Vainglory's main selling point is its platform. You can play it on an easy-to-transport iPad, anywhere you can get a decent wifi connection. For my money, this makes fitting in an impromptu game much more convenient. (It also beats the hell out of lugging around a full-on gaming laptop everywhere you go.) Though convenience is one of the game's biggest advantages, it's far from the only one. Add to that Vainglory's gameplay and visuals, and you have a highly refined piece of interactive entertainment.
Vainglory looked great back in October, so the only real difference two months have made is being able to experience the whole package. When I spoke to them, the Super Evil team had mentioned how important it was to them to remove the intimidation factor seemingly built into the MOBA genre (or really, any competitive online game). They've succeeded. Vainglory begins by nudging you through its in-game Academy where you learn the basics via videos and solo practice against the AI. The practice mode is a great way to check out all the heroes and learn what they can do without other players screaming in your ear. Which brings me to what makes Vainglory truly accessible.
For many gamers, the biggest turnoff about MOBAs is getting through the built-in hazing period. Veteran players somehow think it's their due to treat newer ones like idiots, and nothing ruins the fun like having some fool barking orders through your headphones or typing insults into chat. Vainglory circumvents that by excluding chat. Communication consists only of simple (and if you want, ignorable) map pings. If you're thinking team coordination is impossible without chat, you'd be surprised. In my experience, both in and outside of Vainglory, a smart team only needs a minimum of communication, and all the chat in the world won't help a stupid one.
Anyway, after the Academy stuff, you're ready to jump into a real, online 3v3 match. Having experimented with all of the heroes, my favorite is Krul, an undead warrior. Krul's main characteristics are having a big-ass sword (“Hellrazor”) jammed through his chest and the ability to draw power by hiding in the shadows (the brush). His Dead Man's rush and Spectral Smite let him shred enemies like an undead cheese grater, and better still, his ultimate, From Hell's Heart skill lets him pull his chest-sword out and fling it at fleeing enemies, thus slowing them down and preventing their escape.
My second favorite hero is Petal, a bunny-like creature that bounces around the map on a giant flower. Petal's a sniper who can plant Seeds that can both heal and sprout into onion minions (“Munions”). When Petal really needs to wreak havoc, she can even turn the Munions into savory little suicide bombers.
Aside from my two favorites, Vainglory features a range of other unique heroes, such as Joule, a steampunk-style warrior who rides an insectile mech, a winged elven-type healer called Adagio and Taka, a cool, dual-wielding assassin. In the works as we speak is Skaarfungandr (“Skaarf”), a chubby little fire-breathing dragon mage. Though Vainglory's just started, it's already got a good measure of hero diversity. More importantly, it features built-in tools that prevent games from dragging on forever and that curb serial AFK-ers.
Super Evil's solution to the first issue is a creature called the Kraken. This giant beast spawns fifteen minutes into every game and once free, cuts through enemy turrets like a hot, scaly knife through butter Either team can gain control of it, and its presence has turned sure losses into spectacular wins. The other issue—that of frequent AFKs—Super Evil is addressing with the concept of “Karma.” For every game you complete (win, lose or surrender), you earn Glory (in-game currency) and Karma points. If you quit a game however, you suffer a Karma point hit and start earning a reputation as a quitter. The more you AFK, the more of a hit you take and the more likely you'll be matched up with other AFK-ers.
For the most part, Vainglory gets high marks. If I had to nit-pick, I'd say that certain heroes are hard to see against the background (Ringo, for instance) and that the visual effects for heroes' ultimates could be much more dramatic. I might also say having more maps and a broader selection of heroes would be good, although that's no doubt on the way. These are minor quibbles considering how much fun Vainglory has to offer, and since the game is free, why complain? (Note: there is a cash store if you're not interested in earning your unlocks.)
For Vainglory, this is no doubt just the beginning, but the folks at Super Evil deserve to celebrate their success. Vainglory has varied, interesting heroes, simple, two-finger controls, and most importantly—a minimum of fun-killing, antisocial behavior. It's a strong start for a game that promises great things not only for itself, but for MOBAs in general.
Gameplay: 9 – Gameplay is fast-moving, and the addition of the fifteen minute Kraken spawn keeps games from dragging on too long. Standard MOBA tenets apply and are well-implemented. Though hero selection is thus far, fairly limited, what's there is varied and fun.
Visuals & Sound: 8 – Visuals are good. Heroes stand up reasonably well to zoom-in, although some don't stand out against the background as well as they might. Music is nicely unobtrusive. Heroes have amusing voice lines, but could use perhaps, a few more.
Longevity: 7 – At the moment, the game has a smallish selection of heroes and one map. This could limit replayability among more PC-oriented players used to having a huge hero roster at their fingertips. Once more content is added however, the game's replayability factor will likely rise.
Polish: 10 – Menus, tutorials, heroes, and the arena map are polished to a high shine. Some visual effects could be augmented.
Value: 10 – It's a great game, and hey, it's free.
Social: 6 – Technically, it's not social at all since there's no chat functionality. Still, the setup is socially positive since it prevents bossy blow-hards from ruining the fun.