Dark Nexus Arena First Impressions: Not Like Most MOBAs

By Mohammad Abubakr

For the past couple of years, it is not surprising to hear that yet another MOBA/ARTS game has been added to the already large list of games in this genre. Most of the time these games try to emulate the success of games such as Dota 2 and League of Legends by simply applying a different skin to the game. Over the past year we’ve seen this result in even harder crash and burns than the WoW copying days. However, sometimes you do get new games that try to differentiate themselves from the rest; Dark Nexus Arena is one of those games.

I have never been a fan of the term MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) as I don’t feel that it fully describes the gameplay found in games like Dota 2 and League of Legends. Whenever possible, I try to categorize these games as ARTS (Action Real Time Strategy) as coined by Valve. However, the term MOBA can accurately be used to described Dark Nexus Arena because as the name implies, it pits players against each other in an arena. The game emphasizes fighting and destroying enemy buildings over farming; you can even win a match just by killing the enemy players enough times.


Dark Nexus First Impressions

The Scout is able to damage enemies from afar.

The controls used to kill enemies, push waves, and destroy buildings are quite different from the traditional games in this genre. While you would expect to use your mouse to control your character (known as Veterans in Dark Nexus Arena), Veterans are controlled using WASD controls. This also results in the skill keys changing from the traditional QWER to MB1, MB2, Q and E. At first this control scheme comes off as awkward for a MOBA game, but it is quite intuitive.

Dark Nexus Arena’s gameplay is greatly improved with this control scheme. You feel more in control of your Veteran and can use this to outsmart (you can dash to dodge incoming skill shots!) and kill your opponents. Every attack in Dark Nexus Arena is a skill shot. Click targeting for free kills won’t be found here. You must position yourself to land attacks and avoid enemy damage. As a result of the gameplay and controls, the game is always action packed. There is not a lot of emphasis on farming and avoiding fights. However, this could change over time as these kinds of games are always evolving. Who knows, maybe at some point split pushing or farming will be favoured. I’ve won a match in the alpha where I just AFK farmed the entire game and then mowed down the enemy with my high level and items.


Dark Nexus First Impressions

The item system follows a simple tree structure with damage, spell, and health as its roots.

Being a part of the Warhammer 40K universe, the Veterans will be familiar to fans of the series. Just like Heroes of the Storm attracts Blizzard fans, Dark Nexus Arena is bound to attract fans of Warhammer 40K to the game solely because it features Warhammer 40K. I personally do not know much about the Warhammer 40K series but a friend was stoked to play the game when I showed it to him and pointed out its connection. He is now always asking about new Veterans that will come out in the future and referencing characters and races from Warhammer 40K. I wish I knew more about the franchise, but it is clear that fans of the genre will be looking forward to Dark Nexus Arena.

Overall the Veterans found in Dark Nexus Arena are quite interesting and fun to play. There are a bunch of different Veterans to choose from with more to follow. You don’t just have the boring click to cast spells; Dark Nexus Arena already offers some interesting abilities such as riding a rocket steered by the player which explodes on impact. I’m looking forward to more of these fun abilities as opposed to the generic fantasy hogwash MOBAs are saturated with.


The Veteran’s all feature unique designs in the alpha.

While the controls, gameplay, and Veteran design is great for a game in alpha, the user interface needs improvement. I cannot say too many negative things about the interface as the game is still in its alpha stages, but the UI is unacceptable for any stage of development. It does not feel intuitive, sometimes feels laggy, and is confusing for new players. The MOBA/ARTS genre is already quite intimidating to get into for newer players and the UI does not help guide new players into the game. When you first load up, you don’t get to learn a lot about the game and its objectives. You are forced to either just jump into the game and learn from experience or resort to external resources such as the game’s website.

The user interface should welcome new players and guide them into the game. As a start, players should be able to easily go through the offered Veterans and their abilities while also learning about the game’s controls and objectives. I’m sure the developers will fulfill these requirements as the game evolves as there has already been some major overhauls of the UI.

Even with the uninviting and unintuitive UI, I was still able to pick up on the game’s overall objectives over time. Teams of 4 play against each other aiming to reach 100 points. These points are awarded by killing players and pushing waves of minions to destroy buildings. Due to this point system, you are not forced to destroy the enemy base and can even end the game without touching a building. This point system is quite interesting and ensures that matches are always action packed.

Being F2P, the game seems to be relying on optional cosmetic offerings to generate revenue. This is great to see and I hope the paid items remain only cosmetic and do not give any players an edge over others. I hate booting up a game, looking forward to trying out some class/hero, and then learning I must first unlock it through extensive grinding or pull out my wallet. Games such as Dota 2 and TF2 have shown time and time again that cosmetics are enough to bring in sustainable revenue provided your game is good.


Dark Nexus First Impressions

Downed players can either bleed out or be executed for bonus points.

Conclusion: Shows Great Promise as a Unique MOBA game.
In conclusion, there is great potential for Dark Nexus Arena. While testing the game for this article, I spent most of my time playing with a group of friends. I received positive feedback from everyone, and they all agreed that the game could be quite fun to play after the alpha and beta stages. For now we will be waiting until the game’s official release with hopes of additional polish and optimization.

The gameplay is fun and action packed.  It could potentially be a good game to play on the side when relaxing with friends and taking a break from hardcore games. I would recommend players at least try out the game to experience the unique gameplay offered in Dark Nexus Arena but wait until the game is at least in the beta stages before fully committing and judging. I was quite surprised at how great the game feels and plays even in alpha; definitely one of the better alpha games I have played. The developers are always open to suggestions from players which means the game should continue to evolve into a better game. Looking forward to the game’s official release!

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