Multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBAs) are hot right now. League of Legends, Heroes of Newerth, Dota 2, and Rise of Immortals are just some of the high-quality arena games out or on their way that will be competing for our gaming time. Developers are beginning to notice that when you combine players' natural love for savagely owning their opponents with the free-to-play model, there's a lot of fun and money to be had. But the creep-farming, kill-spreeing craze isn't limited to the US. China's biggest MOBA, known overseas as Tianyijue, is being brought stateside by Aeria Games as Realm of the Titans . And I am completely freaking out about it (in a good way). Let me tell you why you should be too.
I consider myself the resident MOBA nut at PC Gamer. I'm no professional last-hitter, mind you, but I thoroughly enjoy a raucous round of ganking, teamfights and smacktalking/yelling at opponents and teammates alike. DotA facilitated some of my best friendships in both high school and college, through endless trash-talking and forgoing sleep the night before exams to avenge particularly harsh losses. From what I've seen, I'm convinced that the free-to-play MOBA Realm of the Titans (RotT) was designed with these kinds of hardcore-DotA fanatics in mind. Gameplay will feel instantly familiar to any MOBA fan: teams of heroes fight against each other and waves of AI creeps, coordinating themselves across three lanes to snag kills and destroy the enemy base. Each hero has four unique abilities, most of which involve violently killing your adversaries in some gore-rific way.
But my history with DotA isn't the main reason I'm more excited for RotT than a teen girl at a Twilight screening hosted by Justin Beiber. It's actually because RotT reminds me of a different game, which has an even more nostalgic place in my heart: Tides of Blood . This little-known competitor to DotA Allstars was in many ways—GASP!—better than its predecessor. Four lanes. Shops where you could recruit cavalry, repairmen, and siege units. Portals that transport you around the map. Vaults that you could destroy to deny your enemies their passive gold income. Four inhibitors total. Hands down the best hero re-skins I have ever seen in a W3 custom map. I could literally go on for hours about how much I loved this map.
In fact, ToB was so good that even the DotA guys took notice, and (I believe) plagiarized what would become many of DotA's most iconic elements. Lina Inverse, the hot Slayer that shoots huge fiery phoenixes? Ripoff of Jean from ToB. The Admiral's ghost-ship ultimate is a shameless copy of the ultimate belonging to ToB's rendition of Cervantes from Soul Calibur. You may cry foul at what I'm saying (bring it in the comments, suckas!), but if you're a true Warcraft 3 custom-map OG, search your feelings—you know it to be true.
But what does all my pent-up resentment towards ToB's lack of mainstream success have to do with the present day? RotT is willing to tweak the standard DotA formula and try to innovate, making what was old new again (no, HoN doesn't count). Instead of the same old lush forest vs. blighted, demonic base, RotT has fun with the environment: the first team sets up camp in a dense tropical jungle, complete with palm trees, and charge into battle on medieval-style terrain. RotT also takes map control to a new level, letting players commandeer control points scattered around the map to increase their minion count and push through enemy waves. You can even unleash a mega-creep at the opportune moment to wreak havoc on the poor nubs who stand before you. RotT mirrors ToB (probably unbeknownst to Aeria Games) in many of the exact ways that made me fall in love with that fantastic and under-appreciated gem.
I don't think that originally being developed in China will make RotT any less appealing to American audiences. The dev team at Ningbo SG-TY, who designed Realm of the Titans, includes ex-DotA pros, and I always love the artwork and style of Asian games (ask anyone who's seen the Chinese League of Legend splash images if they prefer the US or Asian versions).
Let me submit one more piece of evidence for my argument. Presenting, Exhibit E: awesome video that reveals one of the new champions—the Samurai Spirit. A feared but revered leader, General Takeshi was finally taken down on the field of battle—but not before fusing his essence into a nearby suit of armor. Now Takeshi's back in the thick of combat, this time as the Samurai Spirit, and he's pissed.
Now that you've watched it, you have a choice. You can choose to not care about RotT—which I would say is a mistake, but one I have no control over—or you can, like me, look forward to playing another MOBA that attempts to build on DotA, instead of retreading ground that's already been covered. Right now, this is my most anticipated game of 2011. If you're excited about it too, you can sign up for the closed beta at the Realm of the Titans homepage .