I’m going to be straight you with folks. I don’t know much about MOBAs, and I’m certainly no professional. That means I don’t know how well Vainglory, the upcoming multiplayer online battle arena showcased in the most recent Apple keynote, compares to titans like League of Legends or DotA 2 in terms of depth and control. However, in this edition of It Came From Canada - Philippines Edition, what I can say is that it certainly has the ambition to be king of the mobile MOBAs.
Even to someone like me, the specifics of this gigantic genre have become pretty well-known by now. Two teams, in this case with three members each, attempt to destroy their opponents’ home base by making it through lanes full of powerful turrets and endless waves of disposable grunt soldiers. Players choose from a handful of heroes with their own personalities and moves to master - like the sadistic sword wielder Catherine, rambunctious catgirl Koshka, and shambling Monty Python-quoting zombie warrior Krul. Fast melee-focused characters obviously require different strategies compared to slow spellcasters, and forming those plans is where much of the tactical depth comes from.
Fortunately, the game is very accommodating to newcomers. The extensive tutorial goes over basics like what to buy at the shop and why it’s important to not die and give your foes a bonus. It also familiarizes players with the single map and important sites to capture like special monsters that strengthen minions once defeated. It’s a lot to take in, from knowing when to hide in the bushes to the concept of “the jungle,” and that’s before it even gets to character-specific traits. But since this is all the game is, it’s good that there’s a lot to it. Players can also practice at any time and discover how surprisingly nuanced the touch controls are - letting them set waypoints, launch strings of attacks, and tell heroes what spots to avoid.
Vainglory also just looks fantastic thanks to the new “Metal” iOS 8 API. Yeah, the art style still betrays the fact that this entire sub-genre descends from a mod of a Blizzard game, but the details, effects, animations, and smoothness of play actually do resemble a higher-end PC release from a developer of that caliber. Along with giving players new options to explore, unlocking characters from the marketplace also provides something new and pleasant to look at for a match.
Since Vainglory isn’t out in most territories yet, so finding a match was a little difficult. Although once it fully launches soon, that shouldn’t be a problem. Again, I’m not the one who can tell if it will succeed in the highly profitable but contentious MOBA space, but it’s definitely an impressive attempt.