Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas, or MOBAs for short, don’t get a lot of shine on consoles these days, and in a weird way it feels as if the entire genre has a negative aura around it. Perhaps that is why developer Toylogic and publisher PLAION have been marketing their free-to-play MOBA Warlander largely as a “team-based warfare game”, which turned out to be a small stroke of marketing genius, as it roped in this MOBA skeptic to give the game a shot. I must admit, I am surprised at how much I like it, and it’s the game I kept going back to during my weekend play sessions.
So, what do you do in Warlander? That’s where the MOBA influences come in. Depending on the game mode, two or five teams battle for control of the map by taking over towers (which act as spawn points) and ultimately you are trying to destroy the enemy team’s core, which is located at their castle on the opposite side of the map. I stuck to the 40-player two-team mode, because it got the hooks in me early. One neat feature of Warlander is that you get to vote on overall team strategy and each squad’s mission pre-match. Perhaps you think the team should play aggressively for a match, so you vote to have extra assault squads and only one squad of defenders. As for squads, you can vote on which role you would like your squad to have in the upcoming battle – attackers, special ops, or defenders. Attackers and defenders are self-explanatory, while special ops are responsible for capturing and controlling spawn points to help push your team forward. The whole system works well and forces the team to work together; there is also one player designated as a commander to keep squads on-task.
If there is one thing that any free-to-play game has to get right it is first impressions, and Warlander pulls it off. It’s easy to pick-up and play, handling a lot like your typical third-person hack-and-slash game, with each character class having basic attacks and multiple abilities. There are three unique classes: Cleric, Mage, and Warrior. Clerics act as healers, mages as, well…Mages, and Warriors as tanks. Each class feels designed properly around its role while still being fun to play. I’ve gravitated toward the Mage because finger-pistoling magical arrows is just so much fun, but body-slamming enemies as a Warrior is also quite satisfying.
I’m not very good at defeating other players in combat – which is a general problem of mine in multiplayer games – but the beauty of Warlander is that, because of its focus on teamwork, I always felt like I was contributing something. Maybe I was just healing and reviving warriors with my cleric, but at least I was doing my part! Beyond the moment-to-moment fighting, game-changing abilities called Idol Cataclysms randomly spawn on the map, and are up for grabs for whichever team can claim it first. The two cataclysms I’ve experienced so far are a giant mech siege weapon that four players can ride on, and a fireball barrage of some sort. They keep things hectic on the battlefield and force teams to change tactics mid-match. Letting a mech march all the way to your castle undeterred is a surefire recipe for defeat, for example.
The one gripe I have with the game, and it’s truly a catch-22, is that at the start of a match you are required to spawn as a basic, low-level version of a character. As you gain XP with each class, you unlock new “titles”, which unlock new stat boosts and abilities. Therefore, instead of being able to start a match as my leveled-up Apprentice Mage, I have to begin as a base-level mage instead. After accumulating enough in-game points (the name of which escapes me), I can then spawn as my higher-level characters. I completely understand why Toylogic did it – balancing. If I was getting destroyed by high-level sweats right off the bat, I definitely would have quit before giving Warlander a proper chance. Still, it’s a minor annoyance having to wait to use my more powerful heroes, but honestly I can’t think of a better way to do it. In the end, it does not detract all that much from the experience.
Like all free-to-play service titles, staying relevant over the long haul is the challenge, but Warlander brings something new to the table on consoles that proves hopeful – and fun. In a vast sea of shooters and battle royales, we have found a lighthouse to guide us in from the free-to-play storm, but don’t just take my word for it – Warlander is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
Hello! I'm Jason, the newest member of Gaming Nexus. My favorite genres of games are strategy, management, city-builders, sports games, RPGs, and shooters, but I don't limit myself to those. My favorite game of all-time is Red Dead Redemption 2 and I have somehow played it for nearly 1,000 hours. I also co-host a weekly PlayStation news podcast called The Dual Sense Podcast, so I stay pretty well versed in that ecosystem. Before that, I co-hosted a basketball podcast.View Profile