It seems we’ve saved the best until last as we begin to approach the end of our seven-part feature. In this penultimate instalment, developers Blizzard and Valve go at it head-to-head for the DOTA crown, both releasing their own spin on the popular sub-genre later this year with the superb-looking mech MMOFPS, Hawken, bringing up the rear.
Though unconfirmed as a free-to-play game, there is evidence (such as the price-modelling of its competitors) to suggest this is the path Valve will tread when the acclaimed company release DOTA 2 in 2012. Despite the title, DOTA 2 isn’t a sequel to one of Valve’s properties, in fact the original DOTA is a user-created mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft III which would soon go on to become its own strategy sub-genre. The mod attracted a number of Valve employees who invited one of DOTA’s creators to their headquarters where a deal was struck to develop a sequel.
However, trademarking the DOTA name has caught Valve a fair bit of flak. Fans have argued it is a community asset and should remain that way, a sentiment echoed by a number of its original developers. Rival firm Blizzard isn’t too happy either; despite having very little to do with the actual conception of DOTA, it claims to have a right to the property due to its provision of Warcraft III’s in-game assets and continued support.
Without even being made available to the public, DOTA 2 has already breached the e-sports scene, Valve hosting a high-profile tournament when it officially unveiled the game last year.
DOTA is essentially an RTS game minus the resource collection troop-spawning. Players assume the role of a hero/champion who is tasked with infiltrating enemy defences and tearing down their main base. It’s a formula that has proved insanely popular, and despite League of Legends currently holding the crown, there’s no telling who will come out on top when DOTA 2 finally becomes available through Steam.
We still get our Armoured Core fix every once a while, but even so there often seems to be noticeable absence of mech-centric gaming. Enter Hawken, an upcoming MMOFPS developed by Adhesive Games. Launching this December, the game will facilitate high octane PvP duels between mech-wielding gamers.
It’s gritty and looks like an absolute treat running on the Unreal Engine. There may be a few arcade tendencies present with bunny hopping and rocket spamming, but the beefy gunplay and tactical in-game mechanics such as turret deployment separate it from the genre.
Mechs come in a number of flavours that players can customise to suit their play style, whether that be run n’ gun or heavy defence. Player movement will also be crucial to the experience; Hawken’s battlefields represent abandoned cityscapes and have multiple levels of elevation, requiring the use of flight modules which can also double up for evasive maneuvers.
Hawken is clearly a technically-demanding game with an immense degree of attention paid to environments and the cockpit of your own personalised mech. If someone told us just a few years back that free-to-play games would look like this, we’d probably have told them to do one. Beta opportunities will continue to crop up towards release, but for the real thing, mark 12/12/12 on your calendars.
The DOTA genre is no longer in its infancy, yet with such a passionate fanbase and strict design requisites, the barriers to entry have been harsh enough to prevent shameful over-saturation by opportunists. At present, Defense of the Ancients, League of Legends, and Heroes of Newerth are vying for power in what seems to be an unbreakable oligopoly that has drawn in millions of players from across the globe.
As mentioned previously, Portal/Half Life creator Valve is making a move for the crown with DOTA 2, Blizzard also launching itself into the running with last year’s announcement of Blizzard DOTA. Like we said, the genre hasn’t been milked to breaking point but even so there seems to be little room for innovation within the game’s core mechanics.
At a glance, the only thing that sets Blizzard DOTA apart from the competition is its cast of recognisable heroes, stripped from some of the company’s popular hits. Thrall, Arthas, Nova and many more are currently be squeezed into the star-studded roster, though Blizzard isn’t just leaning on personalities to market the mod.
Digging a little deeper, you will find that Blizzard is making the sub-genre a much more accessible package. Though not insanely complex, League of Legends and similar DOTA-style games require an ample amount of dedication and wiki-scouring. Blizzard DOTA will be just as engaging though not as much of a time sink with shorter match times, simplified itemization, and weaker tower defences.
Like the original, Blizzard DOTA will be made available as a mod, this time for Starcraft II. It’s easy to see where Blizzard is coming from in making such a decision, though will the prerequisite of having to own SC2 put a dent in their initial playerbase?