If there’s one genre that’s growing in popularity lately, it’s definite the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). From juggernauts like League of Legends, to mobile offerings such as Solstice Arena, the mixture of MMO elements with constant live action bring a nice balance.
And then we have Prime World, developed by Nival. It’s not an MMO, nor is it a MOBA. It’s a combination of no less of than four different genres. You have persistent hero development, the likes of which you’d find in any standard RPG; single player, story-driven battles; frantic PvP MOBA action, and a building sim. Yes, when you’re not busy slaughtering your foes, you’ll be occupied by building your city and castle, and gathering resources to ensure you can continue your quest for the greatest architecture in all the land. You can team up with friends, and take part in some fun faction warfare, fighting for either The Dakht Imperium or the Keepers of Ardonia. You can also go up against your faction, should the mood strike you so. As with most games of this kind, there is a backstory to the whole thing, but it definitely takes a backseat to the immediate action.
While relying heavily on a mixture of genres, you might think that Nival bit off more than it could chew. To an extent, they did. The game functions perfectly fine as an introduction to the genre, as there isn’t as much to learn and comprehend as other games of its ilk. But when it comes to how it performs in each genre, it’s safe to say this is a Jack of All Trades, Master of None kind of deal.
Gameplay - 5
Upon launching the game and choosing your name and faction, you’ll be taken a peaceful looking area, filled with lush greenery, circling birds, and all around feelings of pleasure. What you’re looking at will eventually become your castle, your city, your base of operations. You’ll be guided through the most basic features with a terrific tutorial that is fully voiced. After a few quick missions that explains how Prime and talents work, how to move your character and how to attack, you’ll be taken back to your city.
From here on out, you’ll encounter a quest-based system similar to what you’d find in Facebook and mobile games, where a little icon pops up on the screen, which you click to find out what you need to do, how to do it, and what your reward will be for completion. I found this sort of system to be out of place for the type of game; perhaps if I was sitting behind my iPad, it would make more sense.
You can choose from multiple game modes. To name a few, there are Assault matches, which has you push against enemies, a campaign mode you’ll eventually unlock, 5-on-5 PvP battles, and practice mode which lets you play against bots with a team of bots.
There are two types of talent systems in play here. The first comes via your city. You construct buildings whose purpose is to gather resources, such as sap and silk, which you do so in set intervals, similar to time management games. You can get a small amount of resources in thirty minutes for a low cost, or gather a large amount in 24 hours for a slightly higher cost. Of course, since Prime World is a free to play game, you can accelerate all of this by purchasing gold. Resources may then be used to collect pieces of silver, or to create Prime crystals, which are then used to upgrade buildings, buy new talents or purchase new heroes.
Talents, in this case, are character skills, which are used during the battle portions of the game. There are six tiers of talents available, each of which requires you to reach a certain level before being able to use them. While this is a fun system, it is very confusing at first, and to players that are new to the genre, it can be downright impossible to figure out the trees and how they work. And despite the great tutorial you first go through, it does nothing to explain how the talents work. While it might take you some time to figure things out, it does lead to some nice customization, which is a welcome change.
The second talent system takes place during matches. Every time you kill an opponent, raise a flag, or destroy a building, you gain Prime. Prime is used to purchase talents that are used in that particular match. Just like the other system, there are tiers, but these tiers are quickly unlocked. Your hero may only be level two, but he quickly rises through the levels during the match. Special abilities, such as a lightning blast, will gradually be unlocked. And to make matters easier, the next available ability will immediately be shown above the Prime icon, allowing you to purchase it without having to enter the screen.
Unfortunately, there is no equipment to be bought, sold or traded in this game, and you’re limited to consumable items for purchase (such as health potions). While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does shift the entire focus of the match onto the talents you’ve chosen, which will either make the round extremely hard for you, or make it too easy. It’s a tough balance.
Matches unfold the way you expect: two teams fight each other on equally laid out maps, with the ultimate goal of destroying your opponents’ science building. To do so, you’ll have a variety of heroes in different roles; damage, brute force, healers, support, etc.
If there’s one thing Prime World brings to the genre, it’s the introduction of Native Land. You’ll find flags at various points throughout the map. By raising a flag, you extend your land, having a rolling green field overtake the dreary landscape. By fighting on this land, you gain a significant advantage, which could be the difference between winning and losing. Of course, your foes won’t be too pleased with that, and they’ll try to destroy the flag, which resets its status and gets put up for grabs again. It is definitely a cool feature, one that adds a different layer of strategy to your matches.
There isn’t much new in Prime World that you haven’t seen in other games, as it is very basic MOBA fare. Aside from the aforementioned Native Land system, the game’s core innovation comes from its blending of various genres, from the building sim that is your castle, to the Facebook-esque quest system. But mixing a bunch of pieces from other games together does not equal innovation in and of itself.
One innovative, yet odd feature, is the inclusion of mini-games that can be played during rounds. Similar to match three games, you shoot one of two colored balls (which can be changed right a right-click) at blobs of color moving across a board. You launch one of your colors, and by hitting a matching one, those blobs disappear. For completing the mini-game, you earn some Prime and a scroll, which can help out a teammate. Basically, it's Zuma's Revenge right in the middle of your MOBA.
However, this all occurs during the round. So while your team is off fighting, you’re sitting back at your base, playing this mini-game. It’s an odd decision, to be sure, and aside from winning small amounts of Prime, there is no reason for this to exist. I’d say it makes more sense to be in your city, something you can do in between rounds. Or, to not exist at all.
Prime World does a good job with its graphics and art style. You won’t see anything that’ll require a blistering fast computer, but the visuals are bright, colorful, sharp and lively. When zoomed in close, the characters have terrific detail, as does the environment, with billowing leaves, water ripples and reflections.
The sound and music I found to be hit and miss. Effects are decent enough and get the job done, from the crackle of lightning about to leave your hands to the thump of a hard whack across a foe, but overall the effects are basic. Music is typical and repetitive, and the voice acting is pretty bad. The dialog itself tries to be funny, but comes off cheesy (such as a hero telling a frogman he’s going to croak in battle), and combined with the poor acting, it all comes off as a half-hearted attempt that was thrown together long after the fact.
Every character, building and object in the world has its own kind of flair, and it’s clear that attention has been paid to all the nuances throughout the world.
The different heroes all have unique stylings, and will never be cookie cutter to another hero. The interface is very sleek looking, and everything is easily available for you. Depending on your choice of faction, your city will look different, as each one has its own color scheme and looks. The same goes for your heroes. Prime World’s biggest downfall in how it looks are the cities themselves; buildings have a nice little swirl to them when first placed, but are overall bland and hardly as impressive as the rest of the title.
Aside from some minor issues, such as characters clipping through objects, and some animations that seem to randomly stop midway through, Nival has done a good job with the fine details.
Just like in any game worthy of the genre, you can create or join clans in Prime World. However, the clan system seems like a very expensive endeavour, with even the most basic costing a ton of resources. As you build your city up and resources start pouring in, the system gets easier, but it seems to go against a social game at the outset, by having a high entrance cost.
Global chat is lively and hopping, and I had no issues finding matches filled with a good mixture of people. Sadly, as is the case with a lot of free to play games, there’s a lot of immature yelling, cursing and the like. To be expected, and you can thankfully ignore people. The good part, however, is that the majority of folks I ran across during actual battles were coherent, normal players.
Prime World is best played with people you know in real life, as it can be very anti-social and unfriendly to new players, which is hindered in part by the game itself. It tries to be social, but doesn’t quite succeed. Even if you’re not a fan of using Facebook logins, it’s definitely worth it here, especially if you know others who are into arena games.
Due to the nature of MOBA games, and the fact that Prime World will likely receive many updates, you’ll find yourself playing this one for quite a while. The talent trees lend to varied play, and each battle will challenge you to try different tactics. Not to mention that the majority of the game is multiplayer, and unless Nival shuts down the servers, you could play for ages.
However, with some of the weird design choices, mostly due to the way the trees are handled and the clan system, might turn off some folks from giving the game the time it needs to shine through.
It’s a free-to-play game with a cash shop that doesn’t force you to buy things, despite making certain aspects easier. The devs aren’t afraid to ask for money, as evidenced by a big ad that says “WHY SAVE WHEN YOU CAN SPEND?”, but again, completely optional, and you will find great value for the cost of nothing with Prime World. It’s also a fairly small download, currently clocking in at 1.36GB, so there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t try the game if you’re a fan of the MOBA genre.
What do you think of Prime World? Have you given Nival's recent release a try? Let us know in the comments!