Can the fast-paced MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre make the transition to touchscreen devices? Zynga's Solstice Arena aims to find out. The game was recently released onto iOS devices, and is a free-to-play take on the popular genre.
MOBAs are immensely popular in the PC space, with games like League of Legends and Dota 2 dominating much of the competitive gaming landscape. The general premise involves two teams battling across a map for territory. Solstice Arena does away with much of the genre's conceits: there are no regularly recurring waves of NPCs to shepherd about the map, or experience points to accrue over the course of a match. Instead, you'll be destroying the enemy teams' towers to weaken their Oracle, and then destroying said Oracle to win the match. There's currently only one map, which is actually par for the course with MOBAs.
The game is decidedly simpler than the standard MOBA fare, but that's a necessary sacrifice on mobile devices. There are benefits to that simplification: combat is packed into short, frenetic matches that rarely last longer than about 10 minutes, making it a perfect pick-up-and-play experience.
Despite the brevity, there's still a healthy bit of strategy involved. There are just over ten characters, divided into various classes. Tanks are capable of taking quite a bit of damage, while assassins are fragile, but deadly. Support classes specialize in hampering the enemies abilities and healing your squad, while casters excel at ranged combat. Each character has three distinct abilities, and those abilities are assigned are particular astrological sign: Earth, Sun, Stars, and so on. The map is littered with powerups that will bolster a particular sign--grab the earth powerup when you see it on the map, and your earth-sign abilities will become a tiny bit stronger. The end result is a delightfully frantic experience that'll see you darting about the map, snatching up powerups to bolster your abilities while simultaneously denying the enemy access.
And there's more: traditional MOBA fare involves accruing currency to purchase equipment for your character, which will bolster your abilities over the course of a match. In Solstice Arena you'll earn gold every second, and earn a chunk of change for every enemy you kill. A chest will occasionally spawn in the center of the map: it can be captured by tapping on it, which will root your character into place. After a bit of time, the chest will rotate towards your team's side of the map and you'll be rewarded with some gold--provided, of course, the enemy doesn't interrupt you. I generally loathe sifting through equipment screens, but Solstice Arena sticks to the promise of simplicity buy allowing you to have recommended items automatically purchased for you whenever you're leaving your team's home turf, provided you have enough gold to spend.
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