PAX Prime | The Next Big MOBA is… Strife?

Strife is a bigger deal than you might think. We all know that the MOBA world has grown, drastically, in popularity over the last few years. From fan mod to one of the most spectate gaming formats, this genre is a big deal. It’s also a genre that has seen some big changes. DOTA set the bar “back in the day” (it’s funny how fast these things actually change), and games like Heroes of Newerth followed the formula almost to the letter. It wasn’t till League of Legends that we started seeing an insane spike in the genres following. So why is Strife a big deal? Because it’s made by S2.

S2, the makers of Heroes of Newerth, already had… well… Heroes of Newerth. This marks the first time that a single company has run more than one MOBA. The important question, therefore, is why? Why not just make some Changes to Heroes of Newerth and skip the trouble of making a whole new game? Essentially, this comes down to a few admissions: The genre has progressed. Titles have undergone change, and new mechanics have been developed that have proven to be more attractive than older models. This is the natural course of gaming. Mario ran left and jumped. Sonic ran faster. Samus SHOT things (and also ran left! The madness!).

Chatting with one of the Strife devs
Chatting with one of the Strife devs

So what do we have with S2’s new title Strife? We see them abandoning dated mechanics like creep denial, and the Str/Int/Agi hero system. We see them adopting a more streamlined item shop, and clearer visuals. These are things that leading MOBAs are already doing and S2 is catching up, and ya know what? I love it. I love the fact that S2 is able to identify what is currently working in the MOBA space and, chiefly, is willing to adopt them progress instead of clinging to older systems.

That’s not to say that S2 doesn’t have ideas about how to push the boundaries. Drastic modifications are being made, so lets start with gold. Gold is not not entirely dependent on last hitting. At least not for everyone. Are you in a 2 man lane? All last hits by players see the rewarded gold split evenly between them. In a single lane? You get half the gold, and the other half is split between your four team mates… globally. Say goodbye to starved support roles. Heck, there literally ISN’T a support role anymore. Supports are known for being champions that can do well without gold, and everyone will now have gold.

Another big one? No more wards. I’ll say that again. No more wards. Right now you might be saying something like “You’re drunk Will, put the keyboard down”. I would then tell you that the fact that I’m drunk has nothing to do with the fact that Strife does not allow you to buy wards. Now vision and map presence will still be paramount, but wards will not be purchased items, they will be persistent structure on the map that will reveal the area around them for a set amount of time after they are activated by players. That means that you constantly have to go refresh their duration, but that you also don’t need to spend gold to do so. What it also means is that ward placements are static. No more peppering the map with hundreds of them. I imagine we’ll be seeing a few spots on the Strife map that will be permanently hidden (unless you’re face checking…).

Strife PAX Prime 2013

Strife is going to be a title that is worth looking into, even for players committed to other games. S2 has one of the boldest design teams, and their willingness to adapt to the changing landscape of the genre means that they are truly dedicated to making a great game, and perhaps most importantly, they’re humble about it. With the mechanically adaptations and innovations, not to mention the narrative focus that they teased at the booth, Strife can only be a good thing. I refuse to believe anything else. Only some drastic mishaps could prevent this game from being fun.

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