Now is an exciting time in the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) world, what with the recent one million dollar Defense of the Ancients 2 (Dota 2) international tournament finishing up last week and League of Legend’s (LoL) recent announcement that their season two would feature a total of 5 million dollars in cash prizes. There is a large amount of press and social attention directed at the genre right now, and with good reason! MOBAs have come a long way since their inception back in the days of being Warcraft 3 map mods and there are both millions of players and dollars to be had within the genre. That being said there is still much room for the genre to grow, both competitor and gameplay-wise, and into this market steps Realm of the Titans.
Based in China, developers Ningbo Shengguang Tianyi have been working on Realm of the Titans since 2008 and the game has been out and receiving acclaim for its balance and gameplay in China since October 30th, 2010. With the western launch slated for Q4 of 2011 does Realm of the Titans differentiate itself enough from its leading competitors (League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth(HoN), and the soon to be released behemoth Defense of the Ancients 2) to succeed in the growing genre? To put it simply, yes, yes it does.
The first thing I noticed after playing a few games of Realm of the Titans was that the fundamental MOBA gameplay was extremely adept. Control over my Titan was sharp and crisp while the game moves at a good clip, somewhere between the pacing of League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth, if I gauge it correctly. There were a few rough edges here and there but I expect these discrepancies in control and movement to be hammered out before release (players of the Chinese version told me that the western beta is a bit rough around the edges compared to the eastern counterpart). The item shop is competent and straightforward, although the categories for items and movement within the shop are clunky, and it isn’t necessarily clear why some items are in one section but not in another. Lastly the stock map Omeka Divide has a similar feel to the MOBA map we all know and love while having a few features to make it stand out. The essential gameplay elements are all accounted for and capable.
“But then, why would I play this game over the others?” you ask? There are a few reasons, and those would be Titan skills, the Boss system, and the fact that Realm of the Titans is ready for professional gaming from launch. Titan skills are a pool of offensive and defensive skills that all players may choose one of at the start of the match. The trick is that every ten minutes all titan skills “level-up” (to scale as the game goes on) and every three minutes (after picking a skill) you are allowed to change it to another titan skill. These skills range from passive mana regen, slow, manaburn, and lifesteal to offensive fireballs, berserk modes, increased minion damage, and a mini-stun on consecutive auto-attacks. The breadth of play that these skills seem to encourage is very refreshing after having played thousands of hours in the MOBA genre. One skill, Logistics Master, lets your Titan recover health and mana at a moderate pace when at a neutral shop in between the lanes. This skill’s existence alone means that you have to constantly be aware of your enemy’s location not only for fear of a gank, but because assuming they are sitting in the shadows waiting to be offensive might net you an enemy with full health and mana instead! This also means after a team fight the enemy could retreat to a shop to heal and be back to push your base much more quickly than otherwise possible. Likewise this skill will get many players killed because they will recklessly run off to the shop without watching if their enemies are wise to their tricks. Even a skill as benign as Weak Point (+15/30/45/60 extra damage to creeps) can have enormous effects on game outcomes, especially if your team is going for an early boss kill.
In the three major MOBAs out right now there is a boss creature that a team can kill to get an advantage of some sort. In HoN and Dota this equates to an item that automatically revives the holder upon death (perfect for a carry) and in LoL this is a team-wide buff increasing regeneration and damage by enormous amounts while in both games it results in team-wide gold. Realm of the Titans takes this concept another step or two further by having four bosses, one in each corner of the map. Also there are two teleportation areas at the top and bottom lanes at their midpoints that, if stood upon, will teleport your Titan to the respective enemy boss. When the boss is felled not only does your team get currency for the effort, but your boss will leave its spawn area and rush down the enemy lane to assault their base! Couple this with the typical barracks concept in the genre and you’re going to have a boss and super creeps pushing one lane while Titans are pushing another lane (or two)! Naturally this is an enormous advantage to the team that accomplishes the goal, however being that the bosses are located deep within enemy territory (as opposed to being equidistant from the spawns as in other MOBAs) this provides a significantly more interesting boss dynamic within the game, which is much welcome to the genre.
At launch Realm of the Titans will have a full-fledged replay system, a powerful ranked matchmaking system, and a myriad of statistics and rankings for players to gush over. Everything here works as would be expected within the game client, and there is a compendium of the Titans for players to study their choices and strategies outside of an actual, which is always a welcome feature. Of specific import is the item mall which I’m sure any players of free-to-play games would be eager to know about. Unfortunately for the closed beta the item mall was inaccessible so I cannot comment on it at this time, however there are “Aeria points” and “Battle points” so I’m assuming that the in-game currency will be available to use to purchase Titans and other such items. Many of the Titan skills are upgradable so hopefully those use Battle points! A few things that are known to be purchasable are: titans, mounts, skins, and shouts. At the bottom section of the client is the shout box which, theoretically, lets you talk to every single person in the client at that time. It isn’t clear if that is everyone playing in the West in its entirety or world-wide, but you can only buy shout points with Aeria points, and for the life of me I can’t think of anything you’d actually want to shout out other than the occasional argumentative claim or to troll a bit. We’ll have to wait and see how that plays out!
Last but not least the developers have been working on a second map titled Titan’s Eye, which is a two lane 5v5 map that has two victory conditions that the players can choose to meet. Teams can either push to the enemy base and destroy it or attain sixty six kills to win the match. Along with these rather radical basic victory condition changes there are also increased gold gains, lower ability cooldowns, increased movement speed while mounted, and increased ability damage! Likewise the developers have added rune altars that give players buffs depending on the color of the altar (these buffs are: double magic damage, double physical damage, 500 experience points, 350 gold, haste, and increased mana and health regeneration) along with being able to upgrade items multiple times to make items more powerful! It isn’t clear if that means you can take your +100 damage sword (a finished item) and just pour more gold into it to make it even more ridiculous, but the idea sounds interesting. Finally there are new plants that hide Titans when they are in them, which means you can literally hide in plain sight! All together these changes to the core gameplay look to force players to be much more aggressive and create more fun, dynamic gameplay. While a valiant idea on the developers part it waits to be seen how balanced this will be, or if it will be played in tournaments.
And for any of you who aren’t quite familiar with the genre don’t worry! The game will be free-to-play and features a full tutorial to ease you into the complex and rewarding gameplay, so feel free (ha!) to try out Realm of the Titans when it releases later this year!