Sins of a Dark Age ain't what it used to be. In spite of my totally sly, semi-misleading opening remark, I don't necessarily mean it's worse. However, I have no idea if it's better either. It's just, you know, different. In short, though, Ironclad's decided to remove the RTS-like Commander role from its MOBA flagship, so now it's hoping to weave between the toes of titans like DOTA 2 and League of Legends by emphasizing RPG aspects. "Realm Quests," as they're known, are triggered by a Left-4-Dead-ish Quest Director and introduce special conditions into otherwise standard MOBA matches. "Imagine dealing with the threat of a vermin carried deadly plague, welcoming the arrival of timely reinforcements, ordering your own personal troops, escorting a merchant convoy, hauling back stolen treasure, racing to gain favor of a powerful ally or even working cooperatively with your enemy against a deadly common threat," says Ironclad. More details after the break.
So Realm Quests are spawned at the Quest Director's behest, and they apparently become priority number one for both teams as soon as they enter the field. Ironclad gave the following example:
"The Quest Director decides it's time for 'The Veric Plague'. Mobs of plagued Verics will then begin spawning at fixed locations in the jungle. These aren't like normal creeps though because they will attack anything that comes near them and can infect players with their rabid bites. However, this form of the plague is not all that dangerous. Players have the option of attempting to race the other team in collecting infected Veric pelts in order to create a biological weapon of sorts. They can either collect them by killing plagued Verics or by stealing from enemy Heroes by killing them. The first team to collect the requisite number of plagued Veric pets wins the Realm Quest and the loser is now infected with a nasty plague debuff for a certain length of time."
So it stands to vary up the standard flow of matches pretty significantly, and Ironclad's promising to come out the gate with more Realm Quests "than can possibly spawn in a single match." Meanwhile, the plan is to add many more as time goes on, then divvy them up into various rotations.
The hope, then, is that SOADA (which I will definitely shorten to SODA from now on) will feature worlds that feel more alive and spontaneous than the current MOBA crop. And certainly, that idea seems to mesh a lot better with MOBAs' individual hero focus and pacing than traditional RTS resource-collecting and unit commanding. But will it be enough to yank players away from the poisons they've already picked to sate their MOBAholism? Obviously, it's impossible to say at this point. I sure hope so, though. I hope so because SODA.