By Mohammad Abubakr
Without a doubt, 2013 has been the year of MOBA/ARTS games. We've seen a massive increase in popularity for many games of the genre including Dota 2, League of Legends, and Smite. Even throughout 2014 there are many games of this genre to look out for including Strife by S2Games. The game is currently in its closed beta phases and requires a beta key to play.
This game is a more casual and beginner friendly version of the traditional ARTS games we know and love. It is great for those players that find games such as Dota 2 or League of Legends too difficult or punishing and will serve as an introduction to the genre. Those players that are more serious about the genre will soon move on to more complicated games but casual players that just want to relax and have fun will find Strife to meet their needs.
The overall game play is what you would expect from a game of this genre. There are three lanes in the traditional map which pits two teams of five against each other, and with the help of waves of creeps aim to destroy the enemy towers and base. This does not change in Strife but the game introduces some new elements to set it apart from the others.
As mentioned above the game introduces some features to make it more casual and beginner friendly. For those unfamiliar with the genre, ARTS games consist of three main phases: early, mid, and late game. During the early game both teams usually play more passively and farm gold by landing last hits on enemy or neutral creeps. This can be very challenging for new players as precise timing is necessary and slightly slow reactions (or ping discrepancies) can cause you to very quickly fall behind. To make this phase less daunting and punishing, Strife rewards all heroes in the lane with gold regardless of which hero landed the last hit. Now all the heroes can work together to last hit a creep and if any player is successful, the entire lane (only your team) will be rewarded. If you couple this feature alongside many other changes to the genre such as no loss of gold on death, separate immortal couriers for each player, and low mana costs, Strife is a great way to learn the ARTS/MOBA genre or enjoy a casual experience while still playing this punishing genre.
The tutorial is great!
The tutorial for this game is also very well done and allows new players to quickly get into the game. For experienced players of the genre the tutorial will simply be review but it is very well done and introduces new players at the right pace. You begin with simple lessons on movement, using skills, leveling skills and buying items. Then the tutorial moves on to an introduction of the various key objectives in a Strife match and finally concludes with a guided full match against artificial intelligence. It can be very difficult to learn this genre, and I feel that S2Games has done a great job with Strife's tutorial.
The second feature that sets Strife apart from its competitors is the incorporation of RPG elements into the ARTS/MOBA genre. Most games of this genre don't use any outside factors for individual matches and allow all players to play on a level playing field where only their team's skill matters. You are not required to spend money or time to improve your account before being able to compete on a level playing field. Of course there are exceptions, hence the use of the word most as games such as League of Legends do require players to farm to purchase runes before they can play on a level playing field.
In Strife, there are three currencies which players receive upon the conclusion of each match: pet food, crafting ore, and enchanting potions. Before we can go into the uses of pet food, we must learn about pets in Strife. Players are accompanied by a pet of their choice in all their Strife matches which offer skills and bonuses. There are lots of choices for pets and it is up to the player to select pets based on their own play style. Players that prefer to farm gold may pick a pet providing skills to kill creeps and gain bonus gold for said creeps, while players that want to survive may prefer pets that dispel crowd control abilities. Pets allow players to play the game how they wish and can be selected at the beginning of each match. Pet food can be used to both purchase and level up pets. Higher leveled pets provide stronger skills and passive bonuses. These skills remind me a lot of the summoner skill system in League of Legends.
I personally went with Luster to speed up my farm.
Crafting and Enchanting make use of the ores and potions rewarded at the conclusion of each match. While there are still items that players can build during their matches by farming gold, these items can be improved and customized through the use of crafting and enchanting. Players can select an item's recipe and change the components it uses to in-turn change the item's bonuses. For example, you might want to change mana regeneration on an item to pure mana. These crafted items can then be built during your matches.
This system gives great control to players as they can customize all the in-game items to better suit their own unique play style. These items can then be enchanted to further improve the bonuses and increase the item's life as crafted items expire after some time. This means that players must play regularly to keep their custom items.
While there are great benefits to the pet, crafting, and enchanting systems, it does end up rewarding players that spend more time playing. This is what one would expect from an RPG game but it is not common for ARTS/MOBA games where the deciding factor should be just player skill. However, for a more casual approach to this genre I can see this system working well. Fortunately, all the heroes are free and do not need to be purchased.
Good graphics without being demanding on the system.
Now comes the question: how does S2Games monetize the game? As with all free to play games, the publishers and developers do need to make back some money to ensure the survival of the game. In its beta stages the cash shop has not been completed so I cannot comment on the prices. However, there seem to be optional skins and colors available for every hero. These cosmetic changes are a great way to monetize Strife as it will not provide insane benefits to paying players. Additionally, it seems that you can use the cash shop currency to gain bonus currencies at the end of each match. Once again, this does make paying players gain food, ore, and potions at a faster rate but it is still very fair. S2Games seems to be doing a great job with balancing the advantages of free and paying players.
Current State: Great
In conclusion, Strife is great for those that want a casual experience but still want to play the ARTS/MOBA genre. The game is very forgiving towards new players and is a great way to get into the genre. I really love S2Games offering a game of the MOBA/ARTS genre that even casual players can enjoy. While I did initially play WC3 Dota, League of Legends was my first introduction to the genre. By learning League of Legends I was then able to move on to more complicated and punishing games such as Heroes of Newerth and Dota 2. Now I am a big fan of the genre. Similarly, Strife can serve the same purpose and provide a casual experience for players and even act as an introduction to the genre. If you find games such as Dota 2 too hardcore but still love the concept of the genre, definitely give Strife a try.