Strife

Strife Preview: Ace in the Hole

S2 Games has decided to take a simpler approach with their upcoming MOBA Strife. The idea is that if players aren’t spending as much time farming, micromanaging, or worrying about convoluted stats, there will be more action and essentially more fun to be had. Strife is currently in beta testing, but is already showing promise of a game that has been built from the bottom up.

NO STRIFE HERE

While many companies are trying to put their own unique twist, or create interesting mechanics, S2 has focused on stripping down the MOBA into a game that’s much easier to understand and more convenient for casual players. Instead of having to worry about ability power, attack damage, strength, agility, etc. there’s only one attribute for damage output: Power. Not only does Power increase attack damage but it also increases all ability damage by a percentage. This means that there’s always a use for power on every hero, so there are never stats that go to waste.

Strife

Krytos makes enemy towers blush

In addition to streamlined stats, there are a ton of additional gameplay mechanics that make Strife less stressful than most others in the genre. While last hitting is still a prominent factor, gold gained from doing so is shared between players in the lane; this increases cooperation amongst teammates instead of competition. Furthermore, when a player is out of combat they slowly regenerate health and mana, promoting teammates to take turns last hitting creeps. Finally, all players involved in the execution of an enemy receive credit for the kill, which means there are no kill stealers.

ALL KINDS OF CRITTERS

Little creatures of varying types and usefulness seem to be a sort of theme throughout Strife. Upon completion of the tutorial, players are allowed to choose one of three starting pets. Each pet has three skills that vary pretty dramatically between pets. There are defensive pets, magic based pets, income increasing pets, basically something for everyone and every hero. As the player’s account levels up, his or her pets also level up and become stronger. Pincer, for example, can remove crowd control effects, deal retaliation damage, and passively increase defense. Additional pets can be unlocked with seals gained from leveling up and completing games. The most expensive pets cost 3000 seals, which isn’t terribly high considering 300 or more are earned each time an account levels up.

Strife

Watch out for Pincer, he’ll attack you back

During combat it’s important to take note of what pets your opponents are using because they can have a significant impact on the fight. It might not be a good idea to harass enemies with Pincer or to tower dive Razer, who can cast invisibility. In addition to combat pets, each hero has a courier that can bring them items during the game. Unlike DOTA, the courier is invincible and doesn’t have to be purchased. This creates less worry when sending items during intense fights and doesn’t force the support characters to spend extra gold at the start.

INTERCHANGEABLE PARTS

Item customization is something that hasn’t really been seen in any MOBA so far. While you can’t create completely new  items in Strife, it is possible to modify existing items by crafting new components. Frost Prism, for example, slows enemies on attack and is comprised of Power and attack speed. Let’s say you want the same item, but for a tank instead of a damage dealer. The attack speed and Power can be replaced with health and regeneration. Once the game starts, both the original item and the crafted item are available.

In addition to choosing the parts for each recipe, 360 elixir is required. Elixir is obtained by playing games and leveling up, usually taking five or six games to obtain enough for one recipe. Furthermore, each recipe can have 1 to 3 components and has a minimum total value, so expensive recipes can’t be turned into incredibly cheap ones.

Strife

The crafting system can make any item useful

LOW FLOOR, HIGH CEILING

What’s great about Strife is that it’s so simple anyone can get the hang of it after a few games, but there’s also a high skill ceiling for competitive players. S2 Games has stated that even though Strife appeals to the casual audience that there are also plans for a competitive scene. Just because there are lots of additions to give new players an advantage, such as free regeneration and a courier, doesn’t mean that skilled players can’t take them even farther. As a veteran MOBA player, I was able to capitalize on the advantages that Strife offered after only a few games and easily averaged 20+ kills per game.

Even though advanced players can better use the game mechanics, snowballing isn’t as much of an issue as in other games. In League of Legends or Dota 2 having a five kill advantage early can really direct the tempo, but kills and items aren’t as impactful in Strife. Generally, kills are worth around 300 gold, which is only two creep waves, items are expensive for their stats and deaths don’t result in lost gold.

A quick Desolator can give heroes a drastic advantages in Dota 2, but an early Crushing Mace or Demon Fang don’t have the same repercussions. It’s entirely possible to have 20 more kills than anyone on the enemy team and still not be able to guarantee a win. This isn’t the same with Dota 2, where a 15-0 Pudge pretty much means the game’s over. This also gives more opportunities for comebacks, which are always exciting.

Moreover, there are two mini-bosses in the jungle: Cindara and Baldir. Both of these neutral creeps can greatly affect a comeback or seal a win. Defeat Baldir and he immediately grants gold to your entire team, but Cindara’s bonus comes slightly later. Forty-five seconds after Cindara’s defeat, the victorious team can choose a lane for the mighty Krytos to spawn in. He acts as a sort of “super creep” by dealing huge damage and disabling enemy turrets while he attacks them.

Strife

Downing Cindara can have huge battlefield effects

There does seem to be some slight character balancing issues, though. A few heroes definitely seem more powerful and popular than others, as Claudessa and Fetterstone are constantly in “high demand.” Other characters that fill similar roles don’t often feel equally powerful. Both Minerva and Ace focus on ability damage and melee attacks, but Ace seems to have more survivability, maneuverability and damage. There’s also a relatively shallow hero pool, with only 17 in the beta at the moment.

FINAL THOUGHTS

So far Strife is really going in positive direction. Finding a balance between casual and competitive players is always difficult; make the game too easy or too hard and someone is going to feel left out. There’s also a lot of customization with items and pets to create a unique experience tailored to every player. The free-to-play system also seems quite fair for a MOBA, as all characters are unlocked and premium currency is mostly used for cosmetic purposes.

Pros:

  1. Concise game mechanics
  2. Fair payment model
  3. Mild learning curve

Cons:

  1. Small hero pool
  2. Balancing issues

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About Nick Shively

Nick is an eSports and RPG enthusiast. He can normally be found in the deepest parts of a dungeon or in the arena slaying opponents. Nick has been a gamer since an early age and involved in the industry since 2011. He obtained a degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 2015.