This is part of a series of posts relating the experiences of my players in a special playtest session. In this post, the bloodrager has also played in pathfinder society, so I'm lumping those early experiences in here as well.
The bloodrager is a strange blend of combat & support. While 3/4ths of their spells at every level are blast spells, they also have the essential buffs: enlarge person, haste and mirror image. They also have some key debuffs: glitterdust, reduce person and slow. By the time they gain access to these spells, they aren't top-tier by any means: but they provide some crucial action economy options: Normally barbarians are crippled if the enemy isn't reachable in melee - the Bloodrager can resort to fireballs, slows, or other buff spells on allies that can contribute.
This mechanic is further modified by their bloodlines, which confer always-on spell like effects - this is a major feature, as Barbarians generally have to wait for a little help from their sorcerer friends before they wade off into battle: now they get a small (or not-so-small) buff for free when they rage. The bloodlines are varied, but like all classes with abilities like this, some end up standing out from the pack.
Our bloodrager went down the Abyssal line, so he began with claws and at 15th level he ended up with a positively massive 49-51 strength while raging (using some strength-pumping narcotics as well). Along the way, however, the role and abilities of the Bloodrager evolved considerably.
At first through third level the bloodrager operated in the same party as a Skald, and the two of them used teamwork feats to magnify and improve their rage. This allowed them to enjoy improved and longer rage that allowed them more freedom that either would normally enjoy. Bloodragers, Barbarians and Skalds all work together wonderfully and can be a very enjoyable set of classes to play together.
At 5th level, the bloodrager was enojying his enlarge person, and his first few early spells. However, these spells were mostly used immediately before combat - he could do far more damage smashing things with his claws than he could casting magic missile. Only spells like magic weapon or true strike interested him, and if the party was ambushed, he'd rather just charge in and start doing damage. I don't disagree with him there.
At 15th level, the bloodrager has truly come into his own. With his bloodline providing a host of bonuses and serious spellcasting power, the bloodrager was using monstrous physique to turn himself into all kinds of interesting things, most notably a gargoyle, to gain flight and extra arms. He could use these abilities to devastating effect, having taken some barbarian rage powers as feats (pounce totem, mostly). His damage per round was strong, but his AC was extremely low and (like many barbarian/bloodragers) he relied entirely on his hitpoints to carry him through fights.
The addition of free buffs when you rage is fantastic. Its a suitable and themed replacement for rage powers, without being 'better' than rage powers.
The spellcasting is good without being great, and it doesn't draw away from the melee focus of the class.
HP, Saves, Skills and BAB are all appropriate for their level. It seems odd to say, but this class has an appropriate level of MAD - Strength, Con, Cha, Dex, in that order, all make the class better. I think it's appropriate, considering the divide this class spans, and the benefits its reaping from both sides.
Some of the bloodlines are very well done, and the bloodlines all add something interesting. I can see Celestial being very strong in the current PFS season.
Some of the bloodlines (Abberant, Abyssal, Arcane) are perhaps too good, whereas others (Destined, Draconic, Fey) need some love. This is inevitable with this type of feature.
It would be cool if the spellcasting was less blasty. Not asking for pure utility spells, but more buffs (particularly group buffs) would be nice.
The spellcasting progression is appropriate, but this means that in the very early-game (1-4) the bloodrager is just a barbarian with a single trick. I'd like to see cantrips added to the class, so they have some spellcast-y feel all throughout their progression, and feel rewarding for putting points in Cha. As it is, a 14 Cha is all you need, and that's unfortunate from a balance perspective.
I like bloodrager a great deal. The only thing that gets odd is the way that spellcasting changes the class as it grows in levels. I can see some players underutilizing the class's features because they started at a certain level: if they joined a level 15 game, they might just blast away with their damage spells and consider themselves the burliest sorcerer ever, which would be their loss. Likewise, the player starting from level has quite a few sessions ahead of them where they are effectively a barbarian with no rage powers. Perhaps cantrips right away would help mitigate this feeling?
I give this class a 9/10. The utility and robustness of a bloodrager (in combat only) should not be overlooked.
How did this BR manage to get Rage Powers? I assumed this was impossible since the BR doesn't qualify for Rage Power feats and cannot gain levels in its parent classes.
Without pounce (which is currently only available to Arcane using polymorph AFAIK), I think the BR is a lot less impressive after level 10.