Review: “Robot Combat League” Lives Up to the Hype, But Takes Too Long to Get There Thumbnail

Review: “Robot Combat League” Lives Up to the Hype, But Takes Too Long to Get There

Our most anticipated game show of the year so far has been, without question, Syfy’s Robot Combat League.  From the day it was announced, our interest was piqued.  It’s gigantic robots kicking the hell out of each other.  How could you not be somewhat interested?  However, yes, while the idea sounds interesting there was concern about how it would look on television.  TV budgets aren’t mammoth, especially cable budgets.  Could Syfy pull off a game of robot boxing without it seeming dumb, corny, or uninteresting.  The debut episode has been posted on Hulu (among other places) to preview before next week’s debut.  We’re relieved to say Robot Combat League more than lives up to its hype, but it takes a bit too long to get there.

In the series twelve teams, comprised of a fighter and an engineer, battle each other to be the last robot standing and take home $100,000.  If your robot is unable to move after each 20 minute tune-up period, or you are knocked out during a fight and unable to continue, you are eliminated.  At least in the first episode an initial game was played to determine rankings.  Players had to hit a target on a test robot as fast as they can in order to get a high seed.

Let’s be honest: the reason reason we’re watching is to see robots fight.  You’ll be happy to know it works well and looks cool.  We saw the pictures and understand that when the fighter moves his or her arm, the robot does also.  It’s not until you see it in action that you understand how unbelievable it is.  I was blown away and shouting at the TV during the fight.  Beyond the robots, though, you’ll end up liking the teams.  They’re smart, compelling, and not the typical annoying, constantly shouting game show contestant.  For the actual reasons you watch, the show is great.

The fighter prepares to strike

The fighter prepares to strike

However, it takes too long getting there.  We are two acts in before we even get to any actual robot content.  It’s not until 30 minutes in that the fight starts, though there is the warm-up game before that.  I understand you want to give context to the teams and explain how these works, but no one watching really cares.  People are watching to see robots beat each other up.  I’m hoping the pace will improve further into the series, since things obviously need explained in week one, but let’s get to the actual fights sooner.  I will note, though, that the pre-game content isn’t all contestant drama.  There is a good deal of science in this.  Engineers explain how the robots work, how they were tested, built, and more.  There’s something for everyone.

If you were excited to watch Robot Combat League, you won’t be disappointed.  If you were on the fence, I think you’ll end up liking it.  It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come in just the few short years since BattleBots.  Robot Combat League is the most compelling, exciting, ass-kicking reality competition on television currently.  If you watch you’re going to be hooked.  Trust me, you’ll enjoy it.  Want to see a fight in action?  Take a look below.  We’ve truncated the clip to only show the fight.  You can go back and watch the rest if you want.

Alex Davis

About the Author

has written 3437 articles on BuzzerBlog.

Alex Davis is an award winning writer and producer based out of Pittsburgh, PA, who works out of New York, Los Angeles, and London. Alex is the head writer and editor for BuzzerBlog and is the president and head of development of 5Hole Productions, specializing in unscripted formats for television and internet play.

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121 responses to "Review: “Robot Combat League” Lives Up to the Hype, But Takes Too Long to Get There"

  • David says:

    I think the 2nd episode should be better when it comes to showing actual fights- don’t know how many episodes this is planned for, but if it’s 8 that should be two fights most eps the full bracket shown for the tournament in the first episode seems to me to show that the 6 first-round losers are going to have a chance to compete for 2 slots for the 2nd round…. We’ll have to see what happens. Looked awesome though.

    • Nick says:

      After the first round I said to myself, “if this father-daughter duo somehow come back and win this fight than it is obviously fake.” ‘Nuff Said.

  • King Erroneous says:

    The problem I have with this robot show is the fact that each robot is anthropomorphic by requirement. It was far more fascinating to see robots of various sizes, shapes, locomotion and weaponry go at it and see what works the best. Here, each robot has two fists. Whoopee.

    • D_HASS says:

      From what I can tell, as new challenges are completed, contestants will have a chance to outfit their bots with new fists and weapons. “Medieval” came with his own mace and chain mail, that’s pretty awesome. And the designs I think are different enough to keep it interesting. Giving each bot its own weaknesses and strengths. For example, Scorpio is made of carbon fiber and kevlar I think, while Brimstone is rounded steel covered in thick leather. But I do hope they get a chance to upgrade their robots throughout the competition.

  • robofanatic says:

    Totally agree with your review! I was excited but skeptical, then hooked right away. Since it was the first episode there was a lot to get out of the way early but once it got going it was kickass. Can’t wait to see what happens next! (And George Lucas makes an appearance?? WTF?!)

  • D_HASS says:

    That fight was awesome! I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt this time around, as far as pacing in the beginning of the episode went. New technology and new contestants means a lot to jam in the first 25 minutes of the episode. I think now that that is all out of the way, the rest of the season will be mostly robot ass whoopings. The fight was definitely exciting, and way faster paced than I had been expecting. I most enjoyed the repair period between the rounds. I hope we get to hear more about this stuff as the show goes on. Really interesting to see these engineering geniuses try and fix their robots in such limited time, with limited resources. AND THE BOTS ARE BADASS!

    I personally can not wait for more.

    • suomynonA says:

      You should know that all of the robots were made by one guy. There are no actual engineering teams, maybe just one main team that made the robots before the show aired, and if not a main engineering team, then one guy: Mark Setrakian.

      The spark cannons and the hydraulic tubes popping off in every round got really old, really fast. The website says these are 1000 pound robots, but when you look at the show, every punch they try to throw just makes them bounce around. And thats all it is, just punching, left right left right, and if they are lucky, they could tap the other robot, and then spark cannons everywhere!

      Robot designs too are really bad. The arms and midsection are exposed on every robot. Tap the arm and the hydrolic tube pops off. Tap the midsection, more sparks! The guy should have studied actual robot design, to learn that everything can be plated up, and still move independantly. Seeing the arm cover from Commando fall off proved that there wasnt even anything stong enough to bolt it to the frame, it just popped off like flimsy plastic.

      The only part of the show that grabbed my attention for a minute is when something happened to commando’s support bar and then he fell over backwards. The poorly designed mid-section didnt have enough strength on it’s own to support the giant torso. Thats the only thing that made me look at the tv.

      In conclusion, the robots are not badass, the show is boring, and all the robots are made by one guy who designed all the robots with the exact same flimsy frame. Also, syfy has been a huge disappointment for a long time.

      At least with Battle Bots, the robots would be able to saw and tear apart the other robots, where the sheet metal would fly off across the arena and then all the insides are exposed to be cut apart by actual saws, or pushed into other saws or flames. And the great thing? They were made by actual groups of people, like engineering students, who worked together to try to make something the best they can to try to survive in the area or else they will ACTUALLY lose their hard work when its torn to shreds.

      • Realist says:

        Thanksfor this review. I feel the same way and I hope some people will read your re iew and take into consideration everything you’ve said. Just needs to be more realistic and less cheesy sparks. Anyone who would design a robot would know to cover up the vitals. I mean come on.

      • Fred says:

        You act as if you could do better? Pff, lets see you run off and make 12 1000 pounds robots that fight to the death.

  • Austin says:

    KILLER new show. I used to love Battlebots this is SO MUCH BETTER!!! Hope Syfy gives this one another season I think its their next Face-Off or better!

  • BadFinger says:

    WOW!! I had heard about this a while ago, and thought it sounded cool, but they’ll never pull it off…. I was wrong! Totally agree with the review, and wish I saw the fight sooner, but actually liked hearing the stories and getting to know the characters. This is on my MUST SEE list for sure, totally blown away!

  • techguysteve says:

    Holy Moly!!! This is the future of fighting! Can’t wait for next episode! How do I fight on the next season??????????????? AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Lordofthethings says:

    YES. Ive been waiting for this show! Those things are huge! Loved the first fight. If you truly understand robotics, you’ll realize how cutting edge this is!!

  • Robotfan69 says:

    This show was awesome!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t wait to see it on the my big screen!!!! This is the best show I’ve seen in a very long time!! Syfy has come a long way. I usually think their shows suck by this one is awesome!!!!

  • BigGuyAl2626 says:

    Thank you Syfy! Finally a show worth watching other than Battlestar Galactica reruns! GO ROBOTS!

  • Chubby lover says:

    Yeah usually syfy sucks but this time they did it right!!!!!!!

  • insaneinthemembrain says:

    I’m stoned. This was perfect. I thought those things were gonna jump through my TV!!!! AHHHHH!!!! THEY ARE TAKING OVER!!!!!

  • QuartrGuy says:

    Wow…that fight was AWESOME!!

  • Glenn says:

    I liked the movement. I was worried it would look too much like Rock Em Sock Em robots ;) (Even Real Steel had this issue, although that may have been by design)

    I still think Robot wars with the smaller robots which were more mobile was better but just the size of the bots…yes I can appreciate the skill needed to build such a thing.

    as for ep 1…too much explaining for it not to fall short…future eps should be better…if costs don’t go out of control, this may go for a long time.

  • Brent says:

    This technology is insane! Especially for the first season of this show. I can’t wait to see how the robots transform in the following seasons. This show gives us a glimpse into the future of robotic sports.

    EDITOR NOTE: This is a comment from a representative of Smart Dog Media or Syfy, both involved with Robot Combat League

    • chip says:

      lets put an end to the fake sparks (pyrotechnics ) that are mounted to the robot. Also the fake hydrolic leaks It makes the whole thing look suspect.
      Im all for legit damage to the robots and hydrolc lines being broken. lets be realistic people

      • Unrepentant13 says:

        Amen to that. Battlebots was at least real. Each one was different, each one had real weapons and each one did REAL damage to their opponent. In RCL, the “injuries” are all quite intentional. Twice I’ve seen squibs (or the equivalent) go off to blow the hydraulics. This show is the Jersey Shore of robot combat.

        • unimpressed says:

          another amen to that, this is fake, robot wars was real. it’s a completely pointless show if the damage is faked with cheap pyrotechnics. all the robots are supplied by the show, and all the robots are the same…this much time between robot wars and this…and we end up with something like this…big waste of cash syfy..my nine year old nephew didn’t even fall for it, which is probably the worst criticism i can make here.

          • Fred says:

            Well, lets see you build 12 robots that fight to the death? Whats that? You can’t do better? Then shut up. Its entertainment. Deal with it.

    • James says:

      For all of the comments referring to “insane” technology…… how? Hydraulics are nothing new. Remotes are nothing new. The technology isn’t much more insane than any piece of heavy equipment such as a crane or a Bobcat. See below for my concept for a new Bobcat combat sport. DIBS!

    • Me says:

      im on a rant here but i agree with suomynonA i just watched the last of prelims but i am only watching in the hopes that something more interesting will happen. i was so excited when the robots were first introduced but when the fight started i saw how badly designed the robots really are for the task they are assigned.

      im sure that a person getting hit off one of the robots would be a pretty nasty blow but against a wobbly steel machine the hits just bounce.
      the exposed mid sections and arms must be intentionally made like that so they can fail otherwise the fights would all go full rounds only 9 mins total
      unfortunately, that means every fight will b almost the same. actuators popping left, right and centre it looks like a bit of a joke.
      its a contest where skill, ability and knowledge mean nothing, they may as well flip a coin for who wins. and getting robotics and fighting experts was a total waste of time children off the street would probably do just as well team crash proving that with no great skill in either member

      personally i think they should have been made far stronger with full armour and have a fight to the death:
      no clearly better robots, scorpions blades vs everyone else’s standard fists is a mockery of all the other teams
      no sparkles they look ridiculous
      no points system based on what some idiot thinks was a good hit,
      no round limit gfotta have rounds to give the contestants a rest
      no pit time. They should not be able to repair the robot. FFS I’ve seen people get their arms broken in MMA they didn’t go to hospital get it strapped up and then get to continue the fight if they did it fast enough.

      in fact if i ran the show all robots would start the same with decent armour and stronger hydraulics. Also i would drag it out a little more and have just 1 fight per show with the 1st part of the show being some mini-games (id love to see mad things like robot basketball robot which can throw a ball furthest wins) to earn the competing teams extra weapons/armour then at least the overpowered teams will have earnt that power not just luck of the draw.
      as it stands it should be called robot failing league.
      sounded soooo good
      looks so so
      plays soooo bad

      sorry for goin on so much but its got so many issues i may stop watching it if it doesn’t do something new

      • Fred says:

        Once again, another person needs this comment: Lets see you build 12 robots that fight to the death. Its not easy.

  • tina says:

    I was actually really skeptical about this show but then I watched the first episode and it was INCREDIBLE! Seriously though the fights are going to be ridiculous…have you seen how big those robots are?? Definitely my kind of show. Robot fight club except we can talk about it.

    EDITOR NOTE: This is a comment from a representative of Smart Dog Media or Syfy, both involved with Robot Combat League

  • Winter says:

    I am actually disappointed with this show. I had hoped to hear and see more of the science that has gone into the robots, maybe actually have some details on the controller mechanics. Instead it’s just hype and trash talk. I seems the actual combat is slow and clunky looking so they cut in and out and turn a two minute round into a one minute round with lots of “a big punch there” yelling from the “commentators.” They don’t explain what is really sparking when the robots take hits, hydraulic mechanisms don’t require electricity going through so I am assuming it is pyrotechnics set off from impact or by remote control.

    Keep RCL, bring back Robot Wars. At least there you saw some innovation and real “combat” not this fake boxing crud.

    • Fred says:

      Another person? Really? Well here it is: Lets see you build 12 8 foot tall robots that fight to the death? Its not easy. Shut up.

  • Do Kwon Ti says:

    I saw ep 1 and the robots are pretty cool, wish the fights were longer but its cool to see two bots fight its amazing what they can do these days.

  • Martin says:

    Oh man, they have a good idea here, but I fear they are going to ruin it with the reality tv format. I am immediately turned off by the girls who choose to dress in as little as possible when piloting the bots for one, and you can all ready sense the fake smack talk and cat fights upcoming, which always makes wonder how much of the show is scripted. I really want to like this one too. Definitely concerned.

    And how low do the producers have to go to have their own people posting in your comment section? Right out of the gate no less? Good job calling them out.

  • Jack says:

    Interesting concept for a reality show. However I have my concerns of the authenticity. First red ‘scripted’ flag: Chris Jerico, star of a scripted sport as host hmm. Second was the ‘engineer’ who built the bots. He was explaining things in very vague terms and even came of as cheesy.seemed like he was an actor playing a scientist. My boys who are big WWE fans really enjoyed it. I guess in order to enjoy it myself, I need to see it as just good entertainment and put aside the obvious.

    • John says:

      Holy crap I’m so happy someone else is seeing through this bullcrap. I was reading all of these reviews and although not surprised, I was disappointed with the number of people that just eat this garbage up. Did the choreographed fake sparks not give it away people? The hydraulic fluid leaking from non-moving parts like “the hands” ? You people should be ashamed of yourselves for getting excited over what is nothing more than a Wii game with moving parts and showy effects. I don’t even consider this good entertainment. The obvious coached cheering on the side-lines was enough to have me laughing through the whole thing. Reminded me of the new American Gladiators series that manufactured fans with pre-made banners and signs. Just more crap bound for failure people. Battlebots was so much more interesting and entertaining than this because of its genuine use of technological skill and ingenuity. Here’s a screen shot I took of the poorly timed simultaneous sparks from the abdomen of both robots. Pretty fireworks people!

      • Curtis says:

        The sparks are definitely for show, but the hydraulic fluid from the hand is plausible – the elbow joint blew out, and instead of spraying out, if something was blocking the spray it would drip down – towards the now-hanging hand. Yes, it’s played up a bit (sparks flying to make the impacts seem larger than life), but I doubt that the fight itself is choreographed.

      • Fred says:

        You people never learn! Once again, I must type this: Lets see you build 12 robots that fight to the death? Its not easy, its expensive, and you can’t do it, so shut up with your bullcrap. Sorry, I didn’t know you worked for Syfy and know all of the secrets and can GARENTEE this is fake. Shut up?

  • Derek says:

    This show looks like it could be pretty cool. Hopefully future episodes has more fighting and less getting to know the people.I dont understand how the tournament bracket works with 12 teams though. Usually you need either 8 or 16 teams. As it is setup, the winner of the final match of the quarter-finals won’t have anyone to fight in the semi-finals.

    • Curtis says:

      I’m interested in this as well… one would think they’ll pick some wild-cards (through a power-up challenge?) to have a second chance in the competition. Will be interesting to see what happens.

  • Patrick says:

    I was a little worried about how it was put here of it taking too long to get to where it should be, but I was glued to my TV the entire show. I’m a big fan of Mark Setrakian with his work of robotics (he participated in BattleBots with his robot “Snake” which I thought was the coolest bot ever.) and now to see his work in robotic competitions again is making me relieve my childhood. This is so far an incredible show I can’t wait for next week and a 2nd season.

  • MJGHUNTER says:

    Good show. I hate the reality TV aspect of the show. I expected the show and I hope it developes into individuals making there own robots to fight. Not just pick people to drive and operate the robots. Cool idea and entertaining, but could be better. This will evolve into somthing bigger. I agree with another person who said they could do without the fireworks exploding. It really makes it look fake and stagged.

  • chip says:

    FAKE FAKE FAKE !!!!! totally fake from the overly enthusiastic crowd to the fake sparks flying off the robot and even the fake hydrolic parts. Nothing about that was believable to me. Very disappointed !!!

    Also why do they keep cutting away from the robots when they are fighting to show the fake crowd and announcer??? Keep the damn cameras on the action! Its not hard!

    Will not watch again.

    • Fred says:

      Lets see you build 12 robots that fight to the death, also, broadcast it on TV? Shut up, you can’t do better, so enjoy what these people did for you.

      • Brett says:

        Sheesh Fred. Relax. You’re right, I can’t build 12 robots to fight to the death. So? I don’t make TV shows. So? These people didn’t do anything for me. They did this for their company to make money. People are dissapointed. I also say, So?

  • Dis Appointed says:

    These MUST be fake posts! I can’t believe any self respecting robot fan could fall for this B.S. Chris Jericho must have been very well paid to attach his name and reputation to this project. This “fighting” is TOTALLY fake. The pyrotechnics, the crowd, the “characters” (contestants), all complete bull.

    A static shot of the “fight” must show how ridiculous this is, as they didn’t stay on one shot for more that 3 seconds without a cut.

    A recap of the premise – A hollywood special effects artist creates 12 more or less evenly matched robots, and 12 teams of people that have absolutely no knowledge whatsoever of the design and capabilities are trained to pilot the robots in 2 days. This is reality TV at its absolute worst. Shame on everyone involved.

    • ashlin says:

      Exactly! I was excited to watch this show but 10 seconds into the fight I was totally disappointed. It’s all an act, which is sad to say because the concept had potential.

      • Nick says:

        The father-Daughter underdog, over-coming the gigantic favorites and the references.to david and goliath analogy was enough to convince me of the staging

    • Fred says:

      Well, since you seem to be so rich and smart, go build us a show with 15 10 Foot Tall Robots, that can act as if fully human, and fight to the death. Broadcast it on TV, then we will take you seriously, but for now, this is entertainment, DEAL WITH IT.

  • James says:

    They could have made a more exciting show by putting people in Bobcats and having them attack each other with the buckets. They would at least have been able to maneuver around each other, and wouldn’t have needed to spend money on robots with legs that are not even needed. The forward and reverse movement of these combatants is dependent upon the T bars holding them up. I suspect some of the rave reviews are given by insiders, because these robots are less thrilling than monster trucks which can barely draw a crowd these days.
    Yup….. teams of 4 Bobcat drivers attacking each other while trying to protect their scoring player on a Rascal who attempts to cross a goal line. That would be far more entertaining.

    • Fred says:

      Good luck with that, considering no one would bother watching that. Lets see you build 12 robots that fight to the death? Its not easy. Enjoy whats given, and don’t bitch about it. Shut up already. You people are so damn critical.

  • Robert says:

    This show is absolutely not fake. Those robots are 100% breaking down and spewing hydraulic fluids. These robots cost about $100,000 to make each one! The technology they use on this show is ground breaking.

    • KikaiderX says:

      They’re real… Real identical. Really made by the props department. Real pyrotechnic effects, apparently fired off manually (The robots hit each others fist, and sparks fire out of their midsection…)
      Do you think the ‘engineer’ in each team is actually fixing the bots? Not. The pilot and engineer didn’t even meet before they started filming, and they sure didn’t BUILD the things!

    • Unrepentant13 says:

      The technology has been around for decades. The whole thing is all flash and no substance.

  • Duckman says:

    Moment into the first “fIght” I watched I called bullspit on this show. How can anyone miss it. It’s as phony as Chris Jericho’s WWE, but at least WWE was entertaining enough to put aside the phoniness.

  • Unrepentant13 says:

    God, I miss Battlebots. Real engineers, real weapons, real damage. This show is just WEAK, SyFy. Weak. If you think this garbage is real then I’m sure you think Pro-Wrestling is as well. Go home SyFy, you’re drunk.

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