Though not exactly booming, the PlayStation Store’s catalogue of free-to-play games is gradually starting to fill. Since the launch of Sony’s newest console, we’ve seen a variety of available titles, from flashy shooters like Warframe and Blacklight to smaller, more casual hits such as Battle Islands, Zen Pinball, and the latest Singstar.
Still, despite its dominant hold on the PC free-to-play market, the MOBA genre has yet to find a home on PlayStation platforms. Sure, there have been a couple of attempts to popularise the genre before courtesy of games like Guardians of Middle-Earth and Awesomenauts, yet none have come even close to replicating its leading duo, League of Legends and DotA 2.
Needless to say, there’s a sizeable gap in the market and one we’re likely to see contested for over the next few years. Getting ahead of the competition, however, we have developer StormBASIC and its PlayStation 4 debut, Invokers Tournament. Also available on Vita and PS3 -with cross-play functionality- it’s the closest we’ve come to a traditional MOBA on consoles.
For those still hung up on the acronym, MOBA denotes a type of game in which two or more teams battle it out within the confines of a shifting arena. In traditional, DotA-style iterations of the genre, teams are usually tasked with destroying a series of tower, leading them towards the enemy base. MOBAs also tend to lift plenty of their mechanics role-playing games, allowing players to develop and strategize through the course of each match.
Although Invokers Tournament largely abides to these core tenets, there are a few immediate deviations that set the game apart. First off, you’ll be using the same character between matches as opposed to selecting one from a prescribed roster. Not wanting to break away from one of the genre’s principle rules, however, Tournament does allow the player to equip two of its pre-made heroes. This is where the whole “Invoker” part comes in. You see, aside from basic attacks and a small pool of available spells, players can summon their heroes into battle and, if used effectively, these powerful beings can steer a match in one team’s favour.
One reason why the MOBAs are generally so sparse on consoles is due to the limitations of playing with a controller. Though preferable when it comes to shooters and action games, nothing can trump the mouse and keyboard when it comes to managing several tasks at once. Opting for a compromise, StormBASIC has pared down the variety of options available when the game is in motion, presenting players with a simplistic control scheme.
As touched on before, towers traditionally play a huge role in MOBA games with Invokers Tournament being no exception. Although it’s tempting to stalk and kill enemy Invokers, victory can only be achieved through the desolation of their outposts and other structures. These aren’t exactly quick to bring down and, like in other MOBAs, are usually buffeted by hordes of NPCs known as “creeps”.
Away from regular PvP matches, players can also partake in a spot of dungeon crawling. Despite bringing something different to the table, these Diablo-esque chunks of single player content are made lacklustre through repetitive waves of enemies and barren maps, serving more as a distraction than an enhancement to the core game.
Most of the formula may be there yet Invokers Tournament is poor in its execution. One-on-one encounters with enemies, even when playing as heroes, is made drab and unexciting due to how limited and basic the gameplay truly is. Although more and more options become available as you rank up, there’s still a fundamental lack of complexity that makes the genre so intimidating yet, at the same time, soul-destroyingly fun and addictive.
Compared to games like DotA 2, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm, Invokers Tournament pales in comparison. Though a valiant effort to bring the genre to a new audience, it’s a far cry away from its contemporaries in both sheer quality and its enduring fun factor. It’s easy to forget, however, that these much bigger games – played by millions across the globe daily – are worked on around the clock by teams as big as 1,000 employees.