Transitioning a typical MOBA experience to a phone or tablet isn’t exactly an easy task. MOBAs are notorious for requiring precise skill and team coordination; these are two aspects that mobile devices aren’t exactly known for excelling at. Instead of trying to copy the standard League of Legends style of play, as a few other mobiles games have, The Witcher Battle Arena focuses on point-capture PvP combat and avoids complexities such as minion farming or lane mechanics. In stripping down a lot of the core mechanics The Witcher Battle Arena now resembles something more along the lines of Magicka Wizard Wars than Dota 2. The big question is, however, how well does this style of gameplay transition to the mobile world and is the gameplay deep enough to keep players hooked?
SIMPLE DESIGN OR LACK OF CONTENT?
There’s obviously a fine line between too much complexity and an overall lack of content when it comes to mobile games. This is especially so when involving something that is a borderline MOBA. Many mobile gamers are either casual players or want something to fill a few minutes of downtime throughout the day. Having a complex, multi-tier item system and matches that last upwards of 30 minutes is probably not a good idea for gamers on the go. Due to the relatively small size of a phone screen, even text on my comparatively large LG G3 is difficult to read sometimes, and possible interruptions due to wireless signal disruptions, matches should be quick and easy to understand. The Witcher Battle Arena finishes most matches in under 10 minutes, which is probably the longest a single game instance should last on a mobile device.
Each match plays similar to the Dominion map in League of Legends, except with a lot less content. Teams consist of three players and two different maps that both contain three capture points. The maps are either laid out in a diagonal line or in a triangle and have two locations to replenish items. Both teams start out with 500 points and as players hold capture zones the enemy team loses point. Additionally, each player gains gold from kills/assists that can be used to purchase three different types of equipment, which are loosely separated into attack damage, armor and power. Thankfully, purchasing items is a simple task and the statistics are displayed before completing each transaction. All three types of equipment ends in one of three tiers, but there are enough combinations to fill every essential role without over complicating things.
On the other hand, the maps themselves are a little underwhelming and there isn’t a lot of underlying strategy. Communication is nearly impossible as the pinging system is rather clunky, leaves a lot of room for interpretation and has a 6 second cooldown. This leads to most teams doing one of two things: sticking together for the entire match or splitting up and contesting all the locations at once; usually the team that sticks together wins. The communication issue isn’t necessarily an easy one to deal with, but there needs to be more dynamic interaction on the maps instead of three simple capture zones. While The Witcher Battle Arena does have a strong base, there just really isn’t enough depth to the gameplay right now to keep the game interesting for very long.
STRONG CHARACTER CREATION
One of the best aspects of The Witcher Battle Arena is its character design. The characters are taken directly from The Witcher franchise and of course there are fan favorites such as Geralt, Iorveth, and Zoltan. All the characters feel and play in a unique manner, which is something not necessarily seen in all battle arena-style games. Most of the designs synergize really well, such as Saskia who focuses on fire attacks and gains additional health regeneration while standing in the flames. Even the two bow wielders, Eithné and Iorveth, have completely different play styles with Eithné preferring to stay at long range and Iorveth getting involved in close combat. Moreover, some of the ability designs are actually quite unique and vary from the typically boring skills we’re used to seeing in the MOBA genre. A couple that stand out are Philippa’s ability to morph into an owl that summons a giant storm and Operator’s black hole that can suck in both enemies and allies.
Players can also customize their characters’ skills through a sliding scale as they level up. For example, you can increase the damage buff on Geralt’s Way of Alchemy by decreasing the amount it heals or its uptime and vice versa. As players complete matches they’re also rewarded with equipment and Crowns. Equipment ranges from common to legendary and gives players a sort of satisfaction upon fully gearing up their favorite characters in all top-tier items. Unfortunately this does lead to balance issues, but most of the bonuses provided by items are relatively minor such as 1 power/armor per level.
Any excess items can be salvaged for Crown, which can then be used to purchase skins or additional characters from the shop. Crown accumulation is relatively slow, but everything in the shop can currently be purchased with the in-game currency and there’s nothing in the shop that directly influences gameplay. There also aren’t a large variety of characters right now, with only 10 total, and that can lead to a lot of mirror matches or constantly seeing the same ones over and over.
LOTS OF ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
The initial launch of The Witcher Battle Arena was riddled with all kinds of bugs and the game simply didn’t play on a lot of newer devices. Since then it seems like Fuero Games has fixed most of the issues and problems with lag, but a lack of content is the game’s biggest problem. For a mobile game the controls aren’t terrible and it is rewarding to land some of the skillshots, but the gameplay can get stale pretty quickly. A few more maps with interesting mechanics, additional characters, the ability to add friends, and a better communication system would greatly improve the game’s value.
Creative character customization
Lack of strategy
Difficult to communicate