MOBAs, to a casual observer, might all seem to be exactly the same. The typically isometric view, the map, the game’s objectives, and even some of the characters might blend together in your mind.
But this couldn’t be further from the truth. While MOBAs do share a heritage that you can trace back to mods of games like Starcraft (Aeon of Strife) and Warcraft (Dota Allstars), they’ve all evolved in their own special ways, making them distinctly different experiences once you get a feel for them.
Here’s a glimpse of, arguably, the top 5 MOBAs in the world right now.
League of Legends
League of Legends saw the light of day when Dota Allstars (the original mod incarnation, not the Valve-produced successor) was considered to be the cutting edge of the genre.
On its release in 2009, it quickly gained popularity thanks to its accessibility and improved graphics. The graphics made the competitive and complex nature of the genre a lot more approachable to newer players and it is now the most-played game in the MOBA genre, with a staggering player base anywhere between 80 to 100 million players (accurate numbers are pretty hard to gauge, as you might imagine).
League of Legends (or LoL, as it’s commonly referred to) also sets itself apart from other games in the genre by introducing strategic elements to the game that come into play even before matches begin, with the rune, summoner spell, and mastery systems.
Dota 2 is the successor, both spiritual and otherwise, of the original Dota 2 Allstars Warcraft mod. This original was the game that popularised the genre, and when Valve released Dota 2 (in 2013), with updated graphics, but the same complex, ever-evolving gameplay, it was to the tremendous hype from the fanbase.
Dota 2 has a smaller player base than LoL, in part due to its steeper learning curve. However, The International, a yearly tournament hosted by Valve, still pulls in tremendous amounts of attention. The total prize pool for the 2018 iteration of this tournament is $23,973,431 at the time this article was written.
A massive update in 2016 changed the game to a significant degree, introducing elements like talent trees and extra inventory slots to the metagame, showing that even old MOBAs can learn new tricks.
Even at first glance, it’s very apparent that Smite is not your average MOBA. This highly successful game changes everything by setting the camera squarely behind your character so that you’re playing in third-person.
With the field of view being relatively small compared to what most other MOBAs enjoy, the challenge increases exponentially until you get used to what’s going on. But this also means that the action is a lot more fast-paced and in your face, with a fairly high skill ceiling.
The lore that the game is built around is also immensely satisfying, with mythological figures from all over the world making an appearance.
Heroes of the Storm
This game, which was released in 2015, is Blizzard Entertainment’s horse in the MOBA race, so to speak. If you’re a bit out of the loop, Blizzard is the studio behind iconic titles like Starcraft and Warcraft, which were closely tied to the origin and evolution of the MOBA genre as a whole.
This game set out to “upend the status quo”, and it definitely achieves this goal in unusual ways. These include novel ideas like a character that is controlled by two different players at the same time, and specific objectives taking precedence over the usual MOBA ideas of early-game, mid-game, and end-game.
What might come as the biggest surprise to fans of the genre is that the game doesn’t feature in-game items at all, instead choosing to replace them with talents that heroes choose when they level up, depending on the way the match is unfolding.
Arena of Valor
The last entry in this list is a bit of a deviation from the rest of the games featured because it’s a mobile title.
Arena of Valor first hit smartphones in China in 2015 as the game Kings of Glory. After its immense success there, it was rolled out to international audiences as Arena of Valor (or AoV).
The developers rightly took a somewhat simplified approach that, if you can believe it, makes the game feel completely fluid and natural to play on a touchscreen device. Since both LoL and AoV are distributed by Tencent, you’ll find similarities between the two games, which makes this the best smartphone MOBA for League of Legends players.
If you’ve ever played LoL, you’ll instantly feel at home with systems like the Arcana Page, which introduces a strategic element even before the match begins, a handful of different game modes, and tall grass that makes you invisible to enemy units.
What’s more, the game’s highly anticipated Nintendo Switch release is on the horizon, making right now the perfect time to get into AoV and learn the ropes.
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