I’ve had a few chances over recent months to participate in the closed beta for Dawngate, Electronic Arts’ new MOBA experience for the PC. The game is being developed by Waystone, and will be their debut into the video game industry, and what a debut it is.
Dawngate has a recognizable feel as a MOBA, but several key differences to the formula we’ve seen over the years; gone is the three-lane map with a river through the center system so popularized by Defense of the Ancients (DOTA) and League of Legends. In fact, avid players of the League of Legends’ map The Twisted Treeline might feel more at home in Dawngate’s layout, as the map has only two lanes, although it maintains the diagonal scheme we know and love. The differences go far beyond that, though, as the game features many mechanics that definitely set it apart from the norm.
Though the “shaper” pool is minimal, champion select has many decisions before you lock in your selection.
The heroes in Dawngate are referred to as Shapers, for reasons stated in the game lore. They follow the simple, League of Legends style formula of four activated abilities with a passive, although the passive abilities are often less interesting than in other games. Generally they just state whether your shaper uses mana, energy, rage, or some other kind of mechanic for when their abilities are usable. Once you’ve decided which shaper you want to use, the selection process is followed up by a choice of your preferred role. This does not lock you into a role, and you can choose multiples, but it displays for your teammates what position you wish to take in the overall team composition. From there you can pick an actual “role,” which gives various bonuses focused on specific types of play. Gladiators are traditional carries, receiving extra gold for killing large numbers of minions in a short time, while a Predator gains far more gold than usual for killing enemy shapers. The Tactician takes on a support role, gaining gold when nearby allies kill minions, and the Hunter deals extra damage and gains extra gold from the neutral minion camps in the game’s jungle. Each role is flexible, and teams can easily have any layout of roles. Playing without a Hunter is entirely viable, while a carry must make the decision of Gladiator or Predator for their main gold income. These choices will effect how you play your game, and really add a lot of thought and planning to the shaper selection process.
Role selection is simple, but you’ve got to have the right shaper for the job.
The first thing you notice when shaper select is over and the game itself begins is that there is no load time. The game actually loads the map during selection, and you instantly go from selection into the game itself. There is the occasional bug here, where the game will actually crash as the game begins, but recent patches have addressed this and it was a very rare occurence for me.
The game itself has a number of mechanics and map objectives that are very unique, the most noticeable of which are the spirit wells. These circular camps spawn resource-gathering minions which generate the passive “vim,” Dawngate’s replacement for gold. The wells can be attacked and taken by the enemy team, which shifts the passive gold gain of both teams in favor of the controller. This creates a constant push back and forth for the wells, as they are a huge advantage and source of income for either team.
The spirit wells are a constant, important team objective.
Another unique feature to the game are the towers, which are referred to as Bindings. Bindings can, of course, be destroyed; however, an interesting mechanic was put in place to allow the bindings to respawn over time. One effect of this is it forces aggressive play. If you play too passively, and don’t go for the throat when it’s time, the enemy’s defenses will begin to reappear. The second effect, though, is that it makes close games drag out far beyond what they need to, which can become frustrating when neither side can gain ground for a long period of time. While interesting, I feel that it’s unnecessary and can honestly be a bit of a detriment in close games.
Overall, Dawngate is an interesting and unique addition to the MOBA scene, and definitely takes care to innovate where some developers stick with tradition. Still, the weak shaper pool and slight bugs within the game are a weakness, but the former is natural of any new MOBA and the latter is the purpose of the very testing they’re doing. I would definitely suggest Dawngate for anyone looking for a fairly easy to pick up MOBA with a pleasant aesthetic and a few mechanics we really haven’t seen before.
Follow my twitter @AtelusGamer, and check out my YouTube channel, AtelusGamer, as I continue to upload impressions of various games as well as gameplay I just think is fun and interesting.
Dawngate: EA’s Take On the MOBA Scene
The up and coming Dawngate introduces some interesting and unique elements into the traditional MOBA formula.What Our Ratings Mean