There’s no denying in my mind that MOBA’s, or multiplayer online battle arenas, brought competitive eSports into the general public’s eye. Now, Nintendo Switch is seeing the first title in the genre, Arena of Valor, make its way onto the platform. With some minor tweaks to controls, Arena of Valor is ideal on the Nintendo Switch when compared to its mobile counterpart, just don’t expect it to cure your League of Legends or Dota 2 addiction.
I would consider myself a competent MOBA player, but nowhere near the professional level. Dota 2 remains my most played game on Steam with 1600 hours, so I was eager to give this game a try on Switch. Firstly, because I’ve never played a MOBA on a console from an overhead perspective. Many of these games work much better in third-person with a controller, like Smite or Paragon. Developer Tencent Games made some minor tweaks, which are likely in the mobile version as well, to make sure the game would run smoothly regarding gameplay with a controller.
Thankfully, Arena of Valor works very well on the Switch. For attacking creeps, players are given a ring around their character to show their reach, and the game will automatically lock onto enemies, prioritizing enemy heroes. There were a few occasions where I’d accidentally lock onto creeps in the game’s jungle, but these moments were few and far between, albeit they did cause frustration at times. Skills can be executed with the shoulder buttons, some of which require you to also aim with the right stick, which can feel a bit odd considering you’ll need to execute them at a moments notice.
Since I started from the getgo like many others, I often found myself with people who had no idea what they’re doing. This can be the case in most MOBA’s, but luckily the chat is rather quiet considering this is on a console and it can be more cumbersome, as well as time-consuming, typing out messages to other players. Callouts can be accessed using two buttons, and they’re quite easy to navigate. Pinging, or sending out notifications via the map, are a bit more difficult as you’ll have to use the D-pad to open your map, then hover over where you need to ping, whereas on PC, you can typically just do this very quickly with your mouse.
Arena of Valor counteracts many of these minor issues by being a mobile game really. Matches are typically anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, which is nice if you’re short on time. League of Legends and Dota 2 matches often last at least 40 minutes.
Speaking of which, Arena of Valor draws heavily from League of Legends. It’s immediately noticeable upon entering your first match. But, if Riot Games isn’t going to bring League of Legends to Switch or even phones, it’s unsurprising that another developer would hop on board and make something that’s relatively similar in looks and feel. If you are a veteran of Riot’s mega MOBA, you’ll feel right at home in Arena of Valor.
The game looks really good on the Switch’s tiny screen in handheld mode, and even on my television, I felt as though I was playing league on my TV, with a controller. What a weird thought. Characters themselves are a bit generic. They look good, but Dota and League’s heroes are so well established in eSports, it’s hard to think Arena of Valor’s characters even hold a candle to them. You’ve got elves, fairies, meaty tanks with armor, rock dudes, robot dudes, it’s all here. Thankfully the cast is large and in return that means there’s a lot of content to explore.
Unfortunately, it takes a considerable amount of time to unlock characters. There are a few that can be purchased at a much lower price compared to others. But if you’re not planning on dishing out real money, get ready to do a lot of grinding. Of course, the game also has a constant rotation of free heroes to play as, which is nice as it allows players to try them out before purchasing them with their hard earned gold. It also doesn’t help that you cannot play in ranked games until you have at least five heroes. You start the game with two, outside of the free characters, so that means you’ll have to purchase three more. So if you want to get into ranked matches fast you’ll have to stick to the cheaper characters, albeit I’m unsure what dictates some characters being cheaper than others.
Rising in rank can be a bit frustrating. Certain characters will absolutely stomp newbies. Valhein in particular, a ranged character, is someone I saw in just about every match I played. Hell, even the first time I played him I believe I got something like 20 or so kills and maybe two deaths. It wasn’t until I began being placed with more skilled players, did I see people countering him. I did some research of my own and found that he and some other characters are considered “noob stompers,” so don’t be discouraged if you’re getting creamed. Learn from your mistakes. Arena of Valor offers a great practice mode where you can learn the ins and outs of every hero.
Arena of Valor has some options available that will allow you to automatically purchase items and upgrades. You can tweak various builds for all of your characters before matches, which is a really cool feature for controller users, as it makes it so you can purely focus on the game without getting distracted. Furthermore, there’s also a rune system (just like League of Legends) that allows you to add some of your own minor upgrades to your character.
I did slightly mention it before, but there’s really a lack of communication in Arena of Valor. Something that’s vital to the design of a MOBA. If you’re someone who’s going to jump into this game all alone, you’ll likely have little to no communication with your teammates. Even when I was using the preset phrases, I’d get mixed reactions. Sometimes my teammates would totally ignore me, other times they’d help, and once in a blue moon, my teammate would run into the enemy towers for no reason. Luckily for me, Arena of Valor was a much more casual experience compared to bigger MOBA titles on PC, so I was never really feeling distressed when my team was in dire situations.
Ultimately, I’d say Arena of Valor is a great appetizer to the greater world of MOBA games. It’s definitely got to be one of the best mobile takes on the genre I’ve ever played, and there’s no doubt I’ll boot it up every so often on my Switch. As mentioned, I think having some friends to go in with would help out a lot, especially if you’d like to win. A little coordination goes a long way in this game considering matches move at a lightning fast pace compared to others. It runs well, looks great, and is a whole lot of fun to play on the Nintendo Switch. It’ll be interesting to see whether or not the community on Switch will grow in the coming future.