When I was younger, I used to play this game at the beach where I’d try to stay as close to the edge of the surf as possible while not actually getting wet. I know, weird right? Every now and then, a big wave would break and I’d be screwed. But for the most part, as long as I’d keep moving back-and-forth with the tide, I’d stay safe. So, after the 19th death in my earlier sessions with Heroes Of Order & Chaos, this wave-game metaphor struck me as being terribly pertinent. Like a Tai-Chi master, I had to ride the edges of combat and strike when the moment was right. Once I changed my focus from kill-streaks to riding the ebb and flow of combat… This MOBA became much more interesting.
MOBA, for the uninitiated, stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. The game is team vs. team, played on a small map that sports “lanes” – essentially paths leading from your base to your opponent’s. Each lane is dotted with defensive towers that you and your team aims to destroy on the way to ultimate victory – the destruction of your enemy’s base.
So Many Heroes, So Little Cash
In Order & Chaos, players can choose from dozens of varieties of heroes, organized into categories like Fighter, Guardian, Mage, and Support. Each hero has their benefits and drawbacks, and you can sink “talent points” into their skill trees over time in order to make them stronger. In addition to the small bank of starting heroes, you can accumulate points (by playing matches) which can be used to unlock more powerful and unique ones. There’s quite an enormous variety of unlockable heroes in Order & Chaos, and for the most part they’re very expensive, so expect to sink a good amount of time into the game before branching-out. Furthermore, if you get tired of your hero’s appearance, you can purchase new skins for him. Buying new heroes and giving them new hairstyles is fun and all, but the real meat of this title is in the game itself.
Once you choose a hero and start a map (either solo or co-op), you’ll be plopped into your starting area with your teammates while a timer slowly counts-down. Use this window of time to browse the shop. Every base has a shop which the players can use to trick-out their rides, buying things such as new weapons, armor, and magical trinkets to boost their stats. You’ll only start with 1,000gp but don’t fret, you’ll continually gain more gold as the game progresses. Whenever you have a substantial sum of gold in your pockets and you’re too wounded to keep fighting, teleport back to the base to heal and tweak your gear.
Level Your Powers
Each hero begins the match at level 1, and the more things you and your team kills the more xp you’ll gain, thus raising your level. Every time you gain a level, your hero becomes generally more powerful (health, mana, and attack) and you gain a point to sink into one of several special abilities – the first unlocks the ability while sequential points increase its power. Each hero has its own set of special powers, and with dozens of heroes to unlock there’s quite a bit of variety to be had. Keep in mind that powers use mana, and this confused me in the beginning when I found my abilities strangely grayed-out (unusable) for a long period of time. Once it clicked, I made it a point to buy items that raised my mana max and mana regen.
As you and your team strike-out for the nearest opponent’s tower, you’ll quickly find yourselves joined by a small mob of statistically insignificant troops. These little guys are there to help where they can, and more waves of troops will be deployed throughout the match automagically – like a time-release capsule. Luckily, towers will aim at these troops before they take aim at your face, so use them as cover whenever possible. Unfortunately, enemy heroes are much more intelligent than a pile of rocks with a turret on-top.
Patience, Young Grasshopper
I’d mentioned in the opening paragraph that MOBAs are all about patience and timing, and once you encounter enemy heroes you’ll find out why. You can quickly get ensnared and mobbed (killed) by a couple heroes if you get too close or too careless, and it’s especially tempting to keep-chase if your enemy has but a sliver of health remaining. I can’t tell you how many times I attempted to chase-down a hero that was nearly dead, only to be pounced by another hero and his troops just around the corner. Strike when the moment works to your benefit, and retreat when it doesn’t. Draw people to your towers for covering fire, and if you’re low on health with a long cool-down on your healing spell… don’t be afraid to teleport back to the base to heal and shop. We all love shopping, right? C’mon, it’s America! The vast majority of mistakes I made were a result of being swept-away in the bloodlust of battle. Use your po-po-po-poker face and control that finger of yours.
Speaking of fingers, let’s talk mechanics… This is, by far, the most resource-intensive game I’ve played on my Nexus 7. The vast majority of MOBAs have been relegated to the PC domain, and for good reason. To be successful in a match, you need to be able to react quickly, target precisely, trigger abilities with immediacy, and shop effectively (clearance on Boots of Swiftness in aisle two) – all of which are rather difficult to pull-off using a tablet interface.
A Headache For All Four Cores
Graphically speaking, Order & Chaos is gorgeous, and the performance reflects this in a rather painful way. This is a game that actually makes me consider upgrading to a Nexus 10 just to avoid the choppiness I witnessed in a 5v5 co-op match with everyone’s heroes and troops in one area. Even when I was running by myself down a lane accompanied by a smattering of troops, it still was a bit laggy. Sometimes it got so bad that the sound chopped out and the game actually stuttered a bit. Order & Chaos can certainly be called a benchmark test for your tablet’s capabilities.
The interface can be incredibly frustrating as well, but I have to give it to Gameloft for trying… They’ve smooshed a “swipe to move the map”, “tap to set a destination”, “double-tap to attack”, “tap-and-hold to follow”, and a virtual joystick all on one screen. While in the heat of battle, my finger has run-off the screen multiple times forcing my hero to stand in-place and get killed. I’ve tried to turn and run only to have the map slide across the screen, or – my personal favorite – have my hero decide (against my wishes) to go back to fighting all on his own volition. And die. With such small windows of time between life and death, the UI can get insanely frustrating. Oh, and I dare you to try and play a support-class that needs to target heroes to heal while you’re running around the screen on autopilot. Yea, good luck. My best solution was to buy a suction-cup joystick for my Nexus 7 which, at least, keeps my hero on a damned leash!
Finally, there’s the shop interface. At first, I assumed I could only have one item from each of the categories equipped at any time. This struck me as odd since the “suggested items” window displayed things I couldn’t find in the other tabs. Come to find out, you can slide the entire tab-interface over to display even more categories and sub-categories of items! Holy cow. And, it’s not exactly intuitive which item will replace an existing one, or merely be equipped in the next free slot.
Regardless of all these annoyances, MOBAs have their inherent appeal; it’s an addicting formula that keeps you coming back for more. UI issues aside, this is an incredibly deep and intricate game with a steep learning curve, but once you get a handle on things… You feel pretty rad. And it will show on the battlefield (get out there while people still suck). However, current tablet owners be-warned – Order & Chaos is a resource hog and has issues running smoothly, even on the Nexus 7. Each map sucks-down roughly 10% of my battery and provides an ambient warmth that those of us living in Portland surely desire. It should also be said that this game, like all MOBAs, suffer from connection issues, people dropping, and lag issues due to players with poor bandwidth. If and when I migrate to the next-gen Nexus 10, I’ll definitely be installing this game… along with my sucky-joystick.