The box is locked, the lights are on, on December 3rd it’s robot fighting time!
It might not be the BattleBots season we were promised back in February, in a pre-lockdown world which feels like a whole lifetime ago, but we still get to see (most of) our favourite bots back on the screen busting some ball bearings and going hell for metal until one gets their wheels on the coveted Giant Nut.
It will be a season like nothing we’ve seen before. And while there’ll be a lot that we’ll miss in this upcoming season (more on that to come later), we’ve got so much to look forward to. There’s definitely more than six things to be excited for, but that’s how many I’ve got the energy to write about without over stretching my limited brain cells too far.
Strap yourselves in folks, and let’s get started.
1. Everyone’s Back! (in human form, anyway)
First up is proof that some things just never change, and that certainly seems to be the case with the BattleBots reboot.
Chris, Kenny and Faruq have all returned as the shows’ trusty presenters, commentators and announcer, meaning they will have hosted every season of BattleBots since it came back on ABC. And I don’t think we’d want it any other way. Faruq’s battle introductions have become one of the most enjoyable and humorous parts of the show, leading to many questionable puns and subsequent “dank memes”.
Meanwhile, over in the commentary box, it wouldn’t be the same without Chris’ constant “WHOAAAAA”s and “OH MY GOOOOOOOD!”s every time a robot gets lifted slightly into the air, Kenny’s charming and witty banter in response to his co-commentator’s shenanigans, and their chemistry together just makes their commentary all the better and entertaining. They’re easily the best hosts the show has ever had.
It remains to be seen who’ll be on the judging panel this season, but it has been confirmed that we’ll be treated to Jenny Taft’s tech segments (which were a great addition to the 2019 season), as well as more in-depth talks with the competing teams, and the surprise return of Peter Abrahamson, builder of the “legendary” Ronin from the ComedyCentral era. Whatever uncertainty may have lingered over this upcoming season, at least it’s a certainty we’ll be seeing the gang back together.
If anything proves what a strange and backwards place the world has become in 2020, it’s that I’m including Chomp in it’s own section on a ‘Things to Look Forward to in BattleBots’ list. You should all know that I’ve decided to swear vengeance against this machine since it took advantage of the nonsense primary weapon rule changes in 2016 to BS its way to the last 8, winning its battles by virtue of luck and scoring about two accurate hits in its whole run. Yes, most of that is attributed to the stupid rule changes that were brought about to give Tombstone a free victory, but people started to talk about Chomp as if it were a godsend of mechanical engineering that deserved every victory it got. It wasn’t, it didn’t, and watching it show its true colours by sinking to an 0-4 record in 2018 really made me feel smug about myself. My point was proven.
But, after taking the 2019 season off, Zoe Stephenson and co. have come back and captivated the minds of just about everyone who watches the show. See, the BattleBots team have decided to bring back the weight bonus for walking robots (double the weight for robots with independently controlled legs I think, but if I’m wrong someone please correct me), so Chomp has come back a true Chungus of a machine, bulking up to about 500 lbs. – double the weight of any other machine there.
Armed with a turreted axe, Chomp has basically developed into Pressure Drop 2.0, except with a flamethrower and a love of the gym. Who knows how it’ll do in battle, but the new teaser seems to show it fighting Ghost Raptor, so it should get at least one win under it’s belt. Do I think they’re exploiting a bizarre ruling to benefit them once more? Yes. Am I still excited to see how new Chomp performs? Also yes.
3. The return of the old guard
This season’s line-up has certainly been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with several mainstays of the show deciding not to take part under the current circumstances, and some deciding to stay home and presumably continue work on their bots, which is something I’ll discuss in a future post.
But that’s not stopped a whole host of familiar faces returning to the fold for this season. Of course, Tombstone is back, because the show just wouldn’t be the same without Rambunctious Ray and his awesome bar collection. They’ll be looking to regain their giant nut, and they’ll be up against other regular big hitters like Sawblaze, Whiplash, and the very, very lately added Witch Doctor, who’ll be looking to go one step better from their second-place finish in 2019.
Icewave also returns after a one-year hiatus, fresh with a brand new paint job, and will be hoping not to have its face ripped asunder by Rotator again, who also returns with as much neon and gold as it had before. The two biggest robots from last season (though they’ve now been dwarfed by Chomp), HUGE and Mammoth are also back, and it’s been revealed that we have a fight between them to look forward to. Hypershock struts back into the picture as well, though whether it returns with its trusty rake remains to be seen, and End Game and Black Dragon have defied international travel to compete, as has Beta, meaning four years of waiting for a good hit has finally come to an end.
There’s also the surprise return of two BattleBots legends – Bronco and Son of Whyachi. Neither bot were announced for the original line-up back in February, and it was presumed that the Bronco team were taking a break after a surprising 0-4 2019 season, and that SOW had been retired altogether so that the team could work on their other bots. But, here they are, and regardless of how well either team does, these are two robots that always put on a good show. Team Whyachi have also brought back Hydra, which took the “king of flippers” crown form Bronco in 2019, and a new robot called Fusion in place of Falcon (a useless box the team brought last season), which looks like it could cause some serious damage on its day. 2015 semi-finalist Ghost Raptor is the most surprising name to return this season, having not competed since 2016, but in all honesty probably won’t be setting the world alight this time around.
Shatter, Valkyrie, Gruff, Bloodsport, Lockjaw and Gigabyte are just some of the names who’ll also be a part of the 2020 season, promising us some guaranteed destruction and mayhem on the way.
4. All the new bots
Regardless of all the returning competitors we’ll be seeing this season, this season has also opened up the field for a whole host of new teams to enter the tournament, mostly US-based teams who are filling the void left by the plethora of international bots who won’t be taking part.
I think the most curious feature of these new bots is that there’s a surprising amount of lifters in the line-up, perhaps to do with the bots being rushed builds between March and September, and on a limited budget. Claw Viper, Slap Box, The Big Dill, Deadlift, and SlamMow!, from robot building deity Craig Danby, all feature some sort of lifting device, emulating bots of the classic era such as Panic Attack and Complete Control, even 2015 Bite Force to a degree.
There are, of course, a whole array of new vertical spinners, given that these are US teams we’re dealing with here. Jackpot looks the deadliest of these spinners, despite its gag design, and is joined by Rampage, Axolotl, Tracer, the bizarrely named War? EZ!, Pain Train, and Atom #94, the only other international team who made it to filming, and who become the first ever Indian representatives in a BattleBots tournament.
Obviously there are other designs on display to look out for. The Battle Royale with Cheese team have returned with HiJinx, which, despite having a pretty cool aesthetic, looks pretty breakable, and has the damning fact that it was built by the Battle Royale with Cheese team hanging over it. Rusty has already become a firm fan favourite due to it resembling a long lost Scrap Daddy cousin, and then there’s whatever the hell Grabot and SMEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE are.
I’m not exactly convinced any of these robots will challenge the established BattleBots hierarchy, except maybe for Perfect Phoenix, a former BattleBots champion, albeit from eleven years ago with the only change it’s seen in that time being a new paint job, and Aegis, which looks like it could be a pretty decent launcher. But, however well these bots end up doing, it’s great to see so many new competitors entering the competition, and with a lack of expectation comes all the more possibility for shocks.
5. A New Champion
Regular viewers have probably already figured this out, but you’ll have seen that reigning champion Bite Force will not be among the returning bots this year.
Paul Ventimiglia’s machine has ruled BattleBots with an iron fist since its return, winning three of the four seasons, with its one and only loss coming at the hands of Chomp due to the aforementioned bogus rule change. But due to the current global situation, the team have decided to take the year off, meaning that come the end of the season, there will be a new holder of that glorious Giant Nut. Or Tombstone.
Bite Force’s absence has blown the field wide open, and will surely have given at least half the teams in the pits the confidence and optimism that they could be the champions of the 2020 season. Along with Tombstone, I’m assuming that Sawblaze, Whiplash and Witch Doctor will be among the favourites, all of whom have impressive 2019 seasons under their belts to build upon. Meanwhile HUGE, Rotator, Black Dragon, Lockjaw and Hypershock are just some of the bots that will be dreaming of the nut, provided that they all work and nothing goes wrong. But this is probably the most open field we’ve seen in years, and at least we know by the end of it Bite Force’s dominance has come to an end, though admittedly more through circumstance than actual effort.
However, that being said…
6. Sheer Chaos and Unpredictability
No-one knows what’s going to happen this season, and that’s arguably the most exciting aspect about it.
A new champion, several unknown bots, and a whopping 32-bot knockout bracket mean there’s so much room for thrills, spills, upsets and everything in between. With episodes apparently clocking in at somewhere between two and two and a half hours each, we’re promised more fights, more drama, more content to keep us entertained during these trying times. Who knows what these episodes will bring? We’ve already been promised some tasty match-ups; the aforementioned HUGE vs. Mammoth, Kraken vs. Black Dragon, and Tombstone vs. End Game, which will apparently be kicking off the opening episode.
Who knows what else we’ll be treated to? Who’s going to go on a Cinderella run to the later stages of the tournament? Maybe some epic rematches – Ghost Raptor vs. Icewave and Beta vs. Tombstone spring to mind. And will we have another Desperado Tournament in conjunction with the new format? All are questions I, and presumably many others will be aching to have answered.
It might not be the season we thought we were getting, but it promises to be just as mad, barmy and bombastic as those that have preceded it. And I’m so here for it.