Gaming on the mobile platform has certainly picked up since it first caught our attention during the Angry Birds and Candy Crush era, wow, how long ago was that? Having started out with basic puzzles and endless runners of 5 years ago we now look at fighters, shooters and even full blown RPGs being playable on iOS and Android. The type of games you would expect only to see on consoles and PC. MOBAs may have been available on mobile for some time now but only recently has been picked up to be pushed by bigger companies to their audience, bolstering the user base and baiting in other new similar titles into the market. So far there have been three that have prominently been promoted around the local scene, or maybe four if you count Heroes Evolved (which I fortunately or unfortunately have failed to play due to time constraints). But generally what have appeared on the scene is Mobile Legends (ML), Arena of Valor (AoV) and VainGlory (VG). One might be confused as to what would be good to try out with maybe friends playing different titles so why don’t I help you by giving you a bit of a comparison between each of them to help you get an idea of what might be a good fit for you? We’re going to go through each game the same manner of how I’d review a single gaming title, but will probably forego giving them a score to keep things from getting convoluted and maybe just pronounce a winner on the certain aspects we give focus on. Covering each one in succession, let’s dive right in.
Mobile Legends doesn’t really look that impressive at all compared to its more contemporary counterparts. It’s clearly going for the look of the game it was heavily ‘inspired’ on, League of Legends. Though one big difference would be the fact that LoL has already updated its look while ML still carries the vintage 3D look. It would be assumed that most of the design decisions by ML is more towards making the game as accessible as possible to multiple types of smartphones. Considering the amount of obvious users it has there’s really not much of a ‘beef gate’ (generally I’m referring to strength of hardware, here) to being able to play Mobile Legends.There’s really not much more to note about ML in terms of production, their character designs are hardly the type I would call original and the voice overs are borderline cringey, fortunately you’re probably too busy trying to win a game to notice any of that.
Arena of Valor actually looks quite impressive for a mobile game. A lot of the screen is put to use to show you as much of the game around you as possible. There’s a general amount of detail consistent with most of the map and the characters that it’s pretty easy to recognize what’s going on and who it’s going on against. The fact that there’s a degree of uniqueness for the effects adds to the unique feel of every hero. The audio experience isn’t really all that amazing but it generally passes.
VainGlory however, is quite the looker as it markets to be competing against PC Mobas. Everything has subtle animations and looks detailed to in a way that nothing looks boring to look at. There is an odd choice where statuses are shown in text rather than any other graphic option but it doesn’t really get in the way. The scale of characters make it difficult to adore how everything looks considering how zoomed out the game is. But this design choice is more to make planning actions within the game easier considering that it doesn’t go with the ‘touch screen controller’ method.
In general, I liked VainGlory’s looks the best as it not only made pretty cool effects and animations but have spared no expense to make the detailing on their environments look good as well.
Generally each of the three mobas work the same way. There’s a base to defend and heroes to fight with and against, where each game starts as a clean slate and a hero of your choice. Where they start being different is the mechanics beyond what’s immediately obvious.
For Mobile Legends there’s several preset runes that you get to upgrade, giving you some minor increase in base stats and each rune is specified for a certain role. Using matching runes or magic dust to increase the potency a little bit by levelling it up. Runes are generally obtained through random drops or bought at the store but you can do perfectly well without having to buy anything. In combat almost all skills are auto-aimed to opposing heroes so much of the game is about proper positioning and timing.
In Arena of Valor you gain more arcana slots as you level up, each slot can be assigned a type of stat boost that can give big or small stat boosts as there they range from Lv 1 to 3. You can have several presets saved so you can easily switch how they’re setup for certain roles. Arcanas are bought at the store or obtained by random drop at battles. The combat mechanics in this title have more of a ‘skill shot’ factor to them so pulling off proper hero combinations or hitting big ultimates have a bit more satisfaction to them as execution of strategies and combos do require a bit of calculation and anticipation.
Vain Glory in the other hand has a talent system where certain skills are powered up per hero. There doesn’t appear to be a way to supplement the required materials other than random drop. While the talents isn’t available for every mode it’s quite annoying as there’s so many types of loot you can get as random drops from prizes in battle. Three types of currencies, fragments for almost every skin in the game, and fragments for each talent. However, VainGlory also has the most interesting offerings in terms of depth of gameplay and variation in objectives. You can dominate a jungle, steal gold from a mine, destroy an opponent’s sentry, and of course, crush your competition and destroy their base.
In this case, you will see a trend of complexity and depth getting more intense in an ascending order, with Mobile Legends being the least complex and Vain Glory holding the most amount of calculation and strategization within each minute. I would usually prefer games that show more depth, as it usually means that there’s more meat to bite into when playing it but I would actually say that Mobile Legends holds 1st place among the three, and for a reason that none of them can really avoid, which I’ll get to later.
Mobile Legends and Arena of Valor I would say are more or less the same when it comes up with new content. Each of them features new events on a seasonal basis that don’t really present that much as new, however the addition of new playable heroes is always welcome, even if they’re for some reason from DC comics (this was such a strange collab for me). They always open up the game and present interesting new ways of playing the same game mode or map.
However, I’d have to say that AOV in the Philippines has been showing a lot of updates since it started. While it is ineed not in parity with the current versions out in Europe, it seems to be planning a healthy update schedule to keep the experience fresh for some time.
Vain Glory in the other hand has announced its plans to update to the 5v5 format sometime in the earlier part of 2018. Suggesting major changes based on their press releases. You’ll also notice that they have game modes that are more fine tuned towards making more specific types of experiences rather than a slight variation from its default game mode.
All in all, I’d give the win for this round to Vain Glory as all of it’s game modes feel like a great and unique experiences on their own. There’s also looking forward to the big revamps it promises with the upcoming 5v5 mode.
I usually talk about the net code and connectivity at this part of a review, and for those who know, this is the reason why Mobile Legends particularly stands out when actually playing the game. It’s very easy to maintain a strong connection with low latency to the servers of ML. The other two don’t hold up very well at all, it even comes with highly functional voice chat. If a point of contention is how easy it is to play, ML is probably on the lead here.
However, as I mentioned before Arena of Valor has shown plenty in making updates, and is even offering an ability to stream and record your games. Considering that this is on mobile, this is a huge feature to be able to produce. The feature is somewhat present in Vain Glory but AoV is showing more promise to further improve the currently available features. So in general, I think AoV lands a win here in the feature segment of this article.
In the end it all really comes down to preference. Each of these titles perform well with what they aim to do and have much to look forward to, if what they offer is to your taste. I would gladly recommend any of them to anyone willing to try the game if I think it’s a match for what they want. However, everyone is probably expecting me to pick a bottom line winner.
Considering how rewarding the experience is during play and how much I look forward to playing more, nothing quite grabbed me like how Vain Glory did. And that’s quite a feat, considering it’s the game I played last and probably the one I had the least time to fiddle with. Figuring out intricacies with how each hero worked and the roles they take is something I really enjoy doing in games. Each hero provided unique and interesting mechanics, and it’s quite possible to make deviations of how each hero should play out to suit how you like it to a certain degree.
This doesn’t make the other two any less legitimate as mobile mobas, I have spent time playing them and especially with ML, thanks to it’s top tier connectivity and simplicity of play, always has active users and I can literally pick up and play virtually wherever there’s proper signal within the country.
For those of you who have shyed away from the likes of Dota 2 or League of Legends, but are willing to dabble in it even just to try it, trying these mobile titles are something I strongly recommend for you to try out. They have made it a point to make the game as accessible and easy to learn as possible while trying to keep the game still challenging enough to keep you on the wild ride MOBAs will offer to you, whether it be an ego-inflating win streak or a rage-inducing series of losses. But the best part is the fact that this can be a shared experience among your peers, friends, or other strangers you meet who happen to play the game. Opening yourself to the world of esports has never been so easy as simply a few taps on your smartphone.