By jakob187 7 Comments
Betas have become a funny thing over the years. There was a time when they were a buggy mess that gave you, the player, a chance to offer feedback on a game before it shipped to make it better. In the last five years, thanks to an ever-expanding industry and the hunger for people to get their hands on a game they crave early, betas have become little more than demos. The betas rarely ever seem to feel unfinished and unpolished, and when they aren't...well, how many of you genuinely offer feedback beyond either "this kicks ass" or "this sucks ass"?
Luckily, some betas that give you a chance to offer that necessary feedback still exist, and I got to play both of them.
League of Legends: Dominion launched today (funny enough, given that it's also my brother's birthday...nice present from Riot, I'd say), so as some of you read this, many are already indulging in the MOBA fight. For those who haven't played League of Legends or have only watched some of the stuff around here on the site, the big deal about Dominion is that it changes up the formula that League of Legends and its predecessors Heroes of Newerth and DOTA quit significantly. Rather than just be a tower defense game with real-time strategy elements, Dominion features a new map (bringing the game's total up to 3...or 4 if you count the themed 5v5 map) that revolves more around a Battlefield-style capture-and-hold point game. There are five bases, all of which can be captured by either team, and the captured points will tick down "tickets" from a counter, thus damaging the other team's Nexus (their base) and winning the match. There are definitely some subtle things added to the mix in order to make the match more interesting, such as killing enemy opponents to deal more damage to the Nexus or pushing creeps in the lane to gain the advantage on capturing a point. The biggest thing that changes it up is the new items found in the match type, the fact that you level very rapidly, and how matches rarely ever last longer than 30 minutes tops. It's a quick, fast-paced game mode that defies much of what the MOBA genre has seen so far (unless you count Bloodline Champions, which is much quicker and fast-paced).
During the beta time, the major difference you'll find in team compositions is that balanced teams (ranged AD carry, melee AD off-tank, main tank, ranged AP nuke, and a support) are typically not the best types of teams. A lot of Dominion relies on building a team of good 1v1 champs, as you will rarely have a big 5v5 team fight in the matches. In turn, Dominion has done something kind of brilliant: it's given champs which people rarely find worthwhile in 5v5 play (like Sivir, Kassadin, Akali, etc) a place to dominate and be worthwhile all over again. The beta time was more like a demo time, where everything felt pretty polished and they just needed to check out connectivity issues and things of that nature. The map itself feels much more alive, making the older maps look bland in comparison. My friends and I continually kept saying "now they need to go back and revamp the old maps, because this map is excellent".
With all that said, Dominion is also a very frustrating mode. Despite your level of skill, a lot of it will end up relying on factors you can't change much. AP champs have a distinct advantage since there is rarely any defensive build to characters in the game mode, and characters with global ultimate moves (devastating abilities that can be used from virtually anywhere on the map to affect someone nowhere close to them, like Gangplank or Ashe have) can make life a living hell for teams trying to capture a point. In all, my friends and I have compiled a list of close to 16 champs that should be banned in the draft mode at any given time because of how incredibly overpowered they can be in the mode. The problem with this happens to be knowing that Riot will only balance champs based on their performances in 5v5 Ranked play, so it's always going to be a "luck of the draw" scenario on whether your champs are going to be getting nerfed or buffed for the mode.
All in all, though, Riot continues to offer a really great package with League of Legends, and Dominion just adds to that value. They've done Free-2-Play gaming right for a while now, offering everything you actually need to play the game for free while offering a buy-in option IF YOU WANT TO as well as some bonus vanity stuff that...honestly...is difficult NOT to buy.
Thanks for reading, and next time, I'll be dropping some knowledge on the elusive Diablo III beta. Stay tuned for that