Realm of The Titans – Rough Edged and Wild
By Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG MOBA Reporter
Realm of The Titans (RoTT) is Aeria Games’ newest entry into the ever expanding Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) genre. The game has just entered Closed Beta, or at least that’s what it’s being called at least. In actuality the game is completely open to anyone with an Aeria Games account, and (for now at least) has a very large portion of its content accessible without having to pay a thing.
ColbyCheeze has a great overview of the game that can be found elsewhere on OnRPG. I’m going to try to avoid overlapping too much with what he’s covered in the video, and instead go over some of the parts of the game that stood out for me. The game’s mechanics are a mix between Defense of The Ancients’ more punishing style of play and League of Legends’ more forgiving nature, while still offering plenty of new ideas of its own.
I will admit, I didn’t want to like the game at first. It uses the attribute system that DoTA was forced to use due to it being hard coded into Warcraft 3. It has denying, a mechanic I’ve never much liked due to the indirect play it encourages during laning, encouraging players to attack each other’s minions rather than each other. Ability usage is very limited, which often makes your options early in the game feel quite limited. The minion waves are small in number, with three melee and one ranged every wave, (the same as in Heroes of Newerth) which doesn’t allow for much gold gain.
The whole thing felt much too old school for my taste. At least, at first. There are a number of touches that show that while the game’s designers haven’t strayed too far from the DoTA homestead, they definitely have their own ideas about how things should be changed. There’s no gold loss on death, for example. So while you can get denied out of gold, you won’t feel like you’re going backwards in a match. The game only has 15 levels of progression, which allows for a more level playing field, and means an experience lead is never too significant. If you ever get there, that is. Games of RoTT tend to be on the quick side, and you rarely get more than a couple of max level characters running around the field near a match’s end.
As I began trawling through the game’s extensive item catalogue something unusual stuck out to me: Nearly all of them completely ignored the attribute system. There are a few early game items that use them, and a hand full of late game items that utilize the system, but most just side step it entirely. While this allows for more item diversity, like attack speed and mana regeneration on the same item, it also gets a bit confusing. What’s better, five mana regeneration or +3 intelligence? I have no idea.
Another thing I disliked at first was the game’s visuals. I thought they lacked LoL’s visual clarity, while not having the detail of Heroes of Newerth. As I became accustomed to the game though, I began to notice a number of very nice touches. Nearly all the abilities in the game look suitably over the top and eye catching, from giant ghost dragons to an armoury of flying swords hurtling through the air. The game also very clearly wears its Chinese roots on its sleeve, with nearly all the human heroes and minions wearing some manner of hanfu, showing the game’s setting to be more closely tied with ancient china than with a pseudo-medieval Europe, as many of the other titles in this genre do. I think this last aspect of the game is most what makes it stand out visually from its rivals, rather than outright graphical fidelity.
While I came to enjoy the game’s aesthetics, likely due to a form of eyeball related Stockholm Syndrome, what never grew on me was the game’s sound. None of the characters have particularly interesting quotes, or memorable voices. A number of the menu sounds in the game sound like they have been stolen from (or used the same licensed sounds as) Warcraft 3. The game even lacks an active announcer, which not only makes the game feel quiet, but also means that important events, such as the killing of one of the game’s boss monsters, can sometimes be missed if you’re not paying constant attention to the minimap or alert messages.
Feedback as a whole is something the game has issues with. There are a very large number of abilities in the game that will severely punish a player for not understanding how an ability used on them will work, yet give no indication to the targeted player what that ability does. A perfect example of this is OnRPG’s own exclusive character, the Sage of Ink. His ultimate, Beautiful World, is a skill shot that upon hitting a target, will mark the location where it hit them with a blot of ink on the ground. After a few seconds, anyone hit by the ultimate will be teleported to their respective blots, and enemies will take damage equal to the distance teleported. This ability gives no indication to the players hit by this that leaving their blots is dangerous, no leash that strains from the ink or even an ink based visual effect that teleports them back. They simply all blink back, and some people die. I had to explain to my enemies a few times how my ability was working, because they thought they were being killed by lag spikes, rather than an old man with an interest in calligraphy. Were this a one off, it would be forgivable, but this is actually the norm. Exclamations of “What killed me?” were very common in the first games I played.
That said the trade off for this is that those same abilities are very unique and interesting. Even for someone as jaded as myself, I couldn’t help but give out a surprised laugh or exclamation when I realized some cool thing that a character in the game was capable of. While there are a number of fairly stock characters (a fire mage with an AoE stun, a turret using pusher, and so on) there are an abundance of cleverly thought out characters with not only good character designs aesthetically, but also very well thought out designs mechanically as well.
Another positive aspect is while the cast of characters is rather limited at the moment; I didn’t encounter any character that felt outright game breaking. Some certainly feel a bit stronger than others, but not in a way that felt any fight was insurmountable.
My favourite thing about the game though is the way it encourages very aggressive play. Rather than using the normal diamond shaped map, the game uses a rectangular map, similar to LoL’s Twisted Treeline, as its default game type. This allows movement between the lanes to be completely effortless, and cross lane ganking starts very early in RoTT due to minimal gold and experience loss when quickly moving between them. This is further helped by the mounts a character can ride, giving a movement speed boost when a character is out of combat for more than ten seconds. This makes roaming effortless, while the timer prevents mounts from being able to be used as an escape. The shops in the middle of the map also allow you to buy important items or consumables right in the heat of the moment, while also introducing an important resource that is hotly contested right from the start of the game. Warding these shops will almost guarantee a gank early on in game.
Another part of this is one of RoTT’s additional offensive mechanics. In addition to the buildings in an opponents’ base, which work similar to LoL’s inhibitors, or HoN’s barracks, a giant statue at the end of each lane is marked as a control point. Rather than spawning super minions, which are instead created by destroying all the buildings within the base itself, the control points will spawn minion waves for whichever team currently holds them. This allows you, as an attacking team, to start spawning waves just outside your enemy’s front door, and teleport to that location whenever you feel like. If you’re the defender in this situation, you are stuck with no option but to attack, or die from the constant pressure a taken control point affords the enemy.
The titan skills seemed like a great addition to me, allowing for more adaptability during a match than the pre-set summoner spells of League of Legends. Unfortunately though, while the game offers a massive array of different extra abilities for you to attach to your character, there is pretty much only one that’s useful for the overwhelming majority of the match. Logistics Master lets you restore health and mana at one of the secondary shops found in the middle of the map, in much the same way as you can at the spawn point in other MOBAs. This allows you to keep your health and mana at full throughout the game, provided you have control of the centre of the map, and is a truly overwhelming force to deal with if you don’t have it yourself. Thankfully, other abilities can become more useful later on in the game, where you see some increased diversity, but for the opening three quarters of the match, everyone is simply using the same ability.
Despite the game’s shortcomings, I’ve had a good deal of fun with Realm of the Titans. It’s got a very unique dynamic not seen in other MOBAs and a varied cast of unusual characters. The game is very rough around the edges, and nowhere near as refined as its competitors, but it is a blast to play once you get over a few initial hurdles. I’ve no idea if it will be as long lasting as HoN and LoL, especially with Dota 2 looming on the horizon, but for a good bit of quick silliness, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good MOBA. Play it now while you can, before the beta ends and you have to earn the cast of heroes.