At this point, the MOBA genre (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, the most redundant term for a genre I’ve ever heard) has become a considerably large genre with new titles releasing almost as quickly as shooters. Because of this, it’s probably really easy to get bogged down trying to find a MOBA that fits your style.
Sure there are some of the more popular titles like Smite, and some of the not-so popular titles, like Awesomenauts. However, just because a title isn’t popular doesn’t mean it won’t meet your play style. Because I believe that there is a MOBA for everyone, I’ve written a brief summary of some of the titles out there. The following paragraphs will give a brief analysis of the 7 MOBAs that I feel are best to introduce new players to.
Before I go any further, I would like to put forth a disclaimer. MOBAs have the single worst communities I have ever seen in a video game. Rabid 13-year olds on Call of Duty cannot hold a candle to the pure, unadulterated rage that will befall you should you choose to go down this road. I will not make any excuses for my favorite genre as our player base is pretty piss poor. However, some MOBAs definitely have worse communities than others. Due to this, all of my summaries will also include a brief discussion on the player community as well as a scale that will determine how much verbal abuse you’ll have to put up with. 1 will of course represent the least amount of rage, and 10 will represent the feelings you get when you’re two hours in to your all-night Mario Party session with your three “best” friends.
While there is no rhyme or reason to the order in which titles will appear on this list, I do believe I should pay a certain level of respect to DotA. Sure, Aoen of Strife was technically the first title to start the MOBA genre, but it wouldn’t be where it is now without a certain Warcraft 3 mod. DotA 2 is a Steam title that is still in beta and will be “officially released” sometime this fall.
I don’t feel I really need to explain the concept of a MOBA. The vast majority revolve around 5 players on each team participating in a reverse tug-of-war. At the start of the match, players pick one unique unit to control (each has their own strengths and weaknesses) and then move down one of three access points that lead into the enemy’s base.
This is DotA 2 in the most simple of definitions:
What sets DotA 2 apart from a title like League of Legends is that DotA’s heroes are all tailored to be completely unique from each other. Their skills are generally more unique to each character. For instance, one character, Invoker’s abilities allow him to combine three elements in different ways to create different spells. Meanwhile, Meepo, a melee bruiser, has the ability to create five carbon copies of him at the risk of death if so much as one of them takes a fatal blow. My wife, who I force to play all these games with me, also commented that she felt that the items in DotA are complimented by your character, whereas in games like League of Legends items simply power up your characters natural abilities. To summarize what I just said, DotA put’s a heavy emphasis on using items to fight your opponents while other titles may use items to simply make your character’s natural abilities more prominent.
The community, while still toxic has an odd way of handling things. Using voice chat in game has a tendency to reduce rage caused by people who are frustrated easily. Something about hearing who you’re playing with manages to keep people cool in situations where they’d normally lose it. That being said, that doesn’t mean DotA is without rage. If you want to see pure hatred, change your in-game name to a League of Legends champion and feed the enemy team, just watch what happens.
Community Rage: 5/10
Despite not being free like many other MOBAs, Awesomenauts is the MOBA I recommend to many first-timers as a way to get their feet wet. It’s a bit more action oriented than other MOBAs, and the controls fall under the WASD+mouse setup that many PC platformers are comfortable with. It may not have a lot of depth to it, but the game has always been relatively balanced and has many fun levels and characters to play. Additionally, the cartoonish designs and Saturday morning plot make it a game that many can feel comfortable with after a few games.
My only concern with Awesomenauts is that it can get a bit restrictive. Each character has items designed specifically for them that other characters don’t have access to. This makes the game fine if you want clearly defined characters that can’t use the same abilities as others, but it limits creative effort. You can’t turn a tank character into a mage that blows things up with their spells, and you can’t turn mages into ranged attackers. Needless to say, experimenting is severely limited and most of the gameplay focuses around understanding what you and the other players are capable of.
Surprisingly, I’d say that Awesomenauts has one of the better MOBA communities I’ve seen. Yes, players still rage; however, the ability to leave a game at any point without fear of consequences allows frustrated players to leave whenever they want. Sure I’ve been yelled at for a bad play before, but I haven’t been called anything my high school career counselor hadn’t already said.
Community Rage: 2/10
Heroes of Newerth was originally designed to be a stand-alone version of DotA that didn’t require a copy of Warcraft 3. Released around the same time as DemiGod (another MOBA that won’t receive recognition beyond this point), I’ve come to understand that the gameplay is very similar to DotA in design. While this is fine on its own, I honestly don’t have much information to relay on this matter.
The problem I ran into with HoN was that the community was simply unbearable. After installing the game, and being no newbie when it comes to MOBAs, I joined a match and selected a character that was available to me. Upon selecting the character I had a teammate scream “NOOB PICK” in chat before abandoning the game. His abandonment caused other people to leave and the game was quickly ruined. The next game I picked the same guy, and went with the recommended items as I hadn’t done enough research to try a custom item build. I did fairly well at first, but then one of my teammates died and two of the other guys I was playing with called him a noob for dying first, and me a noob for picking recommended items before immediately quitting. After that, I uninstalled HoN. Two bad games that ended in less than five minutes doesn’t exactly set a stellar example if you ask me.
Seriously these people are the worst human beings you can imagine, and that’s coming from the guy who grew up in Eagle River, Alaska (read: backwater tumor feeding off the filth of Anchorage). Only play this game if you’re bored of every other MOBA out there.
Community Rage: 10/10.
Perhaps my favorite title on the list, Smite takes everything that has made titles like League of Legends great and expands on it. The concept of a MOBA that is also a third-person title makes me insanely happy. I say this because the fixed camera forces you to focus entirely on your character as you cannot freely move the screen like you can on many other MOBAs. Instead, you’re required to pay attention to the mini-map as well as your team’s communications to understand what’s going on. Additionally, the combat mechanics means that an Archer’s arrow won’t magically find its target that happened to turn a corner. If you didn’t hit your opponent, it was because your aim sucks.
Unfortunately, Smite isn’t exactly "beginner friendly". The third-person combat took me a while to get used to. It paid off in the end, but it’s a rough title to start with. Additionally, I feel the game has limited itself a bit on the creativity side simply because all the characters that are now developed, and will be developed, are different gods and goddesses. Sure there are literally thousands of gods and goddesses to choose from, and many interpretations of them, but I’m just a bit sad that the creators will probably never make a character that is all their own. That being said, they’ve done quite well with their designs. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed playing any MOBA character quite as much as I’ve enjoyed Apollo. It’s simply amazing what locking the camera and hindering a player’s vision can do to improve a cookie cutter genre.
Smite has a bit of a different rage train from everyone else. Players are only allowed to communicate to their team, making cross-team communication impossible. That being said, trash talking the enemy has disappeared completely, but teammates yelling at one another is something you see more often than in any other MOBA. It’s as if turning off /all chat creates a literal echo chamber of hatred that only increases as the match goes on. I often mute everyone on my team except people I brought with me before the match even begins.
Community Rage: 6/10
Prime World is the Farmville of the MOBA community. It’s a game that’s two parts MOBA, and one part city management. It’s a game that takes almost everything hardcore MOBA players know about the genre, and flips it on its head.
The first big thing with Prime World is that you don’t buy items. Instead, you use the experience you get over time, as well as from killing units, and apply it to skills that improve individual stats, as well as spells. In other words, imagine if in DotA you never had to shop. Before the match started, you picked the items you wanted and put them in a pool with your four primary skills (18 if you’re one of those people who play Invoker). As the game goes on, you can choose to level up your skills, or your stats. It’s an interesting take on things, really.
Another thing that Prime World has for it is that it’s ambitious. Rather than just one game mode, it has a whole sleuth. Everything from the traditional 3-lane system to zombie survivals are included in the game. It even has its own game mode where you collect random resources and use them to make other resources which then in turn make crystals, or something. It’s a bit rough right now, but the ideas are good, and there’s a lot of them.
The community rage is already kind of bad, unfortunately. People who play Prime World tend to get frustrated at the tiniest thing. It’s a bit strange that no one seems to notice that the title is in beta and assumes everyone already knows every little thing about it. In all honesty, it’s the same level of aggression you’d see in any MOBA.
Community Rage: 6/10
Considering LoL is the most played game in the world, I don’t feel it needs a huge introduction. However, we’ll go over the basics.
Starting as a small project from the original DotA dissenters, League of Legends was an ambitious little title that took the world by storm. As the first stand-alone MOBA title to get world recognition, LoL has paved the way for every game since then, becoming a standing testament to the fact that sometimes new ideas work.
With that being said, LoL is a game that focuses entirely around roles and characters. The developers themselves have acknowledged this and generally start champion introductions by mentioning what that character is tailored to by specifying if they are an Attack Damage carry, a bruiser, a jungler, a mage, or a support. Once upon a time, it was a game that focused on having champions duke it out in one on one fights, however, lately it’s become more team dominated with the center focus being around picking characters that complement each other.
Additionally, League of Legends is more based around what the character’s roles do than anything else. Champions fulfill one of five primary roles and then pick items that help them accomplish their role better than the other. Unlike DotA however, LoL generally has set item builds for each champions, with small variations depending on what the enemy team has for champions as well.
As far as the rage train goes, League of Legends varies. In ranked games, it’s a cesspool of screaming kids who can’t get along. In standard 5v5s the game can sometimes go downhill. In game modes like Dominion you’ll generally find one or two disagreeable people. In the 3v3s, trash talking is generally minimal. Then, in the All Random All Mid game mode the rage is almost nonexistent with most people just having fun. Because of this, LoL is impossible to gauge as far as community frustration goes, but I’d definitely say that ranked 5v5s are some of the most stressful things you can do with your free time.
Community Rage: 1-8/10
Not wanting to be left behind by the bandwagon DC decided it was high time to make a MOBA all their own. The twist here is that DC is combining characters from all across their comic series. Though, right now there are only 3 primaries worlds to draw characters from (gaslight, Prime, and Nightmare), I’m sure I’ll see Batman Forever eventually. Still, Infinite Crisis has a few things going for it that I find rather unique.
Their current game mode is a spin-off of League of Legend’s Dominion mode which in itself is a spin-off of most FPS title’s control mode. The board has five key points laid out on the map that characters fight for control of. Once one team has 3 of the five points, they start reducing points from their opponents’ title point count. The twist here is that there is an additional objective in the middle that occasional unlocks, that when captured provides the capturing team a huge boost over their opponents.
Also unique to Infinite Crisis is that the characters can interact with the environment. This is a small feature now and I haven’t seen much beyond the ability to pick up and throw cars, but I actually like it a lot. If they could implement this more and add the traditional 3 lane style of other MOBAs, I can see a really bright future for Infinite Crisis as it’s quickly becoming my second favorite MOBA.
Community rage is oddly low on this one. Most of the time I’ll see a player disconnect with a bit of gripe, but it’s pretty laid back so far. You play the game, if your team wins, you celebrate. On the odd chance that you do get a rage monkey, the chat log is very hard to read, so it’s easy to ignore.
Community Rage: 3/10
I find it very hard to believe there’s not a MOBA out there for everyone. Even for people who don’t like the traditional bird’s eye view style can still play titles like Smite and Awesomenauts. That being said, despite playing the games for well over 7 years now, I still don’t take them as seriously as some. Because of this, I’d appreciate it if this article is taken with a grain of salt, as I’m sure some of you will interpret these games differently. Still, I ask that you relax if you disagree with this. I’m not what you’d consider a pro-gamer, and I don’t spend the time on these titles that I used to back when I was playing Halo tournaments all the time in my home state. I didn’t discuss strategy, and I tried to remain unbiased on these titles, and I ask simply that you respect that.