During most events the mobile games are pushed off to the side or hidden in the back somewhere in the depths of the convention halls. During PAX Prime 2015, however, there was a major showing in regards to mobile MMOs, which demonstrates how influential the mobile market is really starting to become. This year there were card games, MOBAs, RPGs, and action brawlers that all put a unique spin on their respective genres. What’s even more is that many publishers seem to be moving away from the typical slot machine, pay-to-win style of mobile monetization and are beginning to build games for the long haul.
Vainglory Dominates Mobile eSports
Competitive gaming is still a fairly new concept, especially in Western society, but even so there have always been a few top contenders in the gaming world. Mobile games, however, have never been seen as serious contenders. That is until Vainglory entered the scene. Initially launching exclusively for iOS, Vainglory recently became available for the Android market as well and has established itself as the premiere MOBA for almost all mobile devices.
Vainglory incorporates everything that makes League of Legends and Dota 2 popular, but it’s condensed for a much smaller scale and the delivery is more suited for tablets and smartphones. Things like jungling, lane control, last hitting, item builds, and even the ferocious Kraken (Vainglory’s version of Roshan or Baron Nashor) are present, which makes the game not seem watered down for the mobile market. Not watering down the game has made it much more interesting for viewers, and Vainglory currently has similar viewership as Heroes of the Storm and StarCraft II on Twitch.
Not only has Vainglory established itself as one of the best MOBAs on mobile devices, but it’s also bringing a lot of eSports attention to itself. There have already been a number of high dollar competitions surrounding the game and the first season of Vainglory begins this October with a $100,000 prize pool. The VGL 128-team European and North American qualifier tournaments have already begun. The winning teams will qualify for Vainglory Season One and will earn a large chunk of the $15,000 prize pool.
The latest update also brought a new hero, Skye, who brings a ton of firepower and maneuverability to the battlefield. I had a chance to test out Skye before her official release, and she is a lot of fun to play but by definition is a true glass cannon. In the right hands she’ll likely be deadly, but newer players will have a difficult time adjusting. The update also brings new hero skins, a revamp to the karma system, trophies and preparation for Season 1. Players will now earn rewards based on their highest rank obtained during a season, and patch 1.8 is considered the first preseason.
Call of Champions Brings Compact Mobile Play
The most difficult thing about building a mobile game can be making it actually suit gamers on the go while not insulting them with terrible game mechanics. Many current mobile games either take relatively no skill or cater to those with extended periods of downtime throughout the day. Call of Champions is looking to change that, however, and is introducing the 5-minute MOBA.
Where Vainglory chose not to eliminate any of the key aspects that make the typical MOBA, Call of Champions decided to strip the genre down to its basics. In Call of Champions there are no items, minions, jungle creatures, leveling or overpowered boss monsters. It’s all about the player-versus-player action, but it isn’t just a standard arena brawler either. Minion waves have been replaced with the “Orb of Death,” which players must push in either of the game’s two lanes. There are two turrets in each lane, but pushing an Orb of Death into a turret will damage it and significantly reduce its damage. Once both turrets in either lane have been destroyed the base wall becomes vulnerable, and then the base itself can be attacked.
Everything in Call of Champions is designed to keep players involved in the action and that makes the game incredibly fun. Games are limited to 5 minutes maximum and the team that destroyed the most structures, and then with the most kills, wins the match if both bases are still standing. This minimizes a desire to turtle and promotes PvP combat, which is what MOBAs are all about. Furthermore, there are two buffs spawn near the center of the map that can be channeled to provide a team-wide bonus.
Despite a lack of leveling and item builds, each character is incredibly unique and has a versatile skillset. Characters have 5 active abilities and fill the roles of Tank, Fighter, Assassin, Mage, and Support. Most classes have some form of engage, stun or root, and a survival skill, but there is also a variety of synergy based skills as well. Feng, for example, does more damage to snared enemies while Cinder’s attacks do additional effects to burning opponents. What makes Call of Champions so great is that it’s 5 minutes of non-stop action and then you’re done. There’s no turtling for 30 minutes or having to grind random mini-games between matches. Instead, players know what they’re getting into and exactly how long it’s going to last.
Chronoblade: Tekken Meets Dungeon Hunter
When it comes to mobile games, it’s often difficult to distinguish one dungeon crawler from another, but Chronoblade is doing things a little different. Instead of simply being top-down button mashing mayhem, Chronoblade is a side-scrolling technical brawler. Characters can actively dodge, block, and use light and heavy attacks in coordination with a handful of special attacks as well. Each class is designed to feel unique with easy-to-learn combos, but there’s still a deep and meaningful skill tree for every character.
The designer for Chronoblade is Stieg Hedlund, who already has a fairly impressive resume with games such as Diablo, Diablo II, StarCraft, and Rainbow Six. He wanted to design a mobile game that wasn’t just about grinding but is also fun to play. One of the first things I noticed about Chronoblade was that each map was significantly different from the previous and there are various different types of objectives. Players will move from a linear beat ‘em up to a boss fight where objectives around the map have to be triggered. Finally, the PvP can get really intense and is more about player skill than gear score. In PvP, players with similar equipment ratings are matched, but the combat feels more like an arcade fighter than a typical mobile RPG. Chronoblade is definitely going to be popular with players who like dungeon crawling but also want skill-based combat.
Mobile games showed their presence in force this year at PAX Prime and it’s likely that there will continue to be a move in that direction in the years to come. The market for mobile games is currently huge, but there’s a definite lack of quality titles. Hopefully we will continue to see a stream of new publishers enter the market that want to add lasting quality games and not the typical cash cows that currently dominating the mobile shops.Related: Call of Champions, eSports, MOBA, Mobile, PAX Prime, PAX Prime 2015, Vainglory