophy leaderboards, club leaderboards and even Power Play leaderboards. However, a Brawl Pass specific event (Like Present Plunder or Challenges for example) tied to a seasonal leaderboard that allows players to grind more rewards from the pass could be a potential solution.
- The Battle Pass of Dota 2 is an exceptional example where they give a variety of kickass progression and exclusive game modes via Cavern Crawl , Guild Challenges, Soundboards, Tipping. You name it, they have it! (Useful Link)
- Increased frequency of Challenges,TLE’s – Challenges are win-streak like tournament events that occur too few and far in between the game in my opinion and should be utilized more. Though this may or may not be directly tied to the Brawl Pass progression.
- Better Utilization of Clubs – The clubs feature in Brawl Stars is still pretty barebones. With it existing currently mostly for the club leaderboards and also helping players team up for regular games or events. I’m sure the Brawl Stars team can come up with a way to better utilize clubs. (Given their success with Clan Wars). Who knows, this might be in the works as we speak!
After having spent over a year and crossing over 15000 trophies in this game, it would be an understatement to say that I like it. So, when the announcement of Brawl Pass was made. I was beyond elated.
I have to say that exceptionally talented team over at Supercell have gone above and beyond what’s expected and have proven why they’ve been at the forefront of innovation of mobile games for as long as they have and I am excited to see what’s in store for 2021!
P.S – The incredible cover picture was shared by the wonderful player community at r/BrawlStars. Find them HERE!