The world doesn’t need another MOBA.
Riot Games’ recently revealed that League of Legends boasts over 100 million active monthly players. This makes them the undisputed king of the kingdom, so to speak. What land is left in the MOBA empire is currently being fought over by Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and Smite. Release a MOBA title now, and you had better be prepared to fight for market scraps.
No, the world doesn’t need another MOBA. Well, at least until it absolutely does.
If you’ve been monitoring the top seller section of Steam’s store page the last few weeks, you’ll probably have noticed the persistent presence of a game called Battlerite. To be fair, Battlerite is not a MOBA. If anything, it’s more of a team arena shooter minus the shooting.
Actually, it’s more like a fighting game in an arena setting. It does, however, feature heroes, skills, mounts, arenas and many other aspects commonly associated with the MOBA genre. It’s a MOBA stripped down to its barest form.
What makes Battlerite special is that it has no qualms about what it is. It can’t be, and is not trying to be, League of Legends. It recognizes elements that make League and games like it popular, but it only uses them as a first draft.
Upon that foundation, the developers have built something that worthwhile of their own design. It’s like…well, it’s like a game that has forced many people to resort to comparisons in order to describe it.
Does that make it a rip-off? Very well then, it’s a rip-off.
This isn’t just about Battlerite, though. It’s about a game like Overwatch that took the Team Fortress 2 formula and found a way to revitalize it. It’s about a franchise like Mafia that, after all these years, still finds itself in the creative shadow of Grand Theft Auto. It’s about the upcoming Resident Evil VII and its uncanny stylistic resemblance to Hideo Kojima’s P.T. It’s about a legion of current titles that all find themselves at least partially burdened with the label of rip-off.
What a shame that is. You can say that the quality of these games will ultimately speak louder than any label they are burdened with, and you’d probably be right. That’s a cold comfort, though, to the prevalent culture of oversimplification that has existed since the first “Doom-like” game was branded as such. Eventually, that sub-genre would go on to earn the label of first-person shooters, but the practice of closely associating new titles with what came before remained.
In a way, it’s natural to compare games to each other. Familiarity is a great tool for describing something new to someone with accuracy. Familiarity can also breed contempt, though. Contempt for the thing itself, and contempt for the ideas it represents.
There are rip-offs in the video game world. Shameless ones at that. There are also a plethora of great games that want to turn inspiration into something inspired. When it comes to separating the two, you need only put away your cynicism and pick up a controller.