By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
Times they are a changing. Online games that were all the rage in 2006 are closing down faster than we can even keep track of. And with the fall of the WoW clones a new breed of title seems to be emerging in the wake of League of Legends surprise success, introducing the MOBA genre to the masses. However while multiple companies are now rushing into the action to try to get their share, a lesser known Russian developer saw the future a long time ago and has been quietly building up and polishing content on a MOBA of their own.
Perhaps some of our older viewers might have caught wind of it during my first convention coverage at E3 in 2011. I’m of course talking about Nival and their Russian Game of the Year 2012, Prime World. Now Prime World’s devs seem brighter than the average MOBA enthusiasts. It’s quite apparent at this point that people aren’t going to compete with League of Legends of DotA 2 blow for blow and come out on top. Instead Nival seems focused on capturing an audience that’s not quite down with the hypercompetitive MOBA eSports scene developing, but recognizes an ever growing market niche of jaded MMORPG veterans looking for something casual like a MOBA but maintaining the addictive sense of progression and community offered in an MMORPG. Well ladies and gentlemen, Prime World offers exactly that. Let’s dive in!
For Lore Fiends and Empire Builders
Voice acted cutscenes. MOBA. Let that combo sink in for a moment because to be blunt I didn’t get where they were going with this game at first either. Rather than just offering some generic unfeasible backstory such as summoners and warring factions like a certain MOBA, Prime World strives to pull you in and make you feel like you’re an important part of this world.
How? Well for starters I suggest if you identified with either segment of players in the above title, you get a good read in on their history page so you understand the various factions, why you’re fighting, and why you live in a giant heavily fortified castle with a bunch of freaky mutants freeloading in the courtyard. (http://en.playpw.com/world-history/world.html) Now that you’re ready to continue, your quest in this game is to prove yourself to your chosen faction by holding down the borderlands while extracting vast amounts of Prime, a poisonous mysterious resource that falls somewhere between the limitless energy producing Unobtainium from Avatar and the mutant gene in X-Men. As such it’s also the key to your collection of heroes growing into ever more powerful assets but more on that later.
Kill those borderland monsters and the savage faction to collect a super efficient fuel resource? This story rings a bell…
In order to build your empire, you’re going to need resources which come from buildings as well as completing missions (again in a MOBA. Weird!) and fighting battles. With the exception of vastly superior graphics, empire building fans should feel right at home constructing production buildings, decoration, population housing, wall expansions, resource storage units, and other prime processing plants to ever increase your wood, silver, ore, and prime acquisition rates. Once space starts to get tight within your castle walls you can even upgrade your existing buildings with your excess resource to further bolster your overall production. Facebook fans in particular will be fond of the forced servitude of adding in-game friends to your plants to up the rate of output per real-time based cycles. Though no worries, you won’t actually have to spend time working in your friend’s sweatshop smelting silver.
One final piece of the system I think is a great idea is the way they are combining the clan system with the empire building elements. Rather than your typical MOBA clan of 5 to 10 people, Prime World encourages 30-50+ clans via a system that unlocks powerful buffs for your entire clan to use (whether it be boosts to resource production or in-battle bonuses) in exchange for mass excess resource donations to your clan. You’ll also be able to view your online clan members through the system and see what they’re currently up to and even chat with each other in a clan channel only chat. And of course you’ll get your nifty Clan Tag to accompany your name into battle for advertising purposes (and to strike fear into the hearts of your foes!)
So at this point if you’re like me you are thinking ‘that’s cool and all. But I came to play a MOBA. How is this remotely related?’ This is where the RPG element becomes apparent.
For Roleplayers – The MMORPG Element
The feeling of progression isn’t very prevalent in the MOBA realm thus far. DotA 2 offers a glimpse of item progression but for the most part you usually expect a slight power differentiator (ala League’s mastery system) and currency to unlock further characters. Heck in SMITE right now if you buy the all-gods pack, the only thing you can expect to use your unlocked currency for is future skins. Prime World seems to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, including the near equivalent of dailies via missions and production building queues. But it’s where these features combine with the hero progression that the RPG elements get cool.
See heroes in Prime World aren’t your typical pool of static identical personalities with set kits waiting to be picked. They are your own. Once you unlock a hero either by reaching the appropriate Lord Level (your own personal level that grows as you do well.. anything really) or via the cash shop, they arrive at your castle as a novice with starter talents and bare minimum stats. As you use these heroes in battle they will gain levels that allow you to empower the hero permanently by bolstering their stats including health and energy (HP and MP related), strength and intellect (damage related), agility (attack speed), cunning (critical hits), and finally stamina and will (physical and magic defenses). And while certain stats are stronger for certain characters, there is no single right answer, allowing lords to customize a hero’s style to meet their own playing style. Still at this point I wasn’t won over as it just felt like League’s mastery system taken new form. But the talents.. well those just aren’t comparable to anything.
Remember all that resource gathering your castle has been doing? A huge portion of it revolves around creating Prime Crystals to forge new talents. Talents are basically your character’s kit, active items, passive items, and auras united into one wide chart. As you progress through a match you’ll use the in battle Prime (think experience and currency from a more standard moba combined) to unlock various pieces of this table to bolster your character’s power. As your power grows, your character will also level up and gain higher stats so that’s something to consider beyond just what the stats of the talents display. And anything outside of the core skills of your character are open for swapping in the Talent Field so you can really go wild experimenting. Heck during Nival’s stream they showcased a Vampire that utilizes his HP bar to cast spells equip an energy giving talent so that he could utilize energy based add-on active talents in a match. Unlocking entirely new skills to customize your character’s kit… it’s a big deal!
Of course to capture that sense of RPG randomness you aren’t just going to have a pool filled with rare and unique talents set-up within your castle from the start. You’re going to have to work for them and get a little lucky either through missions or artificial creation from castle resources to find the best talents. I hear there might also be a trading system between players but with fewer US players in beta right now than I can count on both hands I haven’t had a chance to see it for myself. Even after you finally acquire a rare talent, you’ll have to choose wisely because these talents become locked to the Hero you assign them to and players will have to dish out some gold to free them up for a second use on someone else.
There’s also a bit of differentiating strategy in assigning talents as they have varying degrees of Prime Cost to unlock during battle as well as a tier level that determines how far your character must progress within a battle before becoming available for purchase. Thus you might want a mix of defensive bolstering talent with a snowballing talent in the earlier talent trees to give you options in case you’re getting shutdown and can’t reach your higher tier talents quickly. Some talents also impact other players near you and are likely better suited when playing in a group that will have you sharing a lane early on.
Finally some of the rarest talents will require a level 21 or higher hero to equip them, ensuring for some truly explosive matches when facing off with your most experienced heroes against others in later matches. Once your talent storage starts to fill up you can also sacrifice lesser useless talents to bolster the power of your favorite talents.
More interested in the actual MOBA action? Be sure to catch part 2 of my write-up!
And don’t miss JamesBl0nde’s MMOHuts First Look later today!