Dragon Ball FighterZ's multiplayer battles are spectacles filled with blazing-fast combat backed by outstanding netcode. If only getting into one of those battles didn't involve fumbling about with the game's clunky multiplayer lobby system.
I spent the better part of the weekend playing Dragon Ball FighterZ, and I've noticed several issues that make the game's online multiplayer much less elegant than the fighting system it supports.
In order to play Dragon Ball FighterZ online, a player has to connect to a local online lobby. Players wander about in super deformed Dragon Ball avatars, joining arena matches, entering online battle queues, or participating in story, arcade or local battle modes. It's a cute system, but it's also the root of many of the game's online problems.
That this is a screenshot from a PC fighting game is amazing. So many people.
During launch weekend the lobby system had a serious problem with overcrowding - there just weren't enough rooms for all of the people playing online, especially on PC, which generally isn't a big fighting game platform.
The crowding calmed down over the weekend, with more lobbies opening where needed, but lobby disconnects are still a going concern. It happens a lot to me on Xbox One when coming out of practice or arcade mode. I get disconnected, then have to go through the whole region/area/lobby selection process all over again. It isn't fun.
Finding a random person to play against in a ranked or casual match in Dragon Ball FighterZ can take a while. Rarely have I entered either queue and been matched with another player within 30 seconds. More often it's taken a minute or two to be matched, which is less-than-ideal.
Part of the problem is, again, the lobby system. Players waiting for matches are free to engage in solo activities while waiting for a match. If a player gets wrapped up in practise or an arcade run while waiting on a multiplayer match, when the match does come along, there's a good chance they will cancel, and the waiting continues. Having options to do other things while waiting for online play is great, but some kind of basic menu-based queue would speed the process along.
Playing With Friends
The problem with Dragon Ball FighterZ's invite-a-friend feature is that it does not exist. There's no simple way to challenge online friends to a fight. The game does not feature a traditional friends list. You can follow a fighter, but you can't select that fighter and join them in a game.
Any takers? No? All busy doing other things? OK.
Playing with friends online involves some coordination. All players need to be in the same lobby, for starters, which can be a pain during peak hours when a lot of the lobbies are full. Then one player needs to launch a ring match, creating a special lobby-within-a-lobby. In order to only play with friends and not other random players in the main lobby, a passkey has to be set, which needs to be communicated between friends.
It's a hassle. Imagine jumping through those hoops, getting everything set up, but then being unable to join, instead getting a "no rooms found" error, a problem plaguing many players during the game's launch weekend. Bandai Namco is aware of the problem and is working on a fix, but right now it's making an already frustrating process worse.
Character Selection, Or Lack Thereof
One of my biggest issues with Dragon Ball FighterZ online play is the fact that players can't swap out characters between matches. Players enter online battles by first selecting one of their pre-made teams of three characters. They are then stuck with that team until they back out to the game lobby.
Say I'm fighting against a player who's ready to counter everything my lineup has to throw at them, utterly destroying me. If I choose a rematch once the round is over, I'm stuck with the same team. That's just silly. I should be able to come back at that player with a fresh team. Maybe swap in an under-performing character with a fresh one. Not being able to sucks some of the fun out of online.
But Hey, Offline Play Is Great
Hopefully Bandai Namco and Arc System Works can address some of these issues in game and feature updates. Maybe one day we'll get the private lobby system of Guilty Gear Xrd added, making playing with friends easier and enjoyable.
Until then, I plan on doing most of my multiplayer with real folks in the game's local battle mode, where fighters can be selected, disconnects never happen, and I always know exactly where my friends are.