The issues surrounding Dota 2 are news to few and Valve have done something very unusual in creating this game. While it is the case that Valve have taken what were essentially mods and created full-blown games in the past, a practice now often seen in the indie movement, in this case they have taken a mod so deeply entrentched in a specific game and its world that controversy was bound to follow.
And, to an extent, I can understand the backlash by Blizzard, original DotA fans, Riot Games and others over this. It does seem a bit strange for Valve to take Dota 2 like this without getting a more workable response from the community as well as Blizzard. They only ever recruited the lead developer from the past 7 years, there were two developers before IceFrog, one of whom was the creator of what is the almost exclusively played version of the map. That creates a pretty strong case against Valve’s claim that they can register Dota 2 as a trademark.
Valve have a problem as it seems Blizzard are very willing to take them to task over the Dota 2 trademark claim and I think, as much as I dislike anything part of the great beast that is Activision, Blizzard are in the right about this one. The disappointing thing is that I have played the Dota 2 beta and Valve have a great products on their hands but I can’t help and wonder whether Valve’s aggressive push forward in developing and trademarking this while these issues remain was a bit more shrewd and manipulative that it might appear to some. Valve don’t normally have a reputation for developing something so polished, so quickly.
Certainly, Valve’s Dota 2 will come out in some form even if Blizzard wins its case and I have lost all ability to see Valve as the little guy fighting the big bad beast here because, as small as they are compared to what they now go against, they aren’t little and they should have forseen these problems. I just don’t trust Valve to throw straight dice in this. The questions I wonder are, if Valve wins this upcoming battle, will it affect Blizzard’s own DotA efforts or any continued development of the original Defense of the Ancients? With Team Fortress, Valve hired anyone and everyone who was part of the modding team and it wasn’t tied into one game’s world or mythology so deeply. IceFrog’s claim to the DotA trademark is suspect at best and the game is so bound up with Warcraft III that I can’t see Valve winning this one. At the end of it all, though, I am cheering for Blizzard on this one and I think it’ll be a good thing if Valve don’t get that trademark.
Developed by: 11 bit studios
Published by: 11 bit studios
Reviewed on: 21st April, 2011.
Presentation: The graphics and sound effects are very fitting to the setting and it looks very polished for an indie title. I particularly liked the good use of contrast on route-planning maps with the enemies coming up bright red against the blue backdrop and the interesting choice of setting (the cities of Baghdad and Tokyo) means the mission visuals don’t get boring quickly.
Atmosphere: The atmosphere is dark with the overall narrative seemingly describing a tale in retrospect (i.e. a cutscene ending with “I know, I was there”). It’s a little more plot heavy that these sorts of games tend to be, the atmosphere is tense, even if the soldiers under your command have a bit of a jockish attitude.
Control and Mechanics: The controls would be fine with any use of the mouse and a single key press. A few keys are used to access menus during the game (such as purchases or special abilities) but the game pauses at this point, allowing you to make your selection at leisure. The game also pauses during tactical map mode, allowing planned movements.
Who should buy this: Anyone who likes the tower defence genre and wants a new breath of life added to it. Anyone who likes the MOBA-style game of having one directly controlled character with special abilities, but placed to the role of a support character aiding and directing troops. Anyone who wants a game that really succeeds in doing something different.
Who should avoid it: If you really don’t like tower defence, you probably won’t like this inversion of the formula (but don’t hold me to that). If you don’t like thinking on your feet or the tense, last minute changes your plans will require, you could do better elsewhere. If you want multiplayer too, this game won’t be for you.
If I have to give a score: A solid game that is strong in all areas, it is let down only by the lack of multiplayer and small number of game modes. It does do interesting things with an increasingly stale genre and it belongs on any serious gamer’s machine. 3/4
Tower defence games are, alongside MOBA games like League of Legends or Heroes of Newerth, one of the two genres to descend from a Warcraft 3 mod (and, arguably, the first MOBA game) commonly called DotA (shortened from Defense of the Ancients). In tower defence games, your aim is to construct defences against a set number of enemies marching along a set path or paths before they reach a certain target or do a certain amount of damage.
There have been a lot of these games popping up in the last few years. Games like Defense Grid: the Awakening or Revenge of the Titans have done interesting things with the genre but there is only so much that can be done with a genre that consists in taking out a set number of enemies along a set path with finite defence configuration possibilities. The thing that A:WE brings to the table is that it inverts the play. In this, you are the force trundling along the ground being attacked by enemy towers and weapons trying to stop you from reaching a certain goal.
The setting is that in 2018, two objects fall from the sky and land in the cities of Baghdad and Tokyo, each forming a large shield of energy that envelopes much of the two cities. Six months later, at day zero, your team enters a crack within the shield at Baghdad and it all goes downhill from there as the alien presence within the dome has grown, leaving the city inside a wasteland.
Navigating your way through the cluttered streets does give one a real sense of being in command of a tactical operation. You only have direct control over your commander unit, as in MOBA games, but can direct which routes you take through the city to optimise your attempts to reach your goal. Each level gives you medals based on the efficiency and directness of your mission completeness, which adds the temptation to occasionally take that more dangerous route for directness or hold off that repair until the last minute for efficiency. Add a healthy dose of achievements to this mix (the game has 42 on Steam) and you have a lot of replay value there.
You also have the fact that individual units can be bought and upgraded with a variety of options being available to your convoy as you progress. The layout of your troops can be adjusted to put a line of damage-absorbing units at the front or a set of heavy-hitters depending on for what the situation calls. Your command unit can scout out ahead in his combat suit to collect upgrades that give his suit to ability to do a variety of things such as repair units (the most used ability given the damage they will take). These help you through the imposing enemy forces and it really is a buzz when you take down that first dangerous foe or wipe out a line of towers.
The only criticism I do have of the game is the relatively small number of game modes. It’s the sort of game that I felt lent itself to a variety of different styles of play and would have been excellent with more mod potential and multiplayer elements, but these are lacking. For the modest price tag, especially, this criticism is a minor one, but it seems like such an obvious thing to miss out.
Overall, a great game and a fine addition to a cluttered genre that comes as a breath of fresh air. For the small price tag, it is a great addition for anyone who is a fan of the genre or just wants to try something new and original.
Anomaly: Warzone Earth is out now and available for several platforms, priced £8.99. The website is here. Be warned that the Gamers Gate version has SecuROM.
The quick cap news
* Peter Molyneux is to receive a BAFTA fellowship, the highest honour bestowed by the British arts award body.
* Tax breaks in the next budget might be in the works for UK games developers, as a measure to bolster the growing industry.
* Bioshock 2 DLC goes up and then down on GfWL. Despite the problems, 2K gave assurances that refunds would be given to those who purchased the originally free DLC.
* A new pro-gaming show, covering Intel-sponsored games, draws in 2.26 million viewers on Eurosport.
* Former RedOctane CEO attributes the death of the Guitar Hero franchise to abuse from Activision.
* Gabe Newell, managing director of digital distribution front-runners Valve, proposes a merit-based system for the purchasing of future DLC and, possibly, games.
* The US Federal Trade Commission are to investigate free-to-play games due to consumer fears that children did not understand the ramifications of in-game purchases.
* Yet another study concludes that there is no desensitising effect to video games. Thank you for saying, yet again, what gamers already know, and conservatives and identity politics groups will ultimately ignore.
* Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood will feature DRM that is much more tolerable than its predecessor. No longer will gamers be required to remain connected to the internet constantly to show Ubisoft that they haven’t been playing a
second-hand pirated game.
* Witcher II developer CD Projekt Red asserted its own opposition to DRM in its new game, preferring a focus on richer game content. It was conceded that DRM may feature in the game as a result of factors from other parts of the retail chain.
* Several former Bizarre Creations employees have started a new studio, Lucid Games. Backed by local concerns trying to keep talent within Liverpool, the studio may create up to 50 jobs.
Telltale Games have been in the news a fair bit recently. Besides the recent Back to the Future series of episodic games, the developer has announced games based on the Jurassic Park franchise to appear in April. Further, they are expanding their range with the acquisition of DC’s Fables and a revival of Sierra classic King’s Quest. Other things in the pipeline included a publishing deal for indie adventure Hector: Badge of Carnage and a sequel to the earlier hit Puzzle Agent. Also, they released a video chronicling the rise of digital distribution.
* You won’t find this side of gaming out from Fox… Chime brings in $96,000 for charity.
* If human rights abuses and lack of democracy weren’t enough, it’s a bad day to be a gamer in Vietnam.
* Wind Waker stained glass auctioned on eBay.
* Petroglyph announces closed beta for its new F2P DotA style game, Rise of the Immortals.
* Also, this is one cool dad.
Have a good weekend all.