Fighting the riptide.
The MOBA genre is one that’s been seeing a surge in the last few years thanks to the popularity of titles like League of Legends and DotA 2.
Now, with Blizzard on its way to release their own take on the genre with Heroes of the Storm, I pondered who else might throw their hat into the ring and try to take some of that free to play money.
One I never expected was to see was a MOBA based off the Dead Island universe, so when I heard about it, I decided to join the closed beta and investigate what it’s all about.
While Dead Island Epidemic is classified as a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), it is quite unlike the traditional DotA model of game.
There is no last hitting creeps for gold and no standard lane formation of top, middle and bottom. There is no jungle, no items to buy or even any kind of currency to earn outside of the objective itself. Oh and did I mention that movement in this title is handled with the use of the “WASD” keys? It was incredibly weird at first but felt fine after a little while.
The game is broken up into two main modes, with one strictly focused on PvE as a team of four players go around capturing points spread across a linear map, surviving waves of zombies to finally find their way to a massive boss fight.
The competitive mode has three separate teams vying for capture points and resources which must be turned in their respective extraction point. The team who reaches the required amount of resources first is declared the winner, and exits the game while the other two teams fight it out for second place.
The more points that are captured for a team, the greater the multiplier they receive when turning in resources, so it’s important to go out hunting for resources while maintaining a few points in their favor.
Currently, there were about a dozen different playable characters, many of which were different variations on existing characters like Amber and Mutated Amber. Luckily, their skill sets were completely different so they weren’t clone characters. As experience is earned, players are able to level up a skill of their choice, and an “ultimate” skill becomes unlocked at level 5. The more points allocated to a skill, the more effective it became, and it was pretty clear to me which skills I should level up first by simply reading the description.
There is also a dodge maneuver on a short cool down, and working with your team seemed key to success as a wanna-be one man army would often see his life end at the hands of an entire team of players before he could even use any of his cool downs.
While the game felt decidedly simple in nature, I didn’t mind the fact that it was a rather unique take on the MOBA genre.
However, what I did mind were possible implications of an uneven playing field.
Out of the handful competitive matches I took part in, I noticed that there were always one or two players who were performing much better than everyone else.
At first, I took this just as a sign of experience and skill, but later I learned that they had simply played more and leveled up their weapons to deal more damage than everyone else who had just started playing.
The players that spend more time playing the game should definitely be rewarded, but not with a significant advantage over new players in the form of more powerful items.
There were four different types of currency listed, many of which were given in abundance for the sake of the beta but if the price stays the same, it would take dozens of matches to buy a new character at the rate I was earning the points, and even more than that to craft a simple weapon given the ludicrous amount of materials required.
I also noticed that there was a section for weapons in the store which wasn’t fully functioning, and I can’t help but fear that given the evidence, this will be a clear case of pay-to-win, the worst form of the free-to-play market imaginable.
Still, the game is in beta and has some time to make some changes to the way the currencies and leveling is handled. As nothing is final, I can only hope that some rather drastic adjustments are made to Dead Island Epidemic, lest it become yet another failed MOBA at the feet of the giants.