Master x Master Review – Re-Inventive MOBA

Master x Master Review - Re-Inventive MOBA

Popular MOBAs have remained stagnant for the most part. While the original DOTA mod set the stage, various genre staples like League of Legends have done little to rock the core three-lane formula—League basically just followed the DOTA system and took out denying before slowly starting to evolve facets like its jungle game and laning phase. Blizzard took a more cavalier approach with Heroes of the Storm, allowing for concessions like group XP instead of a focus on individual play, tower “ammo” that could be expended, and less of a focus on laning.

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SMITE Reveals The Morrigan

SMITE Reveals The Morrigan

Hi-Rez’s SMITE has become a major name since its launch. In a MOBA space primarily dominated by DotA 2 and League of Legends, the stalwart free-to-play game has earned a devoted following thanks to accessible gameplay and a winning art direction. Now, that following will a new playable character to sink their teeth into – The Morrigan.

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Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Fray

Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Fray

With the MOBA genre now being one of the dominant forces in gaming today, it was only a matter of time before studios began the attempt to innovate on the formula. Sparkypants Studio has done just that: they have taken the RTS formula, mixed it with that of MOBAs and created something truly unique by the name of Dropzone.

Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Frey 2

To say Sparkypants has just mixed MOBAs with the RTS genre and left it at that would be doing Dropzone a disservice. Dropzone is a distinct experience. Due to the simple fact that you control multiple heroes, it never really feels like a true MOBA, and with the lack of base buildings and each hero having such an impact on the battlefield, it never feels like a pure RTS either. It is a hybrid in the most genuine sense. The closest analogue I could think of would be Warcraft III or Dawn of War, where players take control of hero units as they go around slaying the monsters that plague the lands.

The core of Dropzone focuses on 1 VS 1 gameplay, with each player looking to upload the most cores before the 15 minutes of match time runs out. There are randomly spawning alien (Kavash) hives around the map, and once these colonies are destroyed it will grant experience along with the cores. These cores are the focus of the gameplay and once collected, they must be taken to the uplink location at the centre of the map. It will take ten seconds to upload, but once done your side will gain a point. Points can also be gained by other random map objectives such as tower control or killing specific units.

Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Frey 4

The flow of the gameplay within Dropzone is what makes it so engaging. Limiting every match to 15 minutes ensures few games will drag on and that every minute in the match counts. Players control three separate mech units, each with a specific loadout. They will need to use each unit’s special abilities to harvest cores from investigations, all while preventing their opponent from doing the same.

The gameplay feels refined and was clearly designed by people who love what they are doing. As I tested out the game, they described how they are regularly taking feedback from all members of the team and iterating to make Dropzone the most fun it can be. This iteration shows. The gameplay loop feels solid, and despite the simple nature of the one vs. one mode, it had enough depth that I wanted to dive back in right after I had finished a match.

Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Frey 6

One of the biggest downfalls of the RTS and MOBA genres is the drawn out nature of many of the matches. Things can sway last minute, making understanding the flow hard for new players. In Dropzone, Sparkypants ensured that this is not an issue. Objectives felt clear, with all aspects from points to control locations clearly marketed, making it an easy to understand, hard to master game that would fit the competitive scene well. The momentum is easy to comprehend, and even someone coming in just to watch on Twitch would easily understand how a match is going and what could be done next.

As with any MOBA-style game, heroes can be levelled up with experience earned during a match, yet the real power will be how players set up their team. At the start of any battle, players have the choice of three heroes: Tank, Mechanic, and Gunner. Each of the roles has the standard strengths and weaknesses the names would suggest, and their overall function is very similar to a hero in League of Legends. They all have skills, abilities and combos that can be set up. It is this customization that ensures no two maps will ever play the same, and each new variation has the potential to provide a new style of game.

Dropzone Preview: A New RTS From Sparkypants Enters the Frey 5

Even with the simple nature of the gameplay, the customization and structure of the game ensures there will be a lot of strategies for players to master. Every action you take in a match will have some backlash from your opponent. As I moved to take a Kavash hive, the adversary I faced off against tried other strategies to guarantee he would overtake me in points. When I thought I had the final victory point, he ambushed my squad and moved himself a point closer to victory. It was this constant battle to the very end that made Dropzone one of the most engaging RTS style games I had ever played. Sparkypants built on the familiarity with concepts I already had, and played with them enough to provide a fun, rewarding experience.

Overall, I felt Dropzone showed off very well at E3 2016. With a competitive game, it’s all on whether the community jumps in and embraces the experience, but the team at Sparkypants have done all they can to showcase that they are building a game players will enjoy. It is fast paced, enjoyable and nerve-wracking, all the key elements you would hope for from a new RTS online game. It may not overtake League of Legends, but with the talent behind it, it sure has a shot at greatness.

Dropzone is being published by Gameforge and developed by Sparkypants. It is currently in closed Beta and will be launching on PC in North America and Europe sometime in 2016.

SMITE (PS4) Review

SMITE (PS4) Review

As a MOBA fan from the start with the original DOTA mod, it’s been interesting to see the genre wax and wane over time. Riot Games struck while the iron was hot with League of Legends so many years back, but as of late, we’ve seen many projects struggle to either gain an audience, or fizzle out in an overcrowded environment. Hi-Rez has had quite a bit of success with SMITE, which saw its initial PC release in 2014, and has since arrived on both Xbox One and PS4.

From the outset, it’s clear that SMITE is a perfect fit for consoles. Eschewing a traditional click-heavy top-down view for a Splinter Cell or modern day Metal Gear behind the back camera, it lends itself well to console controls. Yes, SMITE is a MOBA, complete with lanes, towers, mobs, levels, abilities, and items, but it’s also a less constricted action game.

SMITE (PS4) Review 4All of that standard MOBA muck might seem like “been there, done that” territory, but Hi-Rez did a decent job at mixing up those conventions and creating some interesting characters (called Gods). Combatants like Apollo, who have access to several movement-based abilities (like a chariot), feel quicker than your average MOBA character. Ranged Gods like Cupid are required to aim their attacks carefully, lest they whiff and decrease their overall effectiveness.

Speaking of the Gods, at this point Hi-Rez has built up a decent stable, calling upon a wide array of mythologies and faiths. Several of them kind of blend together, and launch archetypes do feel a bit stale at this point with a concerted lack of reworks, but there’s something for every type of player to enjoy here. One of my personal favorites is Neith, an Egyptian Goddess, who has constant access to a back flip power, which feels so good with a controller.

SMITE (PS4) Review 3Over time, though, I do hit a wall where I’m not encouraged to play it hand-over-fist. I don’t think it’s MOBA fatigue, as I still heartily enjoy other, more traditional games like Heroes of the Storm or League of Legend. But in SMITE, the gametypes just feel too similar. While there is the standard lane-based fare, the arena mode (complete with “tickets,” like the Battlefield series) is a cool way to experiment with new builds, but it also grates after a while. Joust, a 3-on-3 mode, is similar.

The good news is that Hi-Rez isn’t nearly as greedy as other developers across the board. While it is free-to-play and you can unlock characters (at a sluggish pace) on your own, there is an option to buy the game outright with the $29.99 “Founder’s Pack,” giving you access to all of the major bits of content, with cosmetics staying premium. It’s also important to note that this will grant you a license for “future Gods” — a rare bonus indeed. Having said that, there’s still your usual deluge of boosts and other junk obfuscated by “Gems,” the premium currency.

SMITE (PS4) Review 2Many gamers out there were rightfully wary of Hi-Rez’s commitment to SMITE after the debacle with Tribes, but they’ve really stayed true to their word for several years now. At this point there’s 77 Gods and counting, so those of you that spring for the complete edition will have plenty to do in the coming months.

Smite on PS4 Launches on May 31st

Smite on PS4 Launches on May 31st

Ever hear of an “Action MOBA”? Neither have I, but with over 20+ million players, at the very least, Smite seems to be popular enough. Now, even more PS4 players are going to be able to get their hands on the hybrid title, because Smite is exiting beta very soon.

Announced via the official PlayStation Blog, Hi-Rez Studios’ Smite will be released on PS4 on May 31st. The free-to-play title is considered a good introduction to the MOBA genre, and will now be available to a new audience of players.

Smite on PS4 Launches on May 31st

Smite’s story revolves around the player warring in the “Battleground of the Gods” as a god from various mythologies across the world. The difference between Smite and other MOBAs such as League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm is that you are put into the third-person perspective of a character and control them more like an action game instead of a top-down RPG.

The game is already available on PC. An official launch trailer has been released that you can watch below:

Gigantic MOBA Survives Delays and Layoffs With Publishing Deal

Gigantic MOBA Survives Delays and Layoffs With Publishing Deal

Indie developer Motiga has been through a lot trying to finish their MOBA Gigantic. The studio faced delays and significant layoffs, so the future of the Microsoft exclusive was questionable at best.

However, Motiga has partnered with publisher Perfect World Entertainment to secure the future of the Gigantic. The announcement came from CEO and founder of Motiga Chris Chung via the official Gigantic website. Within the post, Chung says, “This partnership is a huge step for Motiga, as it allows us to continue working towards realizing the vision the development team had for Gigantic – a great competitive online game. Even more so, it accelerates opportunities for Gigantic by having more resources available to us.”

Chung goes on to say, “It has been a long road to this point, and we’ve been humbled by the amount of love and support that has come from the community throughout the journey. There were friends who wanted to raise money for the studio through donations and crowdfunding. I received daily messages of encouragement in my inbox from our fans; it’s been an incredibly grateful experience. I can’t give enough thanks to all of you for the love and support you’ve shown us.”

The goal of Gigantic is to battle through enemy champions and reach the opposing team’s “gigantic” monster, known as a Guardian. It is reminiscent of other titles in the MOBA genre, yet diversifies itself through an early focus on player-to-player combat, rather than AI-controlled minions.

Gigantic will be available through Windows 10 and Xbox One cross play. The game recently underwent a closed beta, with a public open beta likely on the horizon.

Paradox Shutting Down Magicka: Wizard Wars Servers

Paradox Shutting Down Magicka: Wizard Wars Servers

Paradox will be silencing its small community of Spellcasters in three months.

After development on Magicka: Wizard Wars was halted indefinitely last year, Paradox Community Developer, going under the username “Escher” announced that the free-to-play multiplayer spellcasting game would be taken offline. The closure comes from Magicka not generating enough income to reasonably keep the server infrastructure running. According to Escher, keeping the servers up as long as they did was a commitment to providing players with the game they loved.

Magicka: Wizard Wars suffered from a lot of unresolved bugs and a small player base. The free-to-play game offered two paid DLC packs, both of which are no longer available for purchase on Steam. All in-game content purchasable with real world money have either been converted to in-game currency, or removed entirely.

Paradox Shutting Down Magicka: Wizard Wars Servers 1

In a blog post, Escher wrote, “It’s with regret that we have to announce that we will be closing down our servers for Magicka: Wizard Wars as of July 21st 2016. When the decision came to halt development on the game we left the servers open so that our small but passionate player base could still continue to enjoy the game as it was, we hope that this has been a fun time for you all (the odd server gremlin aside)!”

Escher goes onto say, “Wizard Wars was a project close to our hearts, and although the original Dev team are now working on other projects within the Paradox organization We still have fond memories!”

During the game’s last few months, Paradox hopes to release any previously unused content for players.

Escher assured players that the servers would remain open until July 21, 2016. Any players with boosters active past the time of server closure can contact Paradox for a refund where applicable.