Dropzone is the game League of Legends wishes it could be

first_imgI, unlike many of my friends, never caught the fever for MOBAs, but I’ve always liked the idea behind them. I’ve been a strategy game nut my whole life, and I’m all for compressing the experience of a grueling RTS into a smaller package. But between the notoriously toxic communities, the dearth of strategic options, and matches that can drag on for 45 minutes or more, League of Legends and its sisters didn’t fill the void I’d hoped.Jason Coleman, project lead on Dropzone, said that he and the rest of his team had the same problem with MOBAs. “We all love strategy games, but as we got older we noticed that we never had the time to play them anymore.” Part of that, Coleman says, is that the strategy game genre has split into a few major clusters. There’s hardcore deep strategy games like Crusader Kings, there’s slightly less time-consuming 4X games like Civilization, and then there’s MOBAs.While the latter might not revolve around campaigns that can last dozens of hours, they rely on matches that often cross the 45-minute mark. Mix in a notoriously toxic community and a dearth of deep strategic options, and it’s easy to see why, despite its massive success, some people still haven’t warmed to the children of DotA.Coleman and the rest of the team at Sparkypants believe they have a solution, though. Dropzone seems, at first pass, to be just like any other MOBA. You’ve got several characters on screen that each farm enemies to build up experience, learn new skills, and go head-to-head with an opposing team. But one you dig into it, it’s clear that Dropzone is special.First, each game is capped at 15 minutes with sudden death overtime if it comes to that. Second, there’s a maximum of two players on a given team. This is a great idea for tons of reasons, not the least of which is an effect that even League developer Riot has noted in its own attempts to curb the negativity in its community: when you add in more players, the odds of you ending up with at least one troll increases exponentially. League and its siblings typically pack their matches with ten players, compared to Dropzone’s four.Dropzone also uses a points system instead of focusing on capturing territory. It’s a lot more like basketball, where players will destroy buildings or kill computer-controlled enemies throughout the level to collect “power cores.” Once you have one, you can take it back to the center of the field and attempt to score. The process takes ten seconds though, and other players can try to interrupt the process by attacking. And that’s where things get really interesting.In Dropzone each player controls three mechs called “rigs.” There are several different types, pilots, and plenty of great gear that all have different abilities and bonuses. With them, you can balance out your team, or you can help you coordinate strategies with a friend and specialize your rigs for specific tasks.In either case, managing three characters is always a tactically complex choice. If your speedy mech has a power core, you could run it to the center and leave some heavy hitters behind working on another objective. If it gets into trouble, you can ambush the attackers with the big guns and catch your foe off guard. But that’s just one option. While capturing power cores is the main goal, there are a few optional objectives around the field that you can pursue as well. If you get too ambitious and rack up loads of points with cores, your opponent will have unchecked control over the rest of the field and can easily match or surpass your score. It’s a brilliant system that falls back on the classic Sid Meier adage that a great game is a series of interesting choices.Before a match even begins, you need to think about how you want your trio of rigs to work together, while still leaving them adaptable enough to handle any number of counter-strategies. Then, in-game, you have to coordinate them. You can focus your force in one area and crush everything in front of you at the cost of mobility, or you can try to keep your mechs constantly working on different tasks around the field, or anything in between.I got to play three games at PAX and I’ve since played another few in the closed beta at home, and I’m really excited to see where this goes. The depth and breadth of options, the quick pace of it all, and the tight focus on letting players approach problems from one of several angles is revolutionary for a genre that is, at times, painfully monotonous. It’s impossible to say if Dropzone will be the next “big thing,” but it’s got an incredible start. <>last_img

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