This week I’ve been taking my first tentative steps into the somewhat intimidating world of MOBA’s with Infinite Crisis (which I first played at EGX last year) and Dragons & Titans which released on Steam recently.
I’ve always found the idea of MOBA games enticing, particularly with the success of DOTA and League of Legends. Any kind of arena-based combat seems to trigger memories of teenage years filled with Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. While the FPS arena games were obviously very different in the skill-sets required compared to the top down, tactical view of a game like Dragons & Titans, the feel and spirit is almost identical. To the uninitiated, D&T’s main mode involves flying around on a dragon while spitting flames and hurling magic attacks at your opponents in an attempt to destroy key strategic points and ultimately the cage that they have imprisoned your titan in, free your titan and you win the game.
The biggest problem facing newcomers to this genre at the moment seems to be just how intense the competition is already. For example; As a new player wandering into a League of Legends match without any idea what you’re doing, you’ll find just as many players who will be more than happy to hand your arse to you as you will those prepared to offer advice. D&T does not suffer from that and there’s already a nice sense of community growing around the game on steam. That’s not to say there aren’t any proficient players yet, but I was offered a lot of help in my first few games and most of the players I encountered were friendly.
Dragons & Titans itself is facing quite a fight if it’s to carve out a niche for itself in what is a hotly contested marketplace. The gameplay is all solid enough, built as it is on foundations that are actually over a year old, with the game having originally made its début as a Facebook title in 2013.
It seeks to set itself apart through a combination of shorter matches and a unique system that should, in theory, ensure you can always take to the field with your favourite mount & weapon. By asking you to pre-select your load-out before the game starts, you are placed in a queue that will drop you into a game where your selection doesn’t already feature. The game warns you that popular combinations can affect your queue time but I never found myself waiting too long for a match.
Where the game falls short sadly is the dragons themselves. While there are numerous designs to unlock (some of them looking incredibly cool on the menus) these creatures somehow feel less impressive in action. I think a lot of this is down to the sound design where fireballs and magic spells result in minor buzzes and hollow sounding explosions. It gives the sense that your attacks aren’t connecting with opponents in any meaningful way which is a real shame as the combat runs super-smooth.
D&T’s battles have been greatly improved at least by a new control system that removes much of the frustrations I encountered when I tried the game out upon its initial preview release in March. Originally your dragon could only attack directly in front of it and fly forwards or backwards while doing so. This was massively annoying as strafing around an opponent was impossible and just served to make battles all about opening fire while flying backwards which isn’t quite what I picture when thinking of dragons fighting it out in the skies. The latest update changes the targeting so your beast will automatically face a nearby enemy enabling you to strafe while unleashing molten death upon them. Controller support has also been added and I found this to be a surprisingly effective way to play the game. It made the whole experience feel a lot more casual and I could see myself dipping in and out of matches on my big-screen. Perhaps this is paving the way for a console release in the future? With the game built on the unity engine it wouldn’t make for a difficult conversion.
Overall I think Dragons and Titans is best viewed as a gateway to the MOBA genre or a nice alternative for those that don’t see themselves investing the time and energy to become truly competitive in Dota 2 or League of Legends.