How the MOBA is evolving
The most popular game genre in the industry is looking to reinvent itself for the new year, bringing sweeping changes to the way in which you play and watch MOBAs in action
As expected, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games are going to have another incredible year. With eSports on a seemingly unstoppable rise, the genre’s premier games show no signs of dipping in popularity – if anything, they are only growing. That’s impressive in and of itself; many of these games have been running for a decade (if not longer), while League Of Legends alone boasts a current server population of over 100 million monthly active players. The MOBA is in for one hell of a year and publishers are aware, with many of the genre’s biggest titles undergoing serious revisions in preparation. Whether you’re an existing fan, a lapsed player or a cautious observer standing on the Twitch sidelines, now is the time to choose your side and get involved.
Valve’s DOTA 2 just moved into version 7.00, but for all intents and purposes we should probably just call it DOTA 3. The series has been in version ‘6-point-something’ since 2005, with careful iteration between the numerous hands that have worked on the game steering it forward. But patch 7.00 is a huge update, essentially reinventing the basics of the game and bringing it into the modern era. It’s thrilling to see DOTA 2 looking so fresh and feeling so renewed; levelling stats have been replaced with a talent tree, Roshan (the all-powerful pit beast) has been relocated, the addition of seven Shrines bring a new structure to the moment-to-moment action, while Valve has also introduced a brand new character for the very first time – the first hero that wasn’t ported from the original DOTA.
League Of Legends
On the surface, it looks as if Riot has everything covered with League Of Legends. The game continues to hold its server population, the company continues to introduce gameplay tweaks and patches, while new characters are still appearing at a steady rate. The LCS continues to run like clockwork – an area other publishers, such as Blizzard, are clearly envious of – though there are problems bubbling beneath the surface. League Of Legends continues to be a success story thanks (in large part) to the strength of its eSports. However organisations, sponsors and players are beginning to revolt against some of Riot’s more concerning policies regarding contracts, team stability and monetary support. If Riot doesn’t start listening to its pro players it could soon face big problems.
Heroes Of The Storm
Blizzard is known for careful iteration over sweeping changes with its titles and that’s why we’re expecting to see very little in the way of major disruption to Heroes Of The Storm in 2017. The company is, of course, heavily focused on eSports for the new year, unveiling an all-new league structure in the form of the Heroes Global Championship, bringing major competitions in-house to make it easier for fans to follow along with the action at home. A new Open Division is designed to bridge the gap between professional play and top-tier amateur competitors, while the top eight teams from each region will look to be financially supported by Blizzard directly for merely making appearances – alongside the larger cash prizes for winning. Stability and support is the name of Blizzard’s game this year.
Paragon is finally getting ready to play with the big boys. Epic Games’ free-to-play PS4 and PC MOBA has seen mild success thus far, though a huge update to the game has rejuvenated interest and server population. The Monolith update has completely replaced the single map available in the game, changed many of the basic rules, speeds of play, tweaked the library of characters and even introduced a huge rework to the card-based item system. All of this has come together to make Paragon a wholly more enjoyable experience; games are faster, the new Monolith map has better lines of sight and elevation, while the card system feels fair and balanced in a way that it wasn’t before. Paragon is one of the most promising new MOBAs on the horizon and we can’t wait to see how it evolves.
Smite is still a bit of an oddity. While Hi-Rez has clearly put a lot of work and emphasis on getting Smite over to console, it hasn’t quite taken off in the way we expected it to. Instead, the game continues to hold steady, with its player base and hardy group of competitive fans eager to see the ship stay stable. That can mean that Smite isn’t as exciting, at times, as the comings and goings of the ‘big three’ but it also ensures a stable experience that’s easier to get to grips with than jumping straight into League or DOTA for the first time. Smite is still the best beginner MOBA on the market, especially if you’re console-‑bound, and that isn’t likely to change in 2017. If you’re looking to take your first steps into the chaos of multiplayer battle areas, make sure this is your first stop.
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