I haven’t been gaming these days as much as I’d like; I’ve been devoting more time to mundane activities like cooking and job searching. I’ve also started studying Python, “the hard way.” When I do play on my PC, though, I often tend to favor strategy games or MOBAs that I can play with friends remotely. Gone are the days when sitting in one’s room/basement/pit of despair automatically amounts to isolation. Many games are social now.
The MOBA genre hasn’t gone mainstream quite yet, although its fanbase has grown enormously over the years. What started as a map mod for WCIII has spawned a number of popular and successful standalone games. The market is becoming saturated, actually, but at least there appear to be some notable differences between the various flavors.
For my part, having played the original Dota (the mod that started it all), League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm, I have to say that part of me misses the lack of balance and polish that existed in the old times. I played League for about three years, but in recent months my MOBA cohort and I decided to move over to Heroes for the time being.
Heroes is the culmination of every Blizzard fanboy’s fantasy. The Lord of Terror and the Queen of Blades can fight side by side against Chen the Pandaren warrior and the Lost Vikings. This is the main draw for me. Blizzard has done a pretty good job pulling from their various franchises and rendering the characters. Mechanics-wise, there are a few differences from League and Dota, the most notable of which is the shared experience system.
In Dota and League, most games would see the emergence of “carries” – that is, characters that often start off a bit weak but grow in power quite rapidly and wind up “carrying” their team, hopefully to victory. In Heroes, you’re all in it together. There are no items, and everyone on a team shares the same level. Some characters are more adept at doing damage and so may be carry-ish, but not to the same degree as their peers in similar games.
I find Heroes’ system to be interesting, and my MOBA buddy seems to prefer it. Still, I miss the stories that come from imbalance and grit. Heroes has its imbalances, but by nature it’s too structured and polished for the tales that will ripple throughout the ages.
Dota was the perfect medium for such epics, and the most memorable MOBA for me personally. My much-mentioned friend (he goes by the handle Magnataur Reborn these days, if you happen to run into him) and I used to sit and wait sometimes 30-40 minutes for those old games to load. Sometimes the wait would result in half the players bailing and trying a different game; other times you’d wait only to experience a crippling defeat. The imbalance was legendary! But that’s what made some of the games so much fun at times.
One of the best games we had, which we still celebrate to this day, was an overwhelming 2v5 victory. I was playing Lucifer, a tanky demon capable of absurd amounts of damage, whose ult was a 30-second plus long dot and silence. My friend was playing Sand King, a dickish giant scorpion who was also quite tanky. He could stealth, stun multiple opponents, and initiate a brutal AOE damage ult. We somehow got a huge lead over our enemies and they ragequit one by one.
Another story we remember with much fondness was the result of some random bug. There were a number of neutral monsters that would hang out in the jungle, much as there are in current MOBA iterations. Normally they wouldn’t do anything unless you attacked them. One time, though, my friend and I were chasing down an enemy player. We got them within an inch of death but were unable to catch up to them as they fled. Randomly, one of the neutral centaur enemies ran out of the jungle and made a beeline for our opponent, smiting him and stealing the kill from us. Back then “killstealing” was a wretched and cursed occurrence, as you wouldn’t secure gold or experience unless you made the killing blow on your opponents. This was so unexpected and so funny that we didn’t even care. We just laughed maniacally for about two minutes straight.
These days I wouldn’t have the time to sit in such long queues, hoping for a full/decent team. But the memories of those days will linger and contribute to my favoring of more individualistic and “imba” MOBAs.