PAX 2013: Strife preview

pax_2From the developers of Heroes of Newerth comes a new MOBA in Strife that aims to break down some of the toxic walls that many uninitiated players often associate with the competitive genre.

It looks like S2 Games definitely nailed the accessibility aspects of its game, and I’m sure it will turn out alright thanks to the years of experience it has under its belt, but I’m not sure that their game is going to be different enough for it to matter in this swamped sector of gaming.

The game features visuals that are more cartoon-like than what we typically see in MOBAs, but I can see it working. All of the units in the game as well as the battle stage have a visual cohesion between them – it looks like you’re fighting in the middle of a tropical island where the sun is perpetually giving the air a happy, golden glow.

The playable characters that were available for me to select did have skins and colour palette-swap options, but I didn’t notice anything that broke the island-vibe.

Mechanically, there isn’t a lot that’s different about Strife

Mechanically, there isn’t a lot that’s different about Strife. You play in three lanes with towers, in teams of five, you last hit the melee, ranged, and siege creeps, and you use your abilities to gain an advantage over your opponents. The biggest differences come from the itemization and active-ability usage in games.

Strife allows you to set up your automatic item purchase-path before you enter the game, which isn’t entirely new, but they hope that it will help ease new players in to the game faster, although there’s also a crafting system in place, and I rarely see crafting systems as beginner friendly. Unfortunately I didn’t get to dig into the system to find out for myself during my demo.

Each champion in the game also has a pet that follows them around and grants passive bonuses such as extra gold per kill, or increased health. The pets have an active-ability that has a lengthy cooldown – I’d equate them to summoner spells in League of Legends.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to have anything worthy of pulling my attention from LoL and Dota

All those elements come together in a competent package, which I can see new players getting behind, but I suspect that two intentional design decisions by S2 Games will turn off fans of other competitive MOBAs.

Last hits in lane now distribute gold evenly to the champions in lane, and solo-laners receive a much smaller gold and experience boost than you would expect. A S2 Games representative told me that they wanted to eliminate the role of support in the game and flatten the playing field, but the role diversities are exactly what I enjoyed about LoL and Dota.

The other thing that really irked me while playing the demo was the angle of the games’ camera. Even when zoomed all the way out I found that the camera was too close to the ground and it didn’t allow me to assess the situation of my lane adequately. On more than one occasion when playing against bots in their practice matches, I wouldn’t have time to react to my enemies movements, because they’d show up on my screen and mini-map too late.

Strife is a game that has some big ambitions on the community side of things, and S2 Games might be able to make it happen. However, as someone who’s already entrenched in the world of two other MOBAs, Strife doesn’t look like it’s going to have anything worthy of pulling my attention away.

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