In an attempt to revolutionize the way MOBAs are played on mobile devices, GAEA Mobile is introducing Ace of Arenas. I had the opportunity to sit down with GAEA Mobile’s community manager Charles Haitkin, who explained the concepts of Ace of Arenas and provided a quick demonstration. Then it was my turn. Ace of Arenas is definitely going to take some time to get used to, but the systems that it has in place are superior to just about every other mobile game on the market. It takes mechanics that are normally clunky on a mobile device and adds in just enough options to make them feel seamless.
“Your movement is controlled on the left-hand side of the screen with a touchpad joystick. We feel that this makes movement far more comfortable than tapping the screen repeatedly,” said Haitkin. “We also allow players to be more deliberate with their actions in battle by implementing a targeting system. This is done by swiping either up or down across the sword icon. Once you’ve selected the target you want to attack you tap the sword and begin auto-attacking.”
The biggest difference between Ace of Arenas and most other mobile MOBAs is how movement is handled. Instead of being click-to-move like most others in the genre, movement is controlled with the touchpad acting as a joystick. Normally this could make the game feel awkward, but the other systems counteract this. The targeting system that Haitkin mentioned allows players to toggle through enemies by tapping up or down; I believe it always selected the closest target first. Tapping down selects only minions while tapping up only selects enemy heroes, which gives an incredibly amount of control over which enemy you want to attack. One of my biggest problems on current Android MOBAs is that it’s nearly impossible to select an enemy hero if they’re in the middle of minions, and this targeting system alleviates that issue.
The second biggest problem I have with most current MOBAs is properly targeting the enemy with abilities. When the same motion, tapping the screen, is used to both move and cast skill-shot abilities it can lead to a variety of problems; skills will miss or heroes can unintentionally walk into enemy territory. In Ace of Arenas skills are cast on release with a large indicator on where they’ll land. Furthermore, there’s a smart targeting system that will default your skill shot in the direction of the last enemy you attacked. By combining joystick movement, controlled targeting, and modified smart casting, players have far more control over their champions in Ace of Arenas than any other iOS/Android MOBA.
A CHAMPION FOR EVERYONE
“We have a diverse cast of 25 champions to choose from and whatever your playstyle is, there’s something for everyone. Whether you’re all about melee, really like stunning people or you love magic there’s someone for you,” said Haitkin. “We also do have skins available. Those are purely cosmetic. We do have weapons, which do give you a small stat bonus, however, at the end of the day our MOBA is designed so that skill wins you the battles and not purchases. You have to out play and not out pay.”
While it is true that Ace of Arenas does have 25 champions with different skillsets, there is a lot to be desired in the “uniqueness” of each character. I only got to see two heroes in action during my time at E3 and both of them appeared relatively diverse, or as much as one can with how saturated the MOBA market is right now. Their skillsets were similar to other characters I’ve seen in other MOBAs, but pretty much every MOBA character follows a similar pattern: utility ability, damage ability, passive ability, and an ultimate. When I got home and started looking over some of the characters more closely, I realized that a few are blatant copies from other games. Sun Wukong and Alice are clearly Wukong and Annie from League of Legends. Others aren’t quite as obvious, but Electa is very similar to Ezreal and Pandora’s abilities are nearly identical to Fiddlesticks. There’s even a Pudge clone from Dota 2, called Patch, and while most games have attempted to replicate his playstyle, Ace of Arenas simply took all of his abilities.
It’s really unfortunate to have to put a black mark next to Ace of Arenas name because of its poor design choice when it comes to characters. Almost every champion has a very unique look, differing from whichever game it was cloned from, and it would have made the game so much more interesting if every character was something we haven’t seen before. There are even a few items that resemble those used in League of Legends, such as the Trinity Force and Void Staff. It makes it significantly more difficult to enjoy a game if you feel like you’re playing a clone of something else. What’s even worse is that Ace of Arenas looks and feels like an excellent game and taking a little bit of time to be more unique would have made worlds of difference.
Let’s look past the bad for the time being and focus on some good things about Ace of Arenas. In addition to having excellent in-game control, there’s also a lot of outside customization for each champion. At this point it shouldn’t be surprising that there is a talent tree and rune system in place, but they’re both slightly different from what we’ve seen in other MOBAs. I didn’t get a chance to dig too far into either system, but the talent trees are specific to each hero and runes can be upgraded into stronger versions with 4 total tiers. Furthermore, champions can also equip weapons that directly impact their stats to allow for more specialized builds.
In the end, Ace of Arenas does have to ability to become a contender in the mobile market, but it does cheapen itself by copying characters and items from other games; hopefully the final game is good enough that this can be overlooked. Ace of Arenas will launch this summer, simultaneously on iOS and Android.Related: Ace of Arenas, Developer, E3, E3 2015, Hands On, MOBA, Preview