If we begin this review by simply explaining that Heroes of Order & Chaos is a MOBA, it will cause one of two reactions. Either you will scratch your head and ask what on earth a MOBA is, or you will have peered around the edges of this latest phenomenon in gaming recently, and are now filled with dread. For the uninitiated, the term stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.
Insanely popular though the likes of League of Legends have become, these games are still seen as somewhat impenetrable and unfriendly to newcomers. The actual gameplay is a rather simple proposition though. Either in a game against the CPU, or against real human players, your objective is to take your hero on a journey across a map riddled with pathways and channels, all of which are populated with both NPC enemies and your PVP opponents, and emerge the destructive victor.
The complexity of these games (and Heroes of Order & Chaos is no exception) comes from the myriad heroes available, each having their own unique combat flavors that take an enormous amount of time to both master yourself, and defeat on the battlefield. Equally impressive are the upgrade options available for the gold you earn through kills: an extraordinary collection of boots, gloves, potions and spells lie in the shop for committed players. New spells unlock as you succeed on the battlefield too, and there are a host of talent stat options to invest into outside of matches.
After finishing a tutorial that teaches you the basics of movement, combat and upgrades, the game is split into two sections. First you can set up a custom match between yourself and CPU units or, if you’re feeling particularly brave, head into a 3v3 or 5v5 multiplayer battle. Matchmaking takes a little while to come together at the moment, but this will hopefully improve as the playerbase expands.
Matches are as fraught and confusing as you’d expect in these early days as players fight to protect and destroy structures, and given the sheer wealth of hero characters available, you should not expect to master the game in short order. Still, if ever the phrase ‘practice-makes-perfect’ could be applied to a genre of videogames, it’s the MOBA. In your early matches against real-life opponents, your priority should always be to learn rather than annihilate, and try to do just a little bit better next time.
That Gameloft has even come close to replicating the content found in the likes of League of Legends on a mobile phone is impressive enough, yet at the forefront of any MOBA gamer’s mind will be the thorny issue of touchscreen controls. Fortunately, this concern is immediately put to bed after just a few moments with the game. A unusually responsive virtual joystick steers your character around the screen, while battle, healing and talent icons are easily accessible from the opposite side of the screen. If you prefer to tap to move, there’s an option to do that too.
Just like League of Legends this is a free-to-play game, and unless you pony up some cash you’re going to have to make do with selecting one of the three hero characters that are provided with the initial free download. A huge range of magical, defensive, or support heroes can be purchased with real money though, and there’s an endless assortment of gear and advancement opportunities to spend your kill coins on. You might balk at the prospect of how much money you could throw at this game, but there’s more than enough content up-front to help you decide whether you want to invest deeply or not.
For all of the exquisite detail in the artwork, the roaring soundtrack and the shocking breadth of content in Heroes of Order & Chaos, it does let itself down somewhat with its extremely hammy voice-acting that permeates throughout the game. It’s certainly a pity, but it’s also more than amply compensated for elsewhere and we were largely able to overlook it.
If you’ve ever fancied dipping your toes into the waters of this fearsome genre of gaming, but felt too intimidated to join the established PC crowd, think of this as a fresh start for the genre, one where everyone’s still learning the ropes and team-mate mistakes are forgivable. You’ll certainly never know unless you try, and this mobile game might be the most accessible MOBA to date.