Fates Forever – Review
by Adam Smith
This week, the iOS and Android markets saw the arrival of what is possibly the first game able to carry of the League of Legends style of MOBA. Crafted by the Hammer and Chisel studio, Fates Forever is perhaps the closest thing we are going to see to Dota 2 on an iPad any time soon.
It opens with an incredibly beautiful cinematic, showing six animals-come-warriors running through a forest. From the trailer, it is clear that each beast acts as a different class, with little change to the usual roles gamers have become accustomed to, in the vein of an archer, a mage, and a heavy. In the tutorial you play as Renwil, “The Gluttonous Warthog” and, led by Dim “The Solar Mole”, must capture enemy towers and complete the main objective of destroying the enemies’ ‘gyro’ – their power source. Smaller AI minions called Tributes are regularly spawned to assist you in this task, and they will attack the towers and enemy characters while the player concentrates on attacking the human players.
The aesthetic mirrors the standard of the opening cinematic; purple and green foliage marking a two-way path to your enemies’ base makes for a brilliant background to the isometric perspective. Unfortunately, narrative background is what is missing from the game; there is no backstory to any of the characters, no reason why they should be battling their counterparts, and no explanation of the world they are living in bar a fleeting mention of some Ancients and a tournament in the character store screen. This is a sad omission from the game, and one which could have been achieved by a voiceover in the trailer, even if it were the age-old ‘mystic war, far off land’ story that is cliché for this genre.
However, one does not need any story to enjoy the game. The mechanics are simple: tap enemies to attack them, tap the ground to move position, and tap the five circles on the left of the screen to activate the special abilities that are unique to each character (but which don’t stray too far from ranged attack/stat boost/clustered attack variety). As you play you collect coins from killing enemies, and can buy power-ups from the store to become active upon your next respawn – which takes approximately ten seconds. There does not seem to be any in-app purchases for items, which is a nice change, but you can buy the extra characters for Jade (in-game money) or Ore (achieved by playing games).
Unfortunately, despite all the good work this game has done, it does have flaws. There are too many characters – three to play as, six to unlock, and four more ‘coming soon’. If a player were to watch the trailer and took an immediate liking to the Bandit Hare, for example, they would be disappointed to find that they couldn’t play as them without paying. This means that, instead of the Team Fortress 2 model of having all characters unlocked at the beginning and letting players choose which they feel most comfortable as, all players must start as one of the free classes. This rather limits gameplay, with many new players having to use the same techniques against each other – victory coming from luck rather than skill.
Fates Forever also falls down by assuming that a MOBA on the iPad is the same as on a computer. Because the game is played with players moving either left to right, or right to left, depending on which team they are on, this gives one team a distinct advantage – those playing from left to right are playing with their dominant hand (assuming most players are right handed) and thus don’t have the design flaw of accidentally hitting on of their special abilities while trying to move and wasting it, which players moving from right to left would have to work around. Obviously, this is a problem that wouldn’t arise on a computer because of the WSAD control scheme and the mouse, but the touchscreen game style requires more thought. More disappointingly is that this could be easily fixed by moving the special ability buttons to the top of the screen rather than on the side, but for some reason this has not been done.
Barring those complaints, however, there is no doubt in my mind that Fates Forever is easily one of the best free games on the app stores at the moment. The score is gorgeous, the game design is clean, despite the few difficulties, and the 3v3 play style is simplistic enough for the genre port from computer to touchscreen. Greater variation in maps and specialised weapons would be nice additions, and something that I hope will be come with game updates. For now, Fates Forever has a fine future, and one you should be following.Pros
- Beautiful aesthetic
- No in-app purchases
- Well balanced gameplay
- Good variety in weapons and abilities
- Easy-to-learn gameplay
- Some poor game controls
- Lack of variation in maps
- Only three playable characters
Fates Forever is likely going to be the best MOBA we see on touchscreen devices for a while - the gameplay is smooth and, despite a few design flaws, is easy to learn. While access to more characters would be appreciated, and some inclination as to what class each character is without having to watch a video, there is enough variation for new players to hone their skills in this beautifully designed world.
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