Due to the rising popularity of games like League of Legends and DOTA 2, everyone was looking to get in on the MOBA action. EA had Dawngate in production for awhile, Crytek has Arena of Fate, WB put out a MOBA based on the Lord of the Rings a few years back, there are games like Smite and Heroes of the Storm, and finally, there’s Turbine’s Infinite Crisis. So clearly there’s something worth exploring in the MOBA genre.
The problem, is that many of these companies assumed that making a MOBA popular was easy. But EA cancelled Dawngate, Arena of Fate has faded into obscurity – I forgot it was still active in any way – Guardians of Middle Earth has shut down, and Turbine just announced a few days ago that Infinite Crisis will be shutting down in October. The only new MOBAs to take off in quite some time are Smite and Heroes of the Storm, and that’s more likely due to the changes they make in the core gameplay, making them unique compared to the other big two.
One of the biggest aspects of a MOBA is their character design and the variety of characters they can have for people to play. One issue using a licensed property for a MOBA is that there just aren’t enough characters to make a large list. Guardians of Middle Earth had this such problem. In fact, there are very few universes I could imagine a MOBA working for. Star Wars is one, because there are thousands upon thousands of characters, ranging from the well known to the culturally obscure. Comic books are another. Marvel and DC have hundreds of characters, and there are even multiple versions of the same characters.
That idea is the crux of Infinite Crisis. Named after the major event in the DC universe that brought all versions of the staple characters together, many of the heroes were the same “character”, like Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and so on, but they all had a prefix attached that made them different versions. Examples are Red Sun Superman, Vampiric Batman, and Earth Two Green Lantern. They even invented some versions of their own, like Atomic Era Wonder Woman (the main picture featured in this post). So there definitely wasn’t a lack of variety in Infinite Crisis. In fact, as someone who enjoys MOBAs, this game seemed perfect on the outset.
Unfortunately there were a majority of problems when the game launched into beta. Many of the maps were circular, taking after the domination mode in League of Legends. They involved taking over five different control points around the map, and holding those points while they dealt damage to your opponents next base. This isn’t the traditional formula for MOBAs and while I can’t blame Turbine for trying to be somewhat unique in their design, they might have gone a bit too far.
One of the biggest problems with the game was the shop. I played the game on and off for months throughout beta and launch and the shop was never fixed in a way it needed to be. The items all looked the same, there was very little description of what the items did, or how to upgrade them. The shop was also cluttered looking. It was impossible to find what you needed and even harder to put together some kind of build for the character you were playing. This made it very frustrating to play as someone who tried it out for months. I can only imagine how it was for someone just joining in.
There was also the problem of snowballing. It’s a problem all MOBAs have tried to deal with in different ways. DOTA 2 deals with it by giving the team who is behind more gold when they kill the leading team. This allows for them to buy more items and hopefully even out the playing field. There was none of that in Infinite Crisis. If you lost the first few kills you could kiss the rest of the game good bye. There might be a few instances of holding on, but once a team took the lead it was straight up domination until the game was over. This made it very frustrating for the losing team. There was no balance.
Due to these problems it isn’t some kind of grand surprise that Infinite Crisis lost most of its player base and that the game will be shutting down in a few months. They had a golden concept, comics are ripe for the MOBA genre. But they made it too complicated to get into and over time didn’t boil the gameplay down to just the essentials. That and the lack of overall balance made it an unfortunate cocktail just waiting to turn players off.
Hopefully a game like this doesn’t turn other people off from trying to create a new MOBA with a licensed property. As mentioned above, Star Wars would make an amazing MOBA. Even something like Nintendo, with their vast library of characters, would work. There are just a few key areas that need to be nailed down, balance most of all. If something like that is handled, then you might just have a new hit on your hands.