Why do DotA 2 players have to be so mean to me? So what if I don't know what I'm doing? So what if your precious stats might suffer a blemish? Why don't you try teaching me how to play instead of screaming in the text chat? The same goes for the League of Legends community. Multiplayer Online Battle Arena games (or MOBA games) have recently caught fire and exploded in popularity, but the highly competitive nature of MOBAs typically ends in hurt feelings. Thankfully, Smashmuck Champions is here to change all that.
While I've dabbled only lightly in DotA 2 or League of Legends, I doubt I'll ever want to go back. Even if I could grasp the controls and strategies involved in holding down the jungle or even just keeping a left lane safe, the communities are so full of vile and unfriendly gamers that it'd be a short-lived stay regardless. Where some MOBA games seem to cultivate this anti-newb sentiment, Smashmuck Champions aims to buck the trend by streamlining combat and lowering the stakes.
The first step Kiz Studios took to accomplish this was to greatly lower the time commitment it takes to play a full match. While a game of DotA 2 or LoL might take 20-30 minutes to finish, even if your team is getting destroyed, Smashmuck only asks for 10 minutes of your time. Getting into a match and completing one on the show floor at PAX Prime only took about 15 minutes and that was with a few minutes left on the clock for the gamer playing before me. On the show floor, two game modes were playable. One was a Domination-style capture-the-point mode and the second was Capture the Flag, but the flag was replaced with some other item that didn't really change the mode's gameplay at all.
I took control of Scuttlemuck, a pirate-themed hero that also had a Daniel Boone-inspired skin. Other heroes have different skills and strengths and there are 20 to choose from. Zert is a robotic hero with a ton of speed and slightly less health than I was comfortable with for my first time playing the game. Scathe is a big scaly dragon who can push enemies off of platforms with his size, but you'll have to deal with reduced speed too. Scuttlemuck was a nice, middle-of-the-road champion with ranged attacks.
His first ability let me set a hunting trap for enemy players who wanted to steal my team's flag. His second ability let me blind an enemy near me and punish in the confusion. The final ability gave Scuttlemuck a big spear that could pierce multiple enemies and push them off of high perches. It might sounds like combining these powers would result in a guaranteed kill, but it's easier said than done.
Certainly Smashmuck Champions gives players the opportunity to become skilled, finessed heroes of the battlefield over time, but it doesn't have the same barrier to entry that other MOBAs rely so heavily on. I think a lot of it had to do with the smaller maps, an always-available pop up map that would reveal every player's position, and the lower player count. Teams in the two modes available at PAX were restricted to 3 on 3 and arenas were much smaller than you'd expect for a MOBA.
I immediately likened it to Super Smash Bros. Sure, if you wanna be super technical and learn frame-by-frame combos, you can play Super Street Fighter IV and have an awesome time, but for the rest of us Super Smash Bros. and its bottled chaos was deep enough. I think the same is true of Smashmuck Champions. Experienced MOBA players might find it a little shallow, but it's set up to do an excellent job of teaching and familiarizing inexperienced players with MOBA mechanics those other guys might take for granted.
Selecting skills and heroes, controlling specific areas of the battlefield, and smartly pursuing objectives require a lot more experience in DotA 2 or LoL. Hardcore players who've already learned the ins and outs don't have the patience to teach newbies like me, so Smashmuck Champions will provide a much needed step-up program for people interested in the competitive MOBA phenomenon.
Curious? You can try the game for yourself right now. Head to smashmuck.com/register to sign up for an account. You can download the client and start playing right now, whether you're an experienced MOBA maven or someone interested in the scene and too shy to ask for help (don't bother, the childish gamers who currently excel at MOBAs will just scream at you anyway). Even if you're reluctant to sign up at the Kiz Studios site, Smashmuck Champions will be available on Steam next week. It's a totally free-to-play game and only certain cosmetic items are paid for. You can earn most of the game's content by playing, leveling up, and earning in-game currency so if you've got the time to kill, download the game and give it a shot.
And before you attack me in the comments for talking crap about MOBA players, consider exactly what you're about to type before you reinforce the stereotype I've laid out in this preview. I don't think there'd be an audience for Smashmuck Champions if it weren't for the horrible reputation DotA and League communities have established. My sentiment is just that: a stereotype. Try to prove me wrong while I do my best to learn the ropes in Smashmuck's beta.