Heroes of Order and Chaos: MOBA Gaming for iOS

Gameloft is quickly becoming known for their iOS ‘copies’ of popular console/PC games. I reviewed Order and Chaos a while back, which was and still is the closest thing you’ll get to World of Warcraft on your iPhone or iPad.

Well, they’re at it again with their new title, Heroes of Order and Chaos. Retaining the environments and characters of the OaC world, this game is a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) title that clearly takes inspiration from the hugely popular PC title, League of Legends.

Let’s see how it fares, after the jump.

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What is a MOBA game?

If I didn't know this was an iOS title, I could quite easily mistake it for a PC game.

If I didn’t know this was an iOS title, I could quite easily mistake it for a PC game.

For those who haven’t played a MOBA game before, it’s an RTS (real-time strategy) game, but you only control one unit — a hero/champion. The smaller units you would normally also control in an RTS are AI controlled in a MOBA title, and spawn evenly for both teams in waves. The emphasis is on levelling up your character, buying items to enhance your character’s abilities, earning gold to buy said items by defeating enemy minions (the AI controlled units) and heroes. The playing fields in MOBA games are similar to RTS maps, but all the action usually happens in one of three “lanes” — paths that connect your base to the enemy’s. The aim is to push back enemy forces, reach their base and destroy the main structure there.

Getting Started

Before you even begin to unlock your device, make sure you have a good half hour free to sit and play. This is not a “pick up and play” title like most iOS games, it’s a full-fledged, hardcore gamer’s game. An average match of any MOBA game takes around thirty minutes to complete. You may even want to plug in your headphones for a truly immersive experience.

The game presents itself fantastically.

The game presents itself fantastically.

After picking a server and completing the in-game tutorial, you begin battling. You can battle versus AI solo with AI teammates, with a team of real players against AI or go total PVP for a ten-player mash up.

When out of a game, you can browse the store for new heroes, purchase runes, check out the daily quest and more.

Gameplay and Controls

I won’t go too deeply into the gameplay mechanics of MOBA games, as things can get fairly complex. However, just know that Heroes strikes a perfect balance. It’s not a dumbed down, over-simplified version of what can be found on more traditional gaming platforms, but at the same time it isn’t trying to cram every single feature of a fully-fledged PC MOBA title into a handheld device.

It’s impressive to see an iOS title go as far as to include your usual MOBA 3v3 and 5v5 multiplayer modes (with admittedly very fiddly text chat that no one bothers to use), as well as AI battles. There’s also a tutorial to get you started that will teach you the absolute basics of MOBA. You’ll need to start playing some real battles to figure out even basic strategies, though.

You can really immerse yourself in this game with a little time.

You can really immerse yourself in this game with a little time.

The title is definitely feature-packed, whilst still feeling almost optimised for touch screens. I say almost, because at times you can get a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of semi-transparent, overlaid touch buttons that are onscreen. However, there isn’t really any other way this game could exist on iOS without them. Gestures certainly wouldn’t work, and I’ve certainly seen far worse implementations of touch controls.

Alongside the at-times-slightly-awkward touch buttons (more of a hardware limitation than a fault of Gameloft), are your usual drag with one finger to pan, tap with one finger to select, pinch to zoom controls. These work flawlessly, and make navigating the arena and controlling your hero very fluid and easy — it becomes second nature as you play. It’s safe to say the game is far easier to play on an iPad, though.

Presentation and Performance

Graphically, Heroes is beautiful. Gameloft never tends to let us down when it comes to the visuals of their titles and this game is another stunning example. Everything from voice acting and polished graphics to great background music make it feel as close to a console game as an iOS title could really get.

The game is genuinely fun and very, very addictive.

The game is genuinely fun and very, very addictive.

While playing, I found that frame rates could sometimes take a bit of a hit if there was a lot going on, but that’s par for the course, I think. Overall, performance was fabulous on my iPhone 5, and these frame rate slowdowns were a rare occurrence. I would imagine a 4S could handle the game fine, but an iPhone 4 would be pushing it a little much.

There genuinely were times where I’d be playing this game in preparation for this review, and I’d find myself getting just as immersed as I remembered getting while playing console and PC games back when I was a kid. The overall presentation of the game is fabulous, and Gameloft continues to redefine what’s possible on mobile devices.

Pricing Model

Gameloft has chosen (unsurprisingly, given their general business model) to go with the “freemium” pricing structure for Heroes.

I won’t turn this article into a debate about whether freemium is “the future of gaming” or not, but some may find it slightly concerning that many developers are choosing this route. It means the title is free to download, but there are many mini purchases that you can make in the game to help you along. In Heroes, these range from new heroes to play as, skins for your existing heroes and things such as runes that let you respawn instantly when you die. That last point in particular is quite interesting, as normally, especially towards to end of the game when your hero’s level is high, you can be waiting up to around three to four minutes to respawn.

The game runs on the "freemium" model.

The game runs on the “freemium” model.

Being able to instantly respawn gives you a huge advantage, particularly at higher levels, which some would argue is unfair and ruins the title. Others would say it’s fair because you haven’t paid anything to download the game, so it makes sense to reward those who do choose to contribute.

Conclusion

Heroes of Order and Chaos is a brilliant reproduction of the MOBA genre on iOS. Despite the platform-related flaws, it’s sure to the please the more hardcore gamer, and can even please the more casual gamer if they have half an hour of time to sit and play.


Summary

A brilliant MOBA title for iOS that truly emulates the genre.

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