It would appear that during the past few years almost every major studio, and a few indie ones as well, has caught MOBA fever. Who can blame them? Just look at the success of giants like League of Legends and Dota 2. While these two IPs have dominated the MOBA scene for the past decade, there are a number of new spins on the genre coming out soon that could revolutionize the way the games are played. Let’s take a look at some of the Top Upcoming MOBAs of 2015.
SKARA: THE BLADE REMAINS
Though Skara doesn’t strictly advertise itself as a MOBA it is one of the indie developed MOBAs we’re most looking forward to in 2015. Combining arena combat with skill-based fighting mechanics, Skara: The Blade Remains promises to deliver an environment filled with destruction where players can dominate each other through timing and accuracy. This game takes RPG elements such as races, factions and combo systems then throws players into an arena of death where individual skill truly shines through. Killing enemies rewards players with honor points to unlock powerful new skills and shiny equipment. Currently there are 5 races and many different game modes ranging from free-for-all to Kill the King. If you prefer raw combat over point-and-click strategy, Skara might be right up your alley.
In an attempt to bring more RPG elements to the MOBA genre, Deadbreed features unique role-playing mechanics that make it stand out from the pack. When players gain experience they’re granted Rank Stars that can be applied to individual heroes to increase stats including luck, strength, vitality, agility and focus. Additionally, heroes have preset builds that can drastically change their gameplay from assassin to mage based on their equipment. This is one of the few MOBAs where items actually determine a character’s attack animation instead of vice versa. In addition to the basic equipment found in game, there are also powerful artifacts that can be purchased prior to a match with currency or keys. These artifacts grow in power the more they’re used and can be socketed with items found during a game to increase their power.
Unfortunately, Deadbreed is still very rough around the edges. There are a number of game and immersion breaking bugs; units will randomly disappear, running animations stop working and the health of a boss will sometimes reset. There’s also a relatively small community right now, likely due to the game being in a paid, early-access state. If there was a substantial increase to the player base and the major bugs were taken care of, Deadbreed could turn out to be a solid game.
ARENA OF FATE
Despite having one of the most annoying gameplay trailers in history, Arena of Fate looks like a promising new MOBA developed by Crytek. No this isn’t a top-down version of Crysis, instead Arena of Fate adds a unique element by focusing on both real and fantasy heroes of history. There are interesting characters such as King Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc and even the great inventor Nikola Tesla. Instead of creating a bunch of random new heroes, Arena of Fate brings together favorite historic characters that many players will already have an affinity for. There is, however, a time cap of 20 minutes for each battle, which will definitely create a love/hate divide for the game. The game does appear to be catering towards the more casual crowd, but Crytek is also promising deep, captivating combat for veteran gamers. Arena of Fate is currently taking applications for Closed Beta testing.
It seems that lately super heroes have been all the craze and why not? We grew up with iconic figures like Batman, Superman and the Green Lantern, and recently a lot of these heroes have been given a reboot on the big screen. With the success of shows like Arrow and Gotham it’s no wonder that Turbine decided to capitalize and develop a MOBA. Fortunately for gamers, Turbine isn’t new to the MMO market as they’ve developed popular titles such as The Lord of the Rings Online and Dungeons & Dragons Online.
Infinite Crisis isn’t setting out to do anything that hasn’t already been done before. League of Legends players will immediately notice a lot of similarities and many aspects of the game that are almost identical. Characters are called “Champions,” each champion has 1 passive, 3 active abilities and 1 ultimate ability. Items also scale in the League of Legends manner by including tiers and increasing aspects such as attack or ability power instead of the DOTA style with agility, strength and intellect. This obviously means that the character designs are also very similar to League of Legends with casters, bruisers, hybrids and attack damage champions. Even the map layouts are almost identical with the first being a Dominion style map and the other a classic three-lane Summoner’s Rift layout with an Urban Jungle.
What does make Infinite Crisis stand out, however, is the amount of fan service included. The fully-voiced tutorials really develop the game’s immersion. Many of the popular characters also feature many alternate versions from different dimensions such as normal Batman, Gaslight Batman and Nightmare Batman. Each of these different versions plays in a completely different manner so fans won’t be pigeonholed into a specific role if they really like a certain character. Infinite Crisis went into open beta this year and has already seen massive improvements.
S2 Games made its mark on the gaming world when it created the first standalone DOTA clone, Heroes of Newerth. While this was essentially a copy and paste of the Warcraft III mod it also came with tons of improved features such as high quality textures and lessened latency issues. With the release of Dota 2, which was designed by one of the original creators of DOTA (IceFrog), Heroes of Newerth has seen a general decline in population and S2 Games has decided to make their own MOBA experience from the ground up.
Instead of attempting to revolutionize the genre, Strife is making little tweaks here and there to improve the overall play experience for both newcomers and veterans. Little things such as individual courier pets and lane health/magic regeneration keep players in the fight longer and make the game more engaging. A few of the more “hardcore” mechanics have disappeared such as denying and last hit gold is shared between teammates, which could discourage the elitists of the community, but it’ll definitely make the experience more enjoyable for new players and the casual crowd. There are also other features which really add to the unique experience including customizable items and character-specific story modes. In its current Open Beta phase, Strife is already well polished and new updates are consistently being released.
Gigantic has been on my “watch closely” list ever since I had the chance to test it at PAX Prime this year. It transcends the typical two-dimensional MOBA and brings in a game-changing Z axis. Unlike SMITE, which was the first 3rd-person MOBA, Gigantic makes great use of its vertical assets and requires precise aiming for all attacks and abilities. It’s also the first MOBA that really utilizes the environment in ways other than simply manipulating line-of-sight. Snipers can use terrain as cover, melee assassins can hide in crevices to ambush enemies and platforming skills can be the determining factor in securing a kill.
Although Gigantic is not exactly a MOBA in the classic sense, it does have a lot of similar elements in it. Instead of fighting in pre-constructed lanes, there are a number of nodes on the map that players can capture and then spawn creatures to guard the area or provide their team with bonuses. As players spawn creatures and kill opponents their Guardian gains power and will eventually attack and weaken the enemy guardian, which allows players to land the killing blow. Gigantic is still in Closed Alpha with a strict NDA, but based on the PAX Prime build this one is coming along nicely.
HEROES OF THE STORM
“I’m blind. Not deaf.” We finally get the chance to set things straight between Malfurion and Illidan Stormrage, or Jim Raynor and Kerrigan for that matter, on the battlefield. Heroes of the Storm brings the most popular Blizzard characters together for the brawl of the century. Even though the game is still in Closed Alpha it’s very well polished and already looks and acts like a finished game. There are very few bugs, the characters feel moderately balanced and the gameplay is fast and exciting.
It’s very likely that Heroes of the Storm is going to change the basic formula for the MOBA genre. While not everyone is going to like the game for various reasons, it’s futile to argue against the impact that Blizzard games have on the world. Even 10 years after World of Warcraft’s release there are still MMORPGs attempting to copy its success. The truth is that Blizzard has the financing to throw tons of money at the game, draw from previous successful franchises, and make sure the game is perfectly polished before going live. Besides, who doesn’t want to duke it out as their favorite StarCraft, Warcraft or Diablo characters? Heroes of the Storm moves to Closed Beta this January.
An honorable mention should go out to both Dawngate and Transformers Universe who have sadly been canceled before leaving beta. These MOBAs would have easily deserved a place on this list but sadly they are both effectively shut down, though they both still have some time until the servers are shut off. 2015 looks to be a great year for MOBAs as the genre only continues to grow. Which upcoming MOBA are you looking forward to most?Related: Arena of Fate, Dawngate, Deadbreed, Gigantic, Heroes of the Storm, Infinite Crisis, Skara, Strife, Transformers Universe