MOBAs are a genre of games that is very hard to get into – or rather, it depends highly on the game’s age and the mechanics in it. Some games are easier to get into than others, primarily because of simpler mechanics or good introductions into them.
Others, however, can prove incredibly difficult to learn – not to mention mastering them. I’ve been playing a lot of League of Legends for more than ten years now, for instance, and it took me ages until I even learned what items did or why you’d buy certain items on certain characters against certain other characters.
It took me even longer to learn what roles I enjoy and what all the champions do… and while it’s easier nowadays, there are still moments where I’m not exactly sure what happened.
Developer: Hidden Leaf Games Publisher: Hidden Leaf Games Genre: MOBA, Early Access, F2P Release Date: November 30th, 2022 Reviewed on: PC Available on: PC Copy was provided by the developer.
Onto today’s game, Fangs, a MOBA designed and developed by one of the former League of Legends and DOTA developers, Steve “Guinsoo” Feak, and his team over at Hidden Leaf Games.
Note: The images in this post are from the Press Kit since my Screenshot Button on Steam didn’t work.
Someone from Hidden Leaf Games provided me with a key for the Early Alpha where I got to try the game a bit to gather impressions fo this post here. The game itself is rather fast-paced and attempts to lower the hurdle required to get into the genre.
In contrast to other MOBAs, Fangs sets out to change the rules completely by not only having teams of four fight over one objective but also by introducing hero-specific strategies, augments that alter the way you play the game, and an easy-to-learn yet hard-to-master core gameplay experience… but does it succeed in that?
Fangs is rather fast-paced with relatively short rounds on three different maps with two main objectives. The teams consist of four players each. There are two win conditions: You either push the payload onto the enemy base by standing in a circle around the “Aspect” while preventing enemies from interfering… or you kill the enemy “Captain” four times. The Captain is chosen randomly on each side and has the ability to equip more augments, essentially making them stronger in the process.
This sort of adds an interesting dynamic into the game where you have to constantly decide on whether or not you want to try and defeat the enemy Captain or fight fast-paced battles around the Aspect while constantly pushing it.
At the same time, you may try and claim one of three relics to buff your team or debuff the enemy team – although that means that you have fewer people defending your Captain or fewer people available in a team fight.
Personally, I like the idea of this in-the-moment decision-making being emphasized, especially since this makes teamplay and team coordination rather important… In practice, however, a lot of rounds end up just being skirmishes between the two teams. One side wins them and pushes the Aspect toward the other side’s base… and it creates this sort of momentum that is hard to recover from, resulting in stomps more than anything.
I like the ideas present here but my experience with the game has been overwhelmingly negative. A lot of this, however, can be attributed to the game and its playerbase being incredibly new. Bugs and flaws can be ironed out throughout Fangs’ Early Access period… and the game surely will get better as it continues to be developed.
In the beginning, there is a tutorial that I found rather lacklustre personally. I got a bit overwhelmed by the fact that there are so many buttons to press, none of which were explained to me. The tutorial demands you to press a specific button a few times on training dummies but it doesn’t explain what abilities do. Hero-specific tutorials might be much, much better.
Then, once you beat the tutorial where you’ve played a Ranged Fighter… you have to choose between Ranged Fighters, Melee Fighters, and Supporters. You receive three heroes of the chosen class as well as one extra unit of every class. I found this counter-intuitive as it means that you need to unlock other heroes at the beginning through currency you buy or earn without getting to know their playstyles or mechanics.
It may not be fair to draw this comparison but League of Legends does this a lot better. Initially, you only play against bots – but by playing the game, more and more mechanics (Summoner Spells, Runes, etc.) are added to the game. Initially, you get to play only a specific set of relatively simple characters… but you also unlock bonus characters as you level up, meaning you get introduced specific playstyles that you may enjoy as you move on.
While it’s true that League of Legends is hard to get into due to complex mechanics like items, runes, skill-level order, and more, a lot of this has been improved so that newer players have an easier time getting into the game, not to mention 3rd-party programs that allow players to just search for the best builds and set-ups per champion.
Fangs cuts out a lot of this to make it arguably easier for players to get into… at the same time, you have to deal with learning a character’s abilities – and there are many of them. Each character comes with a passive ability as well as an ability on LShift, E, Space, R and the two mouse buttons. There is also a button for your “boon”, an active item you can change out depending on what you want or need in a match-up.
A lot of the spells are skill-shots which increase the skill-ceiling, probably… but I found it hard to keep track of what is happening since every character has six different hero-specific abilities that then also receive hero-specific augments that change the way they play.
And again, that makes it hard for people to get into the game.
The other issues I had with the game include a lot of bugs and performance issues. I struggled with the fact that you may end up getting disconnected from the game but you cannot reconnect at any time, against increasing the hurdle for newer players. Despite not looking that impressive, the game’s framerate would tank from time to time for no reason in particular. At the same time, hitting F1 to display your abilities should show you information about the character you’re playing at the moment… At times, though, the button shows you information about the hero you tried in the tutorial, Rayo, which is fairly bad.
I enjoy playing Support champions in LoL and Specialist heroes in HOTS. I enjoy Support Classes in RPGs and MMOs… and yet… I haven’t seen one game yet where supports have this little damage while also providing this little utility. Team Compositions consisting of four damage dealers can practically stomp you every single game because picking a Support character essentially appears to put your team behind.
At the same time, there are no restrictions, so, players can in theory pick four Supports, leading to frustrating stomps where the enemies just kill you over and over again… with no way of surrendering early.
Again, though, I’m sure a lot of this can get fixed. Match-making might need some tweaks so that it doesn’t pit newbies against veterans right away. The game’s mechanics may get tweaked. Heroes may get balanced out… and I’m sure this game could be quite promising given time.
At the moment, however, I found Fangs deeply frustrating and frankly not enjoyable at all, even if I’d really like to like th egame.