The Witcher Battle Arena: Hectic Multiplayer MOBA Fun
Do you like MOBAs? Do you like gaming on your phone? Given that MOBAs (multi player battle arenas) have amassed millions upon millions of players, there’s a chance you play LoL or DOTA. And here at XDA we love phones, and we spend a lot of time on them, so if you were to like gaming outside of smartphones you probably like some on them too. I personally like neither, and I simply download the latest 3D games to see the progression of graphics and game physics, yet almost never manage to finish the actual games. But when my friend, a competitive MOBA player, recommended me The Witcher Battle Arena, I decided to give it a try. And I am glad I did, because it takes serious multiplayer experiences and scales them down to your phone’s screen.
The Witcher Battle Arena is a MOBA based on The Witcher franchise of books and videogames, but from the little of DOTA I was forced to play a year ago, I can tell you that the similarities end really early. While PC MOBAs have you farming goblins, hiding in jungles and destroying turrets, this game reduces the rules to just the essentials. You whack opponents to kill them, and hope they don’t whack you back too hard, all while controlling points on the map to win. The game is 3 versus 3, and it features PvP combat between two teams, co-op of a team of humans vs a team of bots, or solo practice with both teams filled with AI. This allows for offline play, but you still need to log in if you want to sync up with your Google Play account, which you most likely will.
Design and… free to play!?
Like most MOBA’s, the game features a top-down view in-game that lets you see plenty of action to plan out your strategy. The camera can be locked to your character or moved freely for a more “real-time strategy” feel, although the locked camera will work just fine in almost any situation given that attack ranges are not very insane for all but a couple of characters. Which leads me to the heroes: There’s 9 to choose from, all taken and inspired from the former PC videogame. You’ve got the fantasy trope of rangers, sorcerers and warriors, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. The characters are rather varied, but as of now it feels the selection is a little limited, especially given that you must unlock them with crowns, the game’s currency, and there’s only 3 available to use freely every week on each rotation. Luckily you start with 750 crowns, which is enough to buy you any hero you want.
Outside the game, you’ll find a very simplistic menu. You can access a shop where you can purchase skins for your outfits and weapons, the heroes themselves, or more tabs to hold items. That’s about as unfair as it gets, as the developers focused on having a balanced paymodel unlike what the current Freemium craze is pushing the rest of the industry towards. That alone is a highmark of this game. Crowns aren’t terribly hard to get, either, so you if you want to get any of those, you can do so. You typically earn anywhere from 15 to 35 (if you convert your reward) coins a match, and matches are really short, so it won’t be too long before you can get what you want, although the higher tiers of items will take a few hours to get.
But there’s something that I feel this game does great, and that is character progression. Each individual character can improve in equipment and skills. Each time you level up, you get a skill point that you can dump into skills or items, and when you reach a certain threshold (that varies from character to character, for balance’s sake), you unlock a tier of benefits. When you start out, your character is very locked down, but you can customize it to whatever style of play you want really easily. At the end of each game, you’ll get items that you can equip, but they come in 4 flavors (normal, rarer, epic, legendary). To equip the last 3 tiers you have to improve your item affinity with skill points. Then there’s the fact that with each tier of skills affinity, you get the ability to tweak your skills.
The way you do this is by removing points from any skill’s property, such as the uptime, cooldown, range, damage, blast radius, and the like, to get points so that you can improve any other aspect of any other skill. This can be really fun to play with, because the effects are noticeable enough but don’t allow for very overpowered combinations, as in order to improve an aspect you have to sacrifice another essential one. But it allows for flexibility, because you can focus your character on damage, on stuns, on area control, on speed and fast ability use, etc. Then the items provide bonuses that scale exponentially, as they are usually triggered with each level up. So don’t be discouraged when you see that “0.02 attack speed on level up”, because by the last 3 minutes of the match you’ll attack at insane speeds. There are a lot of effects your hundreds of items can provide, from life-leeching to cooldown reductions, so you can tailor to whatever style of play you want to play.
The huge design flaw in this game, however is that you cannot play with friends at the moment. No friends-list or lobby or anything of the sort. Just random online people. And this can be very bad, because most matches can end very one-sided if even just one person doesn’t play very well. While there’s no real “snowballing” like in other MOBAs, a good team simply decimates. I’ve had cases where I go on insane kill streaks without any equipment, so in that regard the game is balanced (as you don’t need the in-game gear to remain powerful in a match). But you’ll probably see a lot of base-camping when you face people that are bad at the game or have a very weak link in their team.
Gameplay and Graphics
The game controls well, for the most part. You simply tap where your character should go, then tap on a skill to aim it, then shoot it at bad guys. It works. The game mode present in this game is just one for now, and that is a king-of-the-hill type where you’ve got to hold off 3 points in the map so that your team loses “tickets” at a slower rate than your opponent. There’s just two maps at this point, which is very disappointing. But the maps are properly sized for a mobile game, and there are some strategies you can plan out with the environment.
The games can last as little as 6 minutes, and they typically never last more than 9. This means the game is great for picking it up and playing it on short breaks (in fact, that’s when I usually boot it up). If you’ve got 10 minutes, you are guaranteed to have time to launch the game and play a match, especially since the matchmaking works great. The connection stability is decent, but you might see a “reconnecting” message every once in a while. It’s gotten better since it was released a week ago, though.
As far as strategy and combat go, the basics are there. You’ve got 3 active skills and 1 passive per character, and these are leveled up throughout the match. The fighting is that of typical MOBA fashion, with stuns and binds all over the place. Some characters feel a tad more useful than others, but the advantages a well-rounded team have are very very clear. Each hero can have its fair share of pressure, and considering that the game is all about controlling points rather than killing, you can customize your character towards holding off hills or setting traps rather than actually finishing off opponents, and helping your team win that way.
The controls work well for the most part, but the limitations of Android and touchscreens make themselves present every once in a while. Sometimes you’ll inexplicably have your skill aimed away from where you want it to go, and sometimes a ghost or accidental tap can ruin your game-plan. It is annoying but considering matches are mostly inconsequential and so short, you won’t get too mad about it unless you are one of those who tilt easily. The fact that matches can be left without penalty is a serious issue though, as many disconnect when they get fed up with being killed or losing.
The graphics are very good, and you’ll have no trouble maxing them out in a 2014 flagship. It runs very well and it doesn’t really heat up the phone. I was even able to play it with a skype videocall floating window, and I also leave IM floating windows around the UI and the game still runs well on max settings. It is fairly optimized, but the problem many face is that it is incompatible with a lot of devices as of now, like the SM-N9005 Note 3 and LG G3 – so you might not find it available on the Playstore for you.
DO NOT expect a pocket LoL or DOTA. This game should be taken as a mobile game, and it is designed to be one. It won’t replace your PC games and, especially at this stage, it is not that complex and packed with content. That said, there’s a shortage of good team-based multiplayer games on Android, specifically games that aren’t shooters. And this game is pretty balanced, and rather fun for what it is. What I love the most is that matches are fast-paced and short, and that the progression allows for many playstyles for each character. There’s a lot to be improved upon as the game stands now. But if you like MOBAs, and find yourself with multiple 10 minute intervals where you just scroll through your homescreen looking for something to do (we’ve all been there at some point), look no further.
The Witcher Battle Arena is free on the Playstore. See you on the battlefield!
Do you like MOBAs? What do you look for in a multiplayer Android game? Tell us below!