Now if you told me a few months back that S2 Games was secretly designing a new MOBA, I’d have told you it’s an April Fool’s Day joke. But here at PAX Prime on the showroom floor is two islands of demo machines with players jumping all over it. I sat and watched for a while as 9 connected monitors showcased some epic shoutcasted moments from top tier gamers testing it out and was dazzled. S2 Games finally has chosen an artstyle that works for MOBAs! All the characters feel like they’re in the same universe as opposed to HoN’s more mish-mashed style. And the skills are so beautifully animated that even a novice to MOBAs could understand what was happening.
After waiting a good 40 minutes to get an open demo machine, I put on my lav mic, set-up my camera, and started shooting a First Look video. MMOHuts fans can check it out next week as JamesBl0nde will be prioritizing editing the footage right after his Weekly News Recap! As I played various PR professionals and even Douglas Houserman, a member of the Creative Game Design team, joined my video shoot to tell me about the game.
Strife is built around a specific vision and after hearing it, you truly start to wonder why all the MOBA copy cats out there have not come to this conclusion already. But I suppose no one realizes this better than someone who has already developed and run a MOBA for a period of time. And how often do you see the same group of people get a second shot at it?
So their goal is a MOBA that’s the polar opposite of HoN in terms of community design and gameplay. Their primary goal is to reduce the occurrence of hostile community. How? Well they have a few theories and I’ll start with the minor ones and then build into the actual mechanical ones.
Artstyle – If you didn’t know any better, you might walk into the Daily Restaurant next to PAX thinking it has a WildStar demo inside. But no, Strife has decided to go with a clear clean artstyle that I at least believe would scare off the hardcore competitive e-sports wannabe. This should help attract the more easy going gamers that are tired of the rage, name calling, and trolling so common in other MOBAs on the market right from the start. Since you can’t grow a garden without proper soil after all.
Non-Competitive Mode Options – Now once they’ve achieved the good eggs to start their community, the mechanics are there to keep them there. Tired of dealing with the stress of real games? Strife answers your issue with some mean and challenging bots that, on the medium difficulty option (only easy and medium are available currently), took me a good 40 minutes to overcome. At one point I had to stop focusing on showcasing the map and UI for the first look video because the game required my full attention to carry my team out of a losing battle.
They’ve also taken a note out of Prime World’s book and introduced a PvE story mode that will double as a tutorial for new players while adding personality to their roster and depth to their story. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to check it out but intend to return today to get a taste.
Mechanics – The real ground breaking way the S2 Games team thinks they can stop the growth of a negative community is with Communism. And Pandas. No really. Fine I’ll explain to you skeptical readers.
See when you last hit a minion in this game, the gold is split in half. Half goes to you and any lane partner in close proximity to you. The other half is distributed among the rest of the players on your team. This changes the MOBA mechanics in a few ways, all of which in theory should alleviate tension between players.
The way Strife does inhibitors makes losing them not feel like such a battle of upkeep. I’ve always thought it was a silly system to reward the winning team with stronger minions after the first wall of their opponent’s base falls. They’re already winning so why do they need such an unfair advantage to finish after all. Well Strife opens up new items the winning team can purchase instead. I can’t comment on how balanced this is, but at least it won’t be in your face and demoralizing as much as super minions tend to be, especially early on in a MOBA match.
Under this system, all five players will be gaining an adequate gold stream to achieve meaningful builds. Beyond that, even though the map is the typical 3 lane + jungle with 2 towers per lane prior to reaching the inner busy, the players going mid or the solo top won’t be at a huge gold advantage for so long as they tend to be in other titles. That there should alleviate tension during team selection. And no longer will supports be crucified for occasionally last hitting a minion as it will benefit their carry just as much as if the carry last hit the minion himself. Boom! Now let’s talk pandas and pets.
Pandas, Pets, Customization, and Artifacts – Players are able to do quite a bit to stand out in Strife. The first major feature I noticed (and loved!) is that the launch roster of around 17 heroes all have some pretty wild looking skins. Most have three in addition to their standard skin. But then players even have the luxury of dying skins different colors, essentially giving you around forty options of how to make your hero look. And while that might just be cosmetic, players are also able to collect items from playing matches that can be used to craft artifacts to bring into battle. Think of this as a mastery or rune system.
Next you get to choose from an array of pets to bring into battle. Pets offer powerful passive boosts that can further define or diversify your roll on the team. They also get active abilities that are the equivalent of strong summoner skills. One instance of this is the cute pet I took with me not only increased my support’s stats to make her tankier, but also gave me an active that bolstered my hp and mp regeneration by a large amount for a short time.
Your second pet is a silly little panda with a satchel that will calm any remaining stress you might feel while gaming. Strife seems built around keeping players in the action and this panda can be used to retrieve items and bring them to you in-lane without missing a beat. Though if you’re feeling the burn and need to go back for a full heal, or to stop your enemy from back dooring, a base teleport exists without cost.
Some mechanical notes I will mention is there are fewer jungle monsters than normal on the map. The map is also quite large with an abnormally wide space between the out most turrets. Combine the two together and I believe active ganking junglers that keep up with your allies thanks to the gold share system seems to be S2 Games’ goal. And if anyone out there is as tired of Riot Games sucking the fun out of jungling in season 3 like I am, this is good news.
I could rattle on about Strife but I don’t want to spoil everything so be sure to subscribe to MMOHuts’ youtube for more info this coming week!
Unfortunately the show is about to start and I haven’t even gotten to talking about SOE, Sega, Carbine Studios, or the most unbelievable information leak in the history of PR at last night’s dinner with Gazillion Entertainment for Marvel Heroes. But I’ll be back later tonight with part 2 of the Day 1 recap!