Developers are busy making the next Dota or Call of Duty. Will any of them make the eSports cut?
If the large lineup of games at last weekend’s PAX Prime is any indication, there are plenty of developers working hard to make the next big eSports title. But do any of them have what it takes to be a contender along with the likes of StarCraft II, Dota 2, League of Legends or Call of Duty? We got a taste of some of them at PAX to find out.
TOYS OF WAR
THE GAME: Titanfall
WHAT IT IS: Two of founders of Infinity Ward, the developer of the original Call of Duty: Modern Warfare games created their own company called Respawn Entertainment. The result of their first game is Titanfall, a multiplayer-only first-person shooter that features the use of large, mech-style walker suits called “Titans.”
HOW IT'S DIFFERENT: Well, the giant robot suits, obviously. Players will spend a majority of their time on the ground as free-running pilots who shoot at each other in ways similar to Call of Duty or Battlefield with the twist that they have some parkour powers. Players can run up walls and jump into windows in a way that feels more like an Assassin’s Creed game. But the big change is the addition of the mechs.
VERDICT: Titanfall is insanely fun to play and is likely to be the breakout shooter of 2014 with mass audiences. Unlike most mech-combat games, these metal hulks are light on their feet – dashing around the battlefield like a 10-ton ballerina. Or something like that. But eSports competitors tend to dislike gimmicks and other things that make a shooter feel unbalanced. We’ll see how the top guns of eSports take to Titanfall.
HOLY MOBA, BATMAN!
THE GAME: INFINITE CRISIS
WHAT IT IS: MMO-maker Turbine has teamed up with Warner Brothers for a free-to-play MOBA that borrows characters from the DC Universe. Batman, for instance, is an energy-based melee bruiser and a Wonder Woman is a heavy tank (just don’t say that to her face). It’s currently in beta, but will likely release late in 2013.
HOW IT'S DIFFERENT: Mechanics-wise, it seems to work a lot like Dota 2 and LoL with a few key exceptions. First, is the fact that the featured map (a traditional three-lane map is also planned) – called Coast City – features no real middle lane, only a short lane on bottom and a longer lane on top. In the middle, instead, is a ton of “jungle” area to navigate.
Turbine developers say a lot of competitive teams have been running with one player in each lane and the other three jungling. There are also objectives to capture, power relays, which act a bit like inhibitors in League of Legends, boosting your drones’ power when you hold them. Finally, there’s a Doomsday Device in the center of the map that activates at ten minutes – acting as a deployable weapon that inflicts heavy damage on the enemy.
VERDICT: It’s certainly fun to use iconic comic book characters like Green Lantern, The Flash and the Joker in a MOBA, and Infinite Crisis has some interesting ideas, but it’s hard to say whether or not pro-players will like the more chaotic nature of the lack of three lanes and the increased emphasis on holding objectives.
A KINDLER, GENTLER MOBA
THE GAME: STRIFE
WHAT IT IS: Though it’s been in development for two years, S2 Games last month announced Strife, the follow-up to their previous MOBA game Heroes of Newerth. The game is currently in Alpha stage and is headed for Beta testing this fall. The emphasis, say S2, is on correcting some of the problems of current MOBAs, especially the toxic nature of trash talking players.
HOW IT'S DIFFERENT: The cartoonish graphics (described as “Pixar with a hint of darkness") of Strife makes it stand out from an art perspective. The game retains the three lane system and general principles of most MOBAs but the map is smaller, which S2 claims will encourage more team fights. They’ve also tried to eliminate the support role and made changes to the way gold is awarded so it’s split more equally for kills. Each character also gets their own pet, which can be used for combat.
VERDICT: Strife is likely to be popular for those stressed out by League of Legends and Dota 2’s lack of newbie-friendly gameplay, but it’s unlikely to breakout as a major eSports title.
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