Dec 8th, 2016

MOBAs, or multiplayer online battle arenas, are a genre of game that’s relatively new to mainstream gamers despite being around since the late 90s. The concept originated as a mod for Warcraft III called Defense of the Ancients, in which players assume the role of heroes and battle it out against one another for control of the map.

All MOBAs feature the same core concept, but some of them are quite different in their execution. There have been some failed attempts at mimicking some of the most popular features in League of Legends and DOTA 2, but ultimately there are only a handful of MOBA games worth your time. If you’re new to the genre and you’re not sure where to start, this is a basic primer on the main MOBA games available today.

DOTA 2

dota-2

If you’re a veteran to strategy and online games, DOTA 2 is the best place to get started. It closely mimicks the feel of the original mod for Warcraft III and all of the original heroes from the mod are represented in this game in some form or another.

Of all of the games available, it’s the only game that makes heroes available to you immediately without having to unlock them. Other games operate on a rotation basis, with a limited set of free heroes that are available all the time and another set that rotate out weekly.

The top-down view may put some players off and the difficulty in learning about last hitting mobs and tactics for winning the battlefield can make this game one of the harder MOBAs to master, but once you have a hero that you’re confident with you’ll soon be dominating your lanes in no time.

Availability: PC only

League of Legends

league-of-legends

League of Legends is probably the game you’ve heard about when people discuss MOBAs. It’s very similar to DOTA 2, but Riot has made some key changes to the gameplay that make it easier to master for those who have no experience with either the DOTA mod or DOTA 2 itself. Last hitting monsters isn’t a thing and there are constantly new heroes being added to the roster, thanks to Riot’s active development.

While the DOTA 2 eSports and tournament scene is one of the biggest, more people watch League of Legends games thanks to the huge eSports and Twitch scene. There are 123 heroes to choose from in the game, with a handful of them available for free. The game rotates new free heroes every week and if you find a hero you really like, you’ll need to fork over some cash in order to keep it available.

If you’re looking for a game with extensive guides and an active community so you can learn, League of Legends is the best place to start.

Availability: PC Only

Smite

smite

Smite is different from the previous two mentioned games in several different ways. It’s one of the only third-person MOBAs available, so if you don’t like the top-down strategy view of traditional MOBAs Smite is especially for you. It’s heroes are taken from different pantheons of gods in cultures across the globe, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Norse, Chinese, Mayan, and Japanese.

Like League of Legends, Smite follows a hero rotation model. A hero from each of the game’s five classes is available for free while another set rotate on a weekly basis and reset every Tuesday. Just like LoL, if you find a hero you really like during the free rotation, you’ll have to spend some cash on gems in order to unlock it. If you’d rather have all the heroes available to you at once, the Ultimate God Pack for $29.99 unlocks all current and future heroes.

Smite is also one of the only MOBAs available to console players. It’s available on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and has pretty thriving communities on those individual consoles. While DOTA 2 has its workshop gamemodes for experiencing different kinds of play, Smite really shines here. There are seven different game modes with seasonal PvE modes available.

Availability: PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4

Paragon

paragon-moba

Paragon is a relatively newcomer to the MOBA scene, developed by Epic Games. It features a less cohesive cast of characters set in an ultra-realistic setting with the third-person view that makes Smite so popular. If you’re not a fan of the cartoony graphic in Smite, try Paragon.

Unlike Smite, which features hero rotation like League of Legends, Paragon takes DOTA 2’s model of making all the heroes available for free to play. Where it differentiates itself from the previously mentioned games is the decks you can build to kit out your hero.

Card packs are earned through reputation and leveling up, similarly to how Hearthstone builds get more complex as you obtain more cards. The only real downside to this system is due to the RNG, you may be stuck seeking a card you really want with no way to craft it if you haven’t yet obtained it from your card packs.

Like Smite, Paragon is also available to PlayStation 4 and PC owners, but there are currently no plans for an Xbox One release.

Availability: PC and PlayStation 4 only