Arena of Valor Review
Nintendo SwitchAlso available on Android, iPad and iPhone
Arena of Valor is a massive hit on mobile because it manages to capture the 5v5 MOBA experience onto a touchscreen with smartly designed controls and sensible use of touch tapping. The Switch port is the first attempt at bringing the isometric 5v5 MOBA experience to consoles, and achieves it through the use of a smartly designed controller layout that takes some getting used to. Ultimately though, it shows that games such as League of Legends and DOTA 2 can feasibly be ported to consoles.
Arena of Valor already looks graphically pleasing on a mobile device. The Switch port manages to iron-out the graphics and bump them up to a higher resolution making the already colourful characters look and feel even smoother. It would’ve been better if the maps and environments were given a slight detail boost as the higher resolution makes them feel somewhat empty and dated. Ability effects are still flashy and satisfying making every teamfight feel like a true spectacle that rivals that of the game’s elder PC-bound siblings.
The game’s menus and interfaces have been adapted to work with a controller in a hit-or-miss fashion. Some of the high-level menu categories make sense while others have buried some of the game’s important functions in awkward segments. Nevertheless, getting into a game is fast and easy with all the quality you would expect from the MOBA space. Picking your hero though seems to be an exercise in frustration at times as initial syncing hinders you from making your selection for a few seconds which can ultimately lead to you having to go with your less desirable pick.
Keyboard and mouse has long been regarded as the isometric MOBA’s preferred method of control. The success of Arena of Valor on mobile, though, has shown that a simpler set of abilities and tighter character design make for a solid foundation for sensible touch controls. But how does this translate to a console controller? Surprisingly well! By taking a page from twin stick shooters, Arena of Valor delegates its movement and targeting to the Switch’s left and right analogue stick respectively. The shoulder and trigger buttons can be pressed to quickly use an ability or held in tandem with the right stick for more precise targeting. It takes some getting used to, but it makes sense after a few bot matches which the game requires you to do before jumping into actual player matches. Pinging the map can be performed either by using the D-pad buttons or by tapping on the screen in handheld mode.
Upgrading abilities and buying items is a little bit harder to adapt to on the fly, especially when against an enemy hero where the pressure is still quite high. The player must hold down a shoulder button corresponding to an ability or item and click X or Y respectively. It didn’t feel as intuitive to us, but thankfully there’s an auto-buy/auto-upgrade function that automatically makes a selection after several seconds. This function can be turned off during hero select.
Like with its mobile version and other games in the genre, Arena of Valor is a Free-to-Play game which is filled with micro-transactions. Almost everything in the game, from heroes to skins to Arcana (small upgrade items that can be applied to a talent tree for customising play-style), can be bought through the in-game store. As with most F2P games, there are two types of currency, one that can be earned by playing and can be used to buy heroes and other items, and one that can be bought with real money. While it takes a bit of time to build up enough of the former to buy one of the more expensive heroes, Arena of Valor, offers a few characters of varying play-styles for free, as well as more at very low prices to get the player started.
There are of course boosters for speeding up account levelling and currency gaining which are also dished out relatively frequently through the game’s various events and achievements. Arcana can also be found through the same means. However, the highest level Arcana seem to be only obtainable through one of the game’s two currencies, so the player might want to opt to save up for those.
The idea of an isometric MOBA being adapted to consoles seemed like it would never come to fruition. Arena of Valor challenges this notion by taking the concept from mobile and adapting it with an intuitive control scheme and smoothing out its graphical fidelity. Considering that the Switch has four shoulder buttons, it does make us wonder if a MOBA with heroes designed to have four abilities such as League of Legends could also be ported to home consoles. In the meantime, Arena of Valor will definitely scratch the itch for some fast-paced 5v5 action on Switch.