Already a huge success (by 2017, it was reported that the game had over 80 million daily active players and 200 million monthly active players, and was both the world’s highest grossing game as well as the most downloaded app globally), Arena of Valor (in Closed Beta right now) finally makes its way to North America and fits nicely on Nintendo’s new portable system. It’s a MOBA in the vein of League of Legends or Heroes of the Storm. You have the choice between 5V5, 3V3 or 1V1 matches and they usually take around fifteen minutes or so to finish. This is great if you’re chilling on your break at work or sitting in bed trying to wind down.
This long weekend, I had a bit of extra time to play the beta and I cannot wait until the full game releases in the near future. The quick battles are fast and addictive and I’m dying to start a team with some friends to go online with.
5V5 Grand Battle matches are the bread and butter in Arena of Valor and where I spend the majority of my time. There are three lanes to travel down, plenty of enemy troops and towers to destroy and a core to conquer. There are enemies peppered throughout the jungle in the middle that will give you bonus XP and gold to provide you with an advantage over the enemy team. XP allows you to level up and learn each of your characters three abilities that are mapped to your L, R, and ZL buttons, after that you can choose which ones to level up further as the match continues. Gold you collect can be used to buy gear that can give you extra health, critical hit chance, damage, etc.
Instead of clicking everywhere, you control your character with the left thumbstick. The right thumbstick can be switched to allow you to look ahead on the map. It honestly surprises me that more developers don’t try to put MOBA’s on consoles. Arena of Valor handles very well, with everything easy to access on the fly during combat. I hope it inspires other developers to bring games like Heroes of the Storm (COUGH do it Blizzard) over to consoles.
The animations are well done, especially on the character select screen. The cast of heroes are full of life and each has a back story to check out should you want to learn more about them. Their voices can be a bit annoying because they literally say the same lines over and over and over, but this is a minor nuisance. My mains are Lu Bu, a Warrior who carries a halberd and somersault at his enemies three times before delivering a devastating stun attack. He loves to talk about how he craves a real challenge and wishes someone could defeat him (he kinda reminds me of Baldur from God of War the way he talks). Then there is Fennik, a Marksman that uses a slingshot to attack his enemies. He also happens to be a blue fox. He’s a force to be reckoned with late into the match who can destroy enemy towers in seconds if he’s powered up enough, pushing entire lanes like a freight train. The other classes include Tanks, Mages, and Support/Heals. They all handle well, but Lu and Fennik are the ones I frequently use. Right now, most of the characters are on sale (I was able to purchase them all with in-game gold because they’re so cheap) so I’m not sure how much they will cost at launch, but you will be able to buy them using real money if you’re the impatient type.
Along with new skins for each of the characters, you can customize their item loadout. This affects what items you will gain access to as you collect gold in a match. There is also the Arcana Pool which allows even more customization. As your account (not your character) levels, you can unlock a slot to place different Arcana. The game gives you tips on which ones you should place for the character you’re using, but feel free to place them in how you see fit. I love this because it always feels like you’re progressing your characters all the time, even outside of combat. There are entire guides dedicated to making the perfect characters so the items can be tailored any way you want.
What stood out to me the most while playing though was the constant reminders that developer Tencent Games has placed in Arena of Valor about being a team player. They’re everywhere. From the scrolling text on the top of the screen while you wait for a match to the genious credibility system. The credibility system is a great way to keep players on a nice and friendly level. If someone is AFK during a match or leaves early, the system will send you a message after the match, where you can choose to leave negative feedback on that player. While you may think people could just leave negative feedback on any players they don’t like, the system goes over the situation and deliberates it before coming to a verdict. If you do lose points due to disconnecting from a match (like I did) it sucks, but that’s life. You will lose some points. Fear not though, because you can earn these lost points back just by taking part in more matches. You do lose more points than you gain (you gain 1 point per match but can lose up to 10 for leaving a game), so it is a bit of a pain if you didn’t mean to disconnect, but it’s not hard to get back up to 100, as long as you behave. This penalty system also effects what kinds of games you can join. If you have less than a 96 rating you won’t receive daily rewards, less than 85 you’re unable to join Ranked Matches, and less than 60 means Standard Matches aren’t available. Standard Matches are essentially what everyone is playing. This means you’ll only have access to Custom Match and Arcade (which the latter is only available on weekends). All I gotta say is BE NICE.
I wish more developers would try to encourage proper teamwork. The systems Tencent has in place here provide a fun environment for everyone. Arena of Valor is a lot of fun and I can see myself losing many hours to it (I’ve probably already clocked 25 hours in the beta so far). The voice overs can get repetitive, but it’s just a minor complaint with an otherwise fantastic and addictive MOBA on Nintendo Switch. I’m eagerly awaiting the full release. – NVJ