Since moving away from their “weekends-only” model for server uptime, I’ve been playing a LOT of Dawngate, the new MOBA being developed by Waystone Games and published by EA. I’ve come to grips with the fact that the MOBA has etched itself a place in my heart. It’s not a question of whether or not I’m going to be devoting some of my gaming time to a MOBA, only a question of which one.
See, I just can’t play League of Legends anymore. It’s not just the community. We all know that’s a cesspool. There are a lot of things about League that I didn’t realize I didn’t like until I saw a viable alternative. Those things, chiefly, are as follows:
1.) League has an inflexible meta that in large part is developer-balanced more than it is player-influenced.
–One of the biggest catchphrases the Waystone is “break the meta” and it’s really not just a catchphrase. The game allows you four “roles” to choose from that dictate how you gain experience and Vim, allowing you to play shapers (champions, etc.) the way you want to play them. Want to know what a shaper is like in the support role? Pick them and choose Tactician as your role to get bonus Vim for being near dying minions and harassing enemy shapers. Want to try one out as a carry? Take Gladiator to get a passive, stacking bonus to Vim gain on last hit. So, when you feel the need to experiment or try out a new shaper, or try out an old shaper in a new and interesting way, you don’t have to wait for Waystone to balance them out.
2.) League is boring.
–It really is. Again, it was impossible to know this without any really glaringly different alternatives, but that 10-15 minute laning phase in low-ELO games has always made my head hurt. The same “role” system I was just discussing helps alleviate this by making last hitting not necessarily the focus of the entire game, but the two-lane map with multiple openings into the jungle makes ganking and therefore fighting a much larger part of the game from start to finish. And it’s not just the third lane that’s missing but a lot of superfluous space in lane as well. Quarters are close. As a result, things can get brawl-y even without the jungler waiting in the wings to seal the deal. Instead of a contest to see who can kill the most creeps, Dawngate feels more like an actual 2v2 contest for the laners.
3.) The hard stuff is hard and the easy stuff is easy
–Learning your shapers rotations and how to use them effectively in combat is what’s going to be dominating your time in Dawngate. The item system is incredibly streamlined and easy for new players to pick up. There are six basic items: Life, Resilience, Will, Power, Time and Hunger. Do you feel like based on those names, you have a decent idea of what they do without ever seeing them? Did you guess that maybe Life and Hunger are related to HP and sustain, while Power effects damage and Time effects CDR and movespeed? Congratulations, you “get” Dawngate. As you build those items up, you’re not “combining” random things 1&2 to get random thing 3. You’re creating more complex ideas. Turn your “Time” into “Action” to gain a Chain Lightning effect, then into “Progress” to add some Magic Defense if needed.
These aren’t the only changes, but every change serves to make for a more engaging experience than I’ve had with games like League or DOTA2. I’ll summarize a few here:
–There’s only one neutral boss on the map, and he’s smack dab in the middle to encourage fighting over him rather than trying to distract enemies while you kill him in secret.
–The resource generation nodes or “Spirit Wells” are located off the beaten path of the lanes, to add an extra element to the jungle v. jungle match-up. I often see junglers brawling 1v1 because someone decided to get greedy and go for a Well steal.
–”Bindings” (Turrets, for our League fans) respawn. All of them. Give it enough time and a lane will completely rebuild itself out to 3 Bindings. This makes it more viable for a team that’s really behind, i.e. pushed to their base, to make a comeback.
–The Guardian Fight. Again, to put it in the parlance of League of Legends, the Guardian is like the Nexus. But, in the spirit of Smite, it’s an actual boss-level minion with a skill rotation that can be pretty effective at wiping an unprepared team.
People have criticized Dawngate for being too much like League. Mostly, if not exclusively, people who have never played it. Yes, some of the shapers feel very reminiscent of League champions. Some of the items do, as well. But at the end of the day, all MOBAs are pretty similar except for stylistic choices, and the stylistic choices made in this game make it a much more exciting experience from the moment you enter a game.
Also, there is no load screen. I mean it. No load screen.
All kidding aside, this is a fantastic game, and seems to build a much more streamlined product out of the rock solid foundation DOTA2 and League have laid out for it. I hope to see you on the Dawngate!
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