After my recent editorial on some of the promise and some of the pitfalls of MOBA games on mobile platforms, we discovered an upcoming game called Arena of Heroes, which is currently in closed beta. Arena of Heroes, developed by a studio called Sneaky Games, blends a MOBA style game and goals with turn-based strategy gameplay to create something more tactical than twitch-based. It will feature cross-platform play, including on mobile devices. I had the chance to chat with Sneaky Games’ CEO David Godwin about the game’s features, beta, and upcoming plans.
So, wait, another MOBA? Well, yes and no. Arena of Heroes is based upon MOBA gameplay at its center, but adding the turn-based gameplay switches things up. The studio began work on the game about a year and a half ago, when deciding upon the next project, the team looked toward the market and also discussed what type of games they liked to play. Several were big fans of MOBAs and turn-based tactics and strategy, as well as RPGs, and what came out of all that was this game. I’ve said it before – considering how many MOBAs there are, you have to stand out. And Arena of Heroes looks to do that. The company knows it’s not going to unseat LoL, but is betting there is an audience there for a game with similar challenge but different gameplay; gameplay that suits many kinds of players with all sorts of schedules.
Turn-based may sound odd when it comes to MOBAs, but here’s how Arena of Heroes works. There are four heroes on each side. Depending on the mode, you’ll be able to play 1v1, 2v2, or 4v4. If you’re playing by yourself, then you will have command of all four heroes. If friends are playing with you, that person will control either one or two heroes. This means anywhere from two to eight players per game. The action takes place on a map that should be pretty familiar looking to MOBA fans. A base on either end, territory for each side and places to clash. First phase of the game is called the Deployment, and this is actually played simultaneously. You’ll be able to see the opponents’ actions while deploying your own strategy. First player to complete deployment gets to take the game’s first turn. Will you compete to start first, or watch and react to your enemy?
Turns play out in the following way. If you go first, your side’s first hero will take action followed by minions, then your opponent will get to take a turn, followed by minions, and so on until all eight heroes have completed their turns. Each hero gets three action points per turn to move, attack, or use abilities, which are earned by playing and leveling up. If playing a 1v1 game, you’ll be in charge of 12AP per turn to plot out your full team’s progress, while players on full teams will have to use their allotted three points wisely and in a coordinated fashion. Victory happens when you are able to destroy the enemy power core at the base.
For launch, there are two planned modes: what the team is currently calling “realtime”, which lets you play a full turn-based match immediately, and an asynchronous mode that is also quite mobile friendly. The asynchronous mode gives you up to three days to take a turn. If you want, you’ll even be able to play at the same time for a while if you see that the other person isn’t done taking a turn. This way you have the option of it playing out almost as a live game in bursts, but with the flexibility that turn-based games offer. Most traditional MOBAs make you commit to long matches, which can be harder to play for some gamers due to time or circumstances. Work a lot? Take a few turns here and there. If you’re a parent, chances are you’ve been interrupted before during game time. If you’re locked into a traditional 45-minute MOBA match on your PC, you’ll probably get a leave penalty.
This style will also likely appeal to those who perhaps aren’t drawn to the relentlessly fast-paced twitch gameplay. This is something the developers are aware of, because they’re making sure to build and foster the community carefully. The closed beta audience is limited right now, and the team notes that there’s a mix of traditional MOBA players and those who aren’t so great at MOBAs but who come from turn-based or maybe RPG games and really enjoy the game. Two video series are in the works, with each planned to run on alternate weeks. One will be a tactics series showing off heroes and giving tips on gameplay and team compositions. The other is more community oriented, with a mix of community highlights and preview of what’s coming next, like new heroes and skins.
Speaking of heroes and skins, Arena of Heroes will be free to play and the shop will feature both of those items, as well as other options. Godwin spoke of plans to include minion skins, as well as boosts. Nothing is final yet, since it is closed beta, but they plan to have a hero release about every two weeks or so and release a skin for each existing hero by launch. Players will get two free heroes to start the game off with for regular accounts. Founders tiers are available right now that will let prospective players into the closed beta and grant them more heroes. Silver gives you beta access, four heroes, two skins and an in-game badge for $20. Gold ups that to beta access, a gold badge, six heroes, four skins, and $50 in gems for $50. Elite, the highest tier, includes eight heroes, six skins, elite badge, 4 XP boosts, and some physical swag for $120.
Arena of Heroes is planned for a launch on PC, Mac, and iPad. iPhone support, as well as Android, will follow, and it’s also looking like the game will come to Ouya.