Developer: Zynga Inc.
Price: FREE
Version: 1.02.15831
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★½
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½

Overall Rating: ★★★★½

solsticearena05League of Legends may not have invented the MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) genre, but it certainly had a hand in popularizing it. It’s actually become so popular that there have been more than a few attempts at recreating such an experience on iOS. And I have to admit that while Solstice Arena has a few snags, it’s probably the best mobile iteration I’ve played yet.

The basic gist of a MOBA is that two teams of players beef over turf until one has wiped out the others’ base. What makes things a little different than every other team-based multiplayer game out there is that the characters feel more like MMORPG classes than anything; each with specific skills that are meant to pair well with other characters’ and each with their own role to play. In Solstice Arena, players must take down the other team’s towers in order to weaken defenses, while simultaneously battling other player characters who are trying to do the same to them. There’s no major penalty for death except for waiting to respawn, although it’s a good opportunity to spend gold on better gear for the match.

I never went near League of Legend. Not because I had anything against it but because I’d lost several friends to its clutches already and didn’t want to fall victim myself. After playing Solstice Arena, which is essentially the mobile “lite” version, I’d say it was a good call. Even this slightly simplified take on MOBA has been incredibly difficult for me to put down. Especially after finding the character that suits my playstyle best (FYI: it’s Hamhock). Each character can be developed independently and their skills customized with various tweaks as they level up, which is great. The skills are also nicely balanced and can make a big difference in a match when used properly. And therein lies the rub.

solsticearena06It could be due to Solstice Arena’s relative infancy, but regardless I found myself having more fun playing solo/co-op against bots than I did in 3-on-3 matches. It’s possible that I just had a string of bad luck but virtually all of my bouts against other human beings degenerated into a game of “stare angrily at each other across No Man’s Land and see who blinks first.” In other words, no one ventured too far away from home, which resulted in very little action and a whole lot of frustration. Especially when my own team was doing the same thing.

Solstice Arena has shown me the MOBA light. It’s just a shame that the majority of the current player base is so timid. With a little time it’ll definitely be a worthwhile multiplayer experience but it’s still a lot of fun solo or in co-op.

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