There are so many MOBAs out there that it can be tough to climb to the top of the pack. While a lot of developers chase Riot's model, both from a monetary and mechanical standpoint, others are trying new things and live and die by them. Dropzone is one such project, and although it derives their free-to-play model directly from the aforementioned current king of MOBAs, it twists and turns a few other conventions on their head, and draws more from the old school RTS genre than anything.
The plot of Dropzone seems generic at first glance (mechs searching the galaxy for resources and fighting evil bug aliens and rival corporations), but the allure is obvious from the first few minutes of the intro. It feels less like a generic space opera and more like a fun 90’s cartoon akin to Exo Squad, with bright personalities leading the charge. I wouldn't go so far as to compare it to something over-the-top like Awesomenauts (which basically is a cartoon) but it's easy to warm up to.
The main gimmick to which Dropzone ties its future is akin to a deadly game of space basketball. Players will have to attack neutral camps of aliens and destroy nests to gain cores, which can be uploaded for points in the center of the map. Think of them like primary objectives related to your tertiary goal of killing other players and controlling the map. You'll have to decide when to attack the enemy (PVE) and when to fight your rivals (PVP), which can be really tough at any given moment.
Wholly focusing on objective-based gameplay (like Heroes of the Storm) was interesting enough, but I really dig the big alteration that Dropzone makes—and here comes that old school RTS tint. Instead of just giving you access to one unit, you're in charge of a team of three. It has control groups and clicking and dragging, and players can issue separate orders to everyone. A tank can guard one nest while an assassin picks off enemy support, and so on.
In case you didn't pick that up, Dropzone does go with traditional class-based roles—Tanks, gunners (AD, or attack damage assassins), mechanics (support), summoners (AP or ability power casters). Though it's not quite as rigid as other games as players can customize abilities and use combos with all three units. It's going to lead to a lot of testing and viable strategies involving an entire team, not just a meta that includes single top tier characters (though I'm sure there will be some of that).
Don't get too excited, as it still has the beating heart of a MOBA. There's a dropship where you can heal (like your home base in DOTA), players gain abilities when they level up, and they can cast skillshots, which are mech-based instead of magical spells. Dropzone also offers a break from PVP in the form of a horde mode, an angle that's reportedly being built up over time and could get me more interested than its MOBA sensibilities (I have a lot of MOBAs I have to juggle already). Things like quests, the premium currency of Feds, and the in-game currency of Jovians are hints of what's to come—an ecosystem that will attempt to suck players in to ultimately (as all developers want) spend money.
Caution aside, I'm really hopeful for Dropzone's future based on the blueprint they've given us now. I love how it adds more RTS sensibilities to the mix, and even if the Early Access state is a little rough (there's placeholder art, and some pathfinding issues) I can see the potential. The next big content drops are going to be more PVE content and ranked play, but the developer intends to provide more pilots, gears, and maps going forward on a regular basis. Although the cheapest Early Access pricepoint is $20, they intend to eventually make it free-to-play, with the current price of entry essentially serving as a founder's pack of sorts.