Knock Knock: EA’s MOBA Dawngate Opens Beta

By Alice O'Connor on April 9th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

No, of course this isn't a screenshot

“Doom clones” we called the rush of games which followed in the wake of Doom in the mid-nineties. It’s a daft and dismissive term in retrospect, though less clinical than “first-person shooter,” but, well, weren’t they basically just Doom? In the same vein, until newcomers start properly distinguishing themselves I’ll happily use “Dote ‘em up” and “Doter” for DotA-y games like Dawngate.

You can now have a bash at Waystone Games’ free-to-play Doter by joining the open beta. What makes Dawngate different to the rest? Publisher EA will tell you it has “a flexible Meta that lets you play your way” but what does that collection of words even mean?

The general idea is that unlike other Doters, where you can do whatever you want but it’ll probably ruin the game for your team, you can do as you jolly well please in Dawngate and still win. I’m more than a mite sceptical of that. Unless games can be won by idly dicking about, which would make the whole MOBA thing a bit pointless, I’m not sure how teams without a balanced composition and clear strategy won’t ultimately fall apart. This may require investigation.

Dawngate’s more League of Legends than DotA but I don’t know what I’d do with myself if I started saying “LoLLer.” The map’s a two-lane affair, a bit like LoL’s Twisted Treeline. That we still directly compare levels between games means I’m almost definitely not being a bore with my nomenclature.

Here’s a recent developer playtest showcase video thing showing a sample match:

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57 Comments »

  1. amateurviking says:

    I always felt we should call them Battle Arena Warrior Brawler Action Games.

  2. jarowdowsky says:

    I’m curious why all these Pn’Cfers (point and click frustration simulators) feel more like clones or copies than the piles of shooters available.

    Personally I think it comes down to the lack of narrative. Even if the mechanics of a shooter are pretty similar you couldn’t mistake Black Ops for Gunslinger or with an action adventure mistake Tomb Raider for Uncharted.

    However, pull the narrative out and everything just feels like exactly the same game with some tiny changes and a different skin.

    • RedViv says:

      Young genre. Just look at the Doom clones back then.

      • Vesuvius says:

        Disagree!

        That genre grew FAST. The early “clones” often had wildly inventive (not necessarily good) weapons and mechanics. Think of Duke3D, Hexen, of Sin, of Half-Life, Jedi Knight, or the countless other unusual entries. I can’t even remember the name now, but I played early entries which mixed in RPG elements, story elements, even William Shatner (I’m looking at you Techwar!)…. … and then at the tail end of all that we got Thief, System Shock, and Deus Ex.

        From Doom to Half-Life it was 1993-1998. 5 years.

        Contrasted with MOBAs, well, DOTA came out in 2004, so it’s been 10 years already, and we’ve arguably seen a good deal less variation.

    • Shadow says:

      Well, DOTA-likes are a particularly inflexible sub-subgenre. There’s such a large baggage of mechanics which have to be in place for the game to fit the category that there can’t be much innovation. The fact they’re similar down to the damn maps screams there’s not much room for improvement. These are all just clones.

      It’s not a nascent genre like FPS games were back in the day. You can reduce the FPS genre core to pretty much what it says on the tin: first-person perspective, shooting guns. There’s a lot of avenues you can explore from that starting point. But in a DOTA-like, stray not too far from the core 20 mechanics and you’ve returned to an existing genre.

      • Baines says:

        Yes. If a game changes the formula more than a little, then it is no longer considered a DOTA game.

        It’s kind of like complaining that various red hues all look red.

    • Malarious says:

      The genre’s really just full of games trying to copy LoL, with some slight additions or twists. Dawngate is LoL with a different map. Prime World is LoL + FarmVille. Sins of a Dark Age is LoL with a horrible aesthetic, and crafting(?). Infinite Crisis is LoL with Batmans. Heroes of the Storm is different — it’s LoL with 90% of the mechanics ripped out. There are some games, like Magicka Wizard Wars, which are truly different — but it strays so far from the genre it’s not even in the same league.

      I’m a Dota 2 guy myself. I wish more games would take some lessons from it, honestly (HoN doesn’t count). The depth of Dota is unrivaled by any other MOBA out there; nothing rewards knowledge and mastery of mechanics quite as much. I’ve tried them all, and I crave complexity, so there’s no other choice for me.

      • Banyan says:

        I’m a Dota 2 guy myself, and I can’t imagine wanting to play another similarly complex game. It’s got ridiculously deep waters. Once you commit to not sucking at Dota 2, you have basically decided that it will be your primary game. I’m way past the stage in my life where I had the free time to become competent in two Dota-likes.

        • MarkB says:

          I know right? I started playing DOTA 2 about a week ago and I’ve been having an internal debate about whether or not I want to “commit to not sucking” for the last couple days. But committing to DOTA would mean missing out on a lot of other games (which would probably be good for my finances actually).

          I also feel like my skills are starting to plateau already, so I need to double down on my commitment to get past doing okay against hard bots.

          • Banyan says:

            If you’re playing against hard bots, you’re already better than 80% of newbies. Time to start playing against people.

            The most important thing to know when starting out in Dota is to use the mute button early and often. I’ve found players to be more congenial the more skilled the games, but the first 50 games is a particularly rough patch of people who don’t understand the game in any way screaming that you should push lanes at level one and calling you a noob because you refuse to 2v5 the enemy team.

          • MarkB says:

            That’s good to hear. I’ve been pretty hesitant to start playing against humans, it’s hard to tell when you are ready. I’ll give it a go this weekend.

            I’ve played a bunch of games with humans against bots and the community has been reasonably friendly so far. However I have noticed a tendency for the most vocal players to give some seriously tactically unsound advice. The first couple games I went along for some seriously stupid ganks because I assumed that other players knew better than me.

    • draglikepull says:

      I think it’s because they mostly hew a little too closely to the same mechanics. Awesomenauts, which has the essential structure of a MOBA but controls like a side-scrolling platformer, definitely feels much different.

    • Ostymandias says:

      everyone seems to think they can improve on dota. thing is, you can’t really improve on dota. sure I think game dev’s should experiment with the genre but that’s not what’s going on right now. this is more like trying to improve a classic film that is really long, slow and tedious albeit rewarding in the end-let’s say Tarkovsky’s Stalker or something-by making a 90 minute edit with extra action

      another analogy would be to try to improve tomato soup. once you start adding chicken, I just don’t think it’s tomato soup any more

      i think you could make different dota though, but that would actually take some effort and since most of these games are just attemtps at quick cash grabs anyway that is probably not gonna happen

      • Thrippy says:

        Not until Warcraft IV arrives and an equally popular mod is made for that. Alternately, the next equally popular mod may already exist in nascent form in Starcraft Arcade. But I’m thinking WC4 since SC2 isn’t the small evolutionary step that WC3 was i.e. adding RPG-ish heroes to an RTS.

        It took a decade for DotA to not suck. I don’t believe the magnitude of its popularity or the length of the road it took to mature, defines it as an endpoint of anything, not even in singularly defining the genre it belongs to.
        http://themittani.com/features/dota-2-history-lesson

        In the meantime, before the next big mod also goes standalone, many imitations of what we’ve already got.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah this is the thing they are just blatant cash grabs designed purely to hook away enough of the % playerbase from LoL and Dota (A small % of a huge playerbase = enough players) to make some money.
        I would assume they are also relatively cheap to make due to one map and everything happening on one screen, they in theory provide constant revenue stream too by adding new champions every so often that will make you some cash for not too much work. They provide better F2P models than other games due to new character releases being inherently more interesting than “here’s a new gun and if you buy this get a free hat”.

        That said there is definitely room for a more simplified version of the genre which is what most companies seem to be pitching for atm with DOTA being incredibly complex, League occupying more of a player friendly middle ground whilst still maintaining the majority of the complexity of DOTA, there is still seemingly a nice chunk of players that like the idea of the genre but are put-off by the relatively steep learning curve. However anyone managing to take the more casual end of the market away from HotS seems unlikely at this point.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I think the difference with the FPS genre of the 90s is that it did actually progress forwards. Into full 3D, then came more realistic settings and weapons and a constant evolution of graphics where each month there seemed to be a new game coming out with graphics that blew you away. MOBA’s feel like they are just standing still if not actually regressing.

      DOTA is still the most complex game in the genre and it was the first, companies are scrambling over themselves to create a game which pulls in the MOBA crowd while making the game more accessible for the masses because the idea of playing a game like a second job in order to merely be competent is off-putting to a lot of people. Mostly they are creating nothing new mechanics wise, gameplay wise etc (Heroes of the Storm is probably the exception here as at least it is doing some new things).

    • pepperfez says:

      In addition to all the stuff mentioned above, there’s the (probably always futile) attempt to become ESPORTS, which I guess necessitates keeping almost all the core mechanics and only tinkering at the edges (FIBA vs NBA basketball, I guess?).

  3. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    “I’m not sure how teams without a balanced composition and clear strategy won’t ultimately fall apart. This may require investigation.”

    Maybe you’re reading it the wrong way, maybe it means there are a couple extra layers to the game’s mechanics that some of the focus on strict heroes brawling goes away, just like what Blizzard is doing, making cookie cutter builds, obvious counters and “items you should never buy you f4gg0t” something less relevant and therefore less of an automatic win/loss.

    Or maybe it’s just going to be a crap game, who knows.

  4. Henchimus says:

    Oh yay, another “MOBA”! I’ll definitely pick this up, this being a rock with which to SMASH MY MONITOR

  5. FGRaptor says:

    While DotA was probably what brought it to popularity, DotA was also just a clone of AoS (Aeon of Strife), but everyone always forgets about that little gem.

    Anyway, I’m really liking Smite at the moment, not sure about another top-down one though.

  6. Napalm Sushi says:

    I think it’s safe to say that, at this point, the term “metagame” has been as irrevocably butchered through contagious misapplication as the word “moot.”

  7. Chuckleluck says:

    I’m not a MOBA player, but isn’t it against some law to play an evil EA game when the holy Valve has something so similar?

  8. Surlywombat says:

    Is it “doh” or “do” and “ta” or “taa”?

    What are farm animals favorite games? Moo-baa’s.

    I’ll get me coat.

  9. HiFiHair says:

    Can somebody with expertise explain how this game about burly men hiding in hedgerows differs from the other games about burly men hiding in hedgerows?

    • Zankmam says:

      Why would someone do that when, apparently, people like you have no knowledge about the genre and any “expert insight” would be wasted on you?

      Instead, take some simple opinion: The game is good and has been good throughout its beta phase (I’ve been playing it ever since it first appeared, which was mid-2013, if not earlier). It is incredibly polished from a visual and audio standpoint. Most of it, from a technical standpoint, is very well made and it is thus “polished” and modern, including the adequate client.

      Gameplay-wise, it is very similar to League of Legends, although I’d say that the changes it brings are very interesting and worth-while.

      It is, in a sense, LoL 2.0.

      My recommendation so far? Go and play it.

      • HiFiHair says:

        Gee, Zank. Way to make a brother feel welcome.

      • houldendub says:

        The game is good and has been good throughout its beta phase (I’ve been playing it ever since it first appeared, which was mid-2013, if not earlier). It is incredibly polished from a visual and audio standpoint. Most of it, from a technical standpoint, is very well made and it is thus “polished” and modern, including the adequate client.

        Wow, thanks! I’ll be sure to pick this gem of a game up, coming from Waystone Games™, I’m sure that Dawngate© will be a fantastic addition to the MOBA genre!

        Now where’s my Doritos and Mountain Dew?

        • Zankmam says:

          I don’t get why you used sarcasm there nor why you included the “MLG #420″ gaming jokes or whatever. I just gave my thoughts on the game.

          I am sorry if my vocabulary in the post wasn’t all that varied and if me using “polished” twice somehow offended your sensibilities.

          • shaydeeadi says:

            You do understand that you need to have undertaken a creative writing course before you are allowed to comment and dodge the snark of people with nothing to say right?

            But anyway, I love Dota2 but bounced off LOL like a cat in a bungee harness. If I may ask, is there a good selection of in-game items in this game? Is it realistic to just roam and do whatever or is it more about laning? Is there a blink dagger (or equivalent?)

  10. dirtwizard says:

    I’ve been playing in the Dawngate beta for about 5 months. I can’t speak to its similarity or difference from Dota, but here are some ways it’s different from League:

    1. Roles: Everyone picks a role when they pick their character (or “Shaper”). Your role determines how you earn money and experience. You can be a Hunter, which is your Jungler class; a Predator, which is the character assassin class; a Tactician, which earns point for having minions die near you but not necessarily for last-hits; and Gladiator, which focuses on killing lane minions. It usually works out that you have one person in the jungle, and either one Tactician/Gladiator pair per lane or one Tactician/Predator pair per lane. Part of the whole “breaking the meta” thing means that you can have a team of 5 Tacticians and still win, but it will be a serious uphill climb. It also cuts down the dickery that tends to happen in League lanes, where some guy is stealing all the minion kills or is too focused on harassing enemy characters and won’t help you push your lane.

    2. Narrative: League has been around long enough that it’s pretty much heaving under the weight of its history. There are like a million champions, all with fiddly little loadouts. Who knows how or why all of these bizarre people are fight each other. Dawngate has (at the moment) a limited number of Shapers that all have justification within the narrative for being in the game. The game world has an overarching story that expands with each character they add, as each character comes with its own series of short stories. IIRC one of the Mass Effect writers, the guy who wrote Legion and Thane, is writing Dawngate.

    3. Cuteness factor: Dawngate looks like someone crossed Miyazaki movies with updated WoW. It’s very pretty. It makes League look real old and a little dull in comparison.

    4. Items: Every League champ has a set of items they MUST HAVE or else the universe will collapse, and then a set of conditional items they could have, depending on who you’re laning against. Dawngate has suggested items for each character, but you don’t have to take them. And instead of buying, like, boots with your game money, you buy what I guess are concepts? In branching trees? Like you can buy from the Hunger tree, or the Life tree, or the Resilience tree, etc. and that’s how you boost your stats.

    5. Nice dudes: The community is friendly and helpful on the whole.

    I’m not a big MOBA person. I think they’re a little silly. But I like Dawngate a lot. Of course, YMMV.

  11. BooleanBob says:

    “a flexible Meta that lets you play your way”

    can you spot the superfluous L

  12. adeptacheese says:

    all these lol clones are a single step away from facebook and phone cash grab games and i wish rps would stop constantly covering them

  13. Ostymandias says:

    This, people, is the cutting edge of inovation in game design.

  14. SealedSun says:

    During closed beta I tried to get into this game twice and bounced off hard.

    I play a lot of Dota 2 and Dawngate is clearly much much much closer to LoL (so yes, a lolike)

    The client is ultra-slick and the game feels very well polished. That’s cool, but I don’t get the gameplay, how slow the heroes move, have none of the abilities have any significant range.

    Also that thing about champions filling out any rule is completely false. The vast majority of champions are strongly favoring one particular role. Some few champions can be played in 2 out of 4 roles. I don’t see how this is different from Dota 2.

    I absolutely hate the items in this game. I find them incredibly hard to remember. They are all named after generic ‘virtues’ and have very generic icons, all done in a sort-of church window style. I just cannot tell them apart. At least in Dota, after I learn what an item does, say the Mekansm, I will remember that for the rest of my life.

  15. raydenuni says:

    I thought we agreed they should be called “Lane Pushing Games.” It’s precise and descriptive enough to tell you what the game is about, but also exclusive enough to avoid games that aren’t in the same genre. MOBA is way too generic. Quake 3 Arena is more of a MOBA than LoL or DotA is.

  16. JOJOFACE says:

    They REALLY should have experimented with a different color scheme or art style. Looks far too close to both DOTA and LoL and it just simply doesn’t stand out like it needs to to succeed.

  17. Smashbox says:

    I wasn’t interested, but on finding out it’s EA’s MOBA COUNT ME IN!!!

    /s

  18. 2helix4u says:

    I’m gonna muddy the waters even further. All DOTA-likes are MOBAs but not all MOBAs are DOTA-likes.

    MOBA is pretty clearly a genre now, and actually has quite a lot of variation between this, LoL, Dota 2, Smite, Bloodlines, Heroes of the Storm etc. The maps are usually very similar in the way that a football field usually has two goals on it.

    I don’t know if its the steep skill curve where you need to learn so much about Dota 2 or LoL before you can not be screamed at by internet morons, but I don’t understand the backlash against this genre. What you want to go back to only having FPS multiplayer games on PC?
    They give us a whole new hardcore genre to enjoy that isnt endless shooters with the odd strategy title and their success and incipient flexibility means that at some point someone is going to make one that you and your friends really enjoy.

  19. MacTheGeek says:

    “Unless games can be won by idly dicking about, which would make the whole MOBA thing a bit pointless, I’m not sure how teams without a balanced composition and clear strategy won’t ultimately fall apart.”

    I’m going to guess that the word “microtransactions” figures heavily in the answer.

  20. bstard says:

    EA even missed the Aprils fool date by a long shot.

  21. The Random One says:

    I still remember how the Rise of the Triad freeware episode proudly advertised the full game with a press quote calling it “one of the best Doom clones”. Good days.

  22. Jenks says:

    This genre doesn’t need a description less dismissive than Dota clone.

  23. Apologised says:

    You know what MOBA’s I want to see?

    1) A proper 40k one, Last Stand clearly showed the idea had financial legs, so let’s go the whole hog, lanes, creeps, roshan and all. Given that GW are basically scattershotting the industry with licenses right now it could easily be done.

    2) A MOBA done with the Homeworld or similar game engine. The closest we ever got was Stellar Impact. Let’s have a proper 3d one in space.

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