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Dawngate First Look
After getting a beta key two or so weeks ago, I was able to get into one of the beta weekend events this weekend for Dawngate, Waystone Games’ upcoming MOBA . And while it’s a well-crafted game so far, Dawngate hasn’t done enough to elevate itself to the status of “must play”, although the game is still safely in beta and able to make any changes they deem necessary. In interest of saving your time, I won’t give a “full” preview, instead focusing on a few ideas that Dawngate implements which significantly change the way it plays in regards to other MOBAs. . . even though I dislike the term “MOBA”.
To reiterate, this is not a comprehensive preview of the game, but a first look that highlights some nice evolutions in Dawngate’s gameplay.
Many Roles to Roll With
In the selection menus before a match starts, you are shown a checklist of four different roles that you might, as a player, want to fulfill. It’s an elegant solution that takes the first step on the road to creating effective teams. By making it an option to interact with rather than leaving it up to players to remember and decide, it makes it more likely that a team will work toward more effective team compositions. Especially since it seems to incorporate some of the spirit of League of Legend’s “Mastery” system by rewarding you for playing a certain way. In my mind, the effects are two-fold: either you will reinforce, through Pavlovian training, the various roles that players can fill.
The four roles are Predator, Hunter, Gladiator, and Tactician. Predator seems the go-to role for a “kill lane” [a lane with enough damage and control to enable a lot of kills] or a jungler that plays more like assassin because it boosts gold gain by about 30% for kills and assists. Tactician is the support role that gains increased passive gold gain from staying near creeps that die in lane as well as giving gold for harassing enemy players with autoattacks. Gladiator suits the more traditional carry role with because it increases the amount of gold gained from last-hitting as a stacking buff (with a cap [of about 30 gold more than usual?]). Hunter is the basic jungler role as it increases rewards for last hitting jungle creeps.
Binary (Lane) Decisions
Loading into the map after the selection phase is over is quick, and you are greeted by a very different-looking map. A thick center jungle bisects the map shunting a lane and outer jungle to each side. In my opinion, the lack of a third lane heavily incentivizes someone taking up the “jungling” position. While the developers in livestreams of the game said that they like the idea of numerous, flexible metas, it just feels like it would be a waste to let all those succulent jungle creeps live, money and all. It positively brings a tear to my eye.
The Spirit (Wells) of Dawngate
A late minute entry to my notes, I would have committed a hideous faux-pas by not noting this little feature. Dawngate is unlike most MOBAs where all gold spooling is handled by invisible fairies that drop a few coins into the bag of holding in your back pocket every couple of seconds. In Dawngate, the gold spooling is handling in a more traditional RTS-manner. At the start of them game, each team starts with two of these spirit wells on their side of the jungle but at opposite ends. Those spirit wells are managed by an expanding amount of workers that increase the amount of gold players passively gain on each team. If that weren’t enough, after ten minutes have passed in the game, the spirit wells on each team unlock and are able to be captured by the enemy team which reduces how much vim, or gold, one team gets and boosts the capturers’. This opens up another objective to vie for while pushing towards the enemies’ base. Do you take the next enemy Binding (tower) or do you take one of their spirit wells? In practice, from the few games that I played, it was more the jungler’s job to watch these spirit wells and defend against counter-jungling. If an enemy cannot fully capture the spirit well, they can make themselves a nuisance and murder your cute little workers to hamper your income slightly, though not as effectively as killing it off entirely through a capture.
It has to be said that Dawngate is extremely fun to play and there were very few mechanical mistakes that marred the few hours of experience I was able to take away from this weekend. But it currently has no feature, mechanic, or gimmick that make it the definitive game of the genre. If it sounds like I’m waffling or being needlessly critical, don’t mistake me. I’m just trying to (futilely I’m sure) avoid the inevitable debates about which game is the “X”-killer for whatever genre. If you have tried other MOBAs and have not found a good fit, then there is certainly enough about Dawngate to warrant taking a look at it.