Now before this article properly begins, I’d just like you to think of what comes to your mind first when you think of the word MOBA.
Do you think League of Legends? Maybe Overwatch? God forbid even Paladins (just kidding don’t hate me!)
A MOBA is short for a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena. This entails players fighting against other players (PvP) in order to complete a goal, such as frag limits, destroying bases or capturing objectives. Recently, the MOBA genre has tightened a bit, only being referred to as games that involve using minions/creeps/droids/fodder to push against towers with the goal of destroying the enemy base. However, there are many other games that are considered MOBAs without this classification.
Some MOBAs you may have heard of are:
- League of Legends (LoL)
- Dungeon of the Ancients 2 (DOTA2)
- Team Fortress 2 (TF2)
Now some people may be reading this list and thinking “But wait, TF2 isn’t a MOBA!” Well, that’s where you’re wrong.
While it is not specifically called a MOBA and is not commonly referred to as one, you do use a single player controlled unit as part of a team to attack the enemy and achieve and objective. This is sometimes using the tug of war layout, sometimes using others such as a single sided tug or the timed tug, being control points, attack/defend and payload in that order. The big question is…
What do these games have in common?
Well I’ll tell you. The things these games all have in commons are as follow:
- Class/character based gameplay
- Heavily required teamwork and co-ordination
- An enemy team of players which must be beaten
- Large, exploitable terrain
And most importantly – objectives.
In the thick of this article I’m going to be taking you through the similarities and differences that all sorts of MOBA style games have and help you (hopefully) find which games are right for you!
MOBAs have loads of abbreviations, so here are a few important ones you should know for all of them:
- DPS – Damage Per Second
- GG – Good Game/Good Going
- WP – Well Played
- AFK – Away From Keyboard
- BRB – Be Right Back
- MVP – Most Valuable Player
- DMG – Damage
- HP – Health Points
- Burst/Nuke – Instant damage/damage in a second (eg 500dmg burst = 1 attack that does 500dmg)
- Top – Top lane’s tower
- Mid – Middle lanes tower
- Bot – Bottom lane’s tower
- Carry – the DPS who does most of the killing and pushing, the one to cause a snowball and make their team win
- Supp – Support
- Creeps – Monsters
- Mobs – Monsters
Note: There are many more terms than the ones listed here, but you’ll learn them as you play.
First things first, before you even get in to a game, you have to know what you want to do in that game. Do you wanna go beat stuff up? Help people beat stuff up? Possibly get beat up so your friends can beat them up for you? Or maybe you wanna help people who’ve been beat up? Well fear not because there’s a character for almost every want.
The DPS (Damage Per Second) aka Damage Dealers
These guys are usually the ones to pick a fight and dish out either heavy, single hits or sustained powerful damage. Examples of these are:
- TF2’s Pyro – Consistent, heavy close-up damage but susceptible to ambush or long ranged weaponry/damage.
- DOTA’s Drow Ranger – Long ranged, consistently hitting shots that stack to deal large damage, though is very squishy, or
- Overwatch’s Tracer – Good dps up close, has mobility to get in to the thick of the fight but can’t take hits well.
The main similarities they share are their heavy damaging capabilities, their mobility/chasing options and their low health.
The big differences between DPS are how they apply their damage. Different games have different a focus; such as Tracer’s close ranged pistols compared to Drow Ranger’s long ranged assault. Even in the same game you have many differences, such as the aforementioned heavy hits or sustained damage. An an example being Nibbs from Awesomenauts with her firebreath dealing light damage but very quickly, allowing for it to easily stack up, compared to Clunk’s self-destruct, dealing incredibly heavy burst damage in an area but taking a while to recharge.
What type of person plays this: The ones who want to feel as though they’re winning the game for the team, the one who wants to learn setups and cycles and have great map awareness and look generally like a champ. DPS/damage dealer players are usually solo groups who want to carry their team or don’t want to rely on random people.
Pick this if you love hurting people, doing attack cycles and chasing opponents, ambushing and building up a snowball.Bloodseeker from DOTA2, a prime example of a DPS.
The Tanks (meatshields)
These people are the ones who get right in to the thick of a fight, being first to enter, last to leave. Their job revolves around taking hits and absorbing damage to protect their more squishy team-mates such as healers or “glass cannons”.
Examples of this character type are:
- Overwatch’s Reinhardt – Large amount of hp, massive, high hp shield to protect allies, charge to get back in to the fight or in to the thick of it
- DOTAs Axe – Taunts to ensure enemies hit him, large armor numbers and regenerate.
- LoL’s Braum – Another large hp pool, dash to get to the thick of the fight and a large shield to protect his team.
The main similarities shared between tanks are their high hp, protective abilities and sometimes dashes to get them in faster.
The big differences between tanks are how they do their job. Some tanks, such as Reinhardt, take the attacks with their shield and bulk, whereas others, such as Axe, take the brunt of the force and resist it with massive health pools or armor.
The sort of person who plays tanks: The ones who want to help out their team but still want to be in the fight and dealing damage, the ones who like to laugh off the attempts of others and show a commanding lead. Tank players are usually shot-callers/leaders, telling their team what to do, when to engage and what they should be doing.
Pick this type if you love taking damage for your team and you aren’t confident enough to be a dedicated damage dealer but still want to help out.Reinhardt, Overwatch’s main tank and a good example.
The healers (Babysitters)
Healers are the ones who keep everyone alive. They work with health giving abilities to make sure people don’t die and to keep their tank up and running. Examples of these are:
- TF2’s Medic – Consistent healing medigun and little self-defence.
- Overwatch’s Mercy – Consistent healing staff and little self-defence.
- DOTAs Omniknight – Strong burst heal.
Notice how two thirds are non-standard MOBAs and the one that IS a MOBA is less defined?
That’s because healers in MOBAs don’t really exist. Healing is usually a side-effect to another core strength, which I will get in to later. The main similarities between healers are the ability to heal high amounts of damage (obviously) and their lack of self-defence. However, the lack of self-defence is usually counteracted with movement or Crowd Control (CC) abilities to help them escape, such as Mercy’s guardian angel, Omniknight’s immunity spells or Witch Doctor’s (DOTA2) Stunning flask.
The big differences between healers are how they go about doing the healing. A Prime example of this is Overwatch with its four current healers. Mercy must get close and stick with her target, while Zenyatta can cast an orb and still fight and Lucio’s passive area of affect (AOE) healing.
This is the class for you if: You like keeping the team alive, you don’t like doing all the damage or taking lots of hits, you don’t trust your team to survive on their own, you’re heal-slutting or you’re confident in your management of the rest of the team.The medic from Team Fortress 2 is a very good healer with use of his medigun
The Supports (Warlocks)
Warlock/supports are the ones who help the others do their job properly. These guys are usually very squishy and focus mostly on CC such as damage or armour buffs while debuffing the enemies with less defence of damage. Examples of this are:
- Overwatch’s Zenyatta – Orb of discord increasing taken damage, low HP.
- Awesomenauts IX – lots of debuffs/buffs, squishy.
- LoL’s Lulu – Buffs and debuffs to enemies, low HP.
The big things that make a warlock are their ability to help the team. Most warlocks will have both buffs and debuffs, though some only have one of the two.
The differences are the obvious changes in what buffs are given and what debuffs are given, but range and method of appliance are also big differences, some having to get up close to apply it, while others can fire from a range such as Zenyatta, though there are those who can apply it globally, such as Omniknight’s guardian angel or Widowmaker’s true sight debuff.
Play this style if you: Like royally pissing off the enemy team while at the same time getting tonnes of praise from your own team, if you want to make someone else super buff and do little else while still getting kill credit or if you just like being annoying.Lulu from League of Legends is a very potent warlock who provides multiple buffs and debuffs to allies and enemy alike
Quite often in MOBAs you’ll find characters that don’t fit one specific role and rather cover a multitude of options. This is especially common in games like DOTA and Awesomenauts where a team-mate down situation would mean a loss in most instances even if they had a healer instead. Because of things like this, most healers have other purposes, as do tanks. Some examples are listed below:
- Healer/warlock: To make sure healers have more impact on fights, some of them are made in to warlocks, able to both heal and buff their allies while debuffing enemies or hitting them with CC. A great example of this is Witch Doctor from Dota2. He has an AoE heal spell, a curse which slows and damages targets and a CC chainstun. This allows him to be more active in fights and make more of an impact. The same can be said for many others of this type
- Healer/Tank: This is your standard paladin setup. Able to heal themselves or their allies while soaking up damage like a sponge. Two good examples are Omniknight from Dota2 and Scoop from Awesomenauts. The two both have generous health pools and can take damage well while being able to heal both themselves and allies.
- DPS/Warlock: These guys are a support’s worst nightmare. Usually in the form of assassins, these characters are all about engaging and make sure the enemy stays engaged and doesn’t run off through many different CC abilities, such as Roadhog’s Hook in Overwatch or Camille’s hextech. These characters excel at bursting down an enemy support or dps then escaping through one of many methods.
- DPS/Tank: This is a more rare type of character, usually due to the difficulty balancing it. An example of this type is Night stalker from DOTA2. He has a very large health pool yet is focused on dealing damage and keeping the enemy close while chasing them down. The main purpose of this archetype is to chase enemies and sustain their damage over periods of time instead of bursting all at once.
So which game should I play?
Well, it all comes down to what you like in your games. Below are a list of some popular MOBAs and their enjoyable features.
Relatively slow, Not much aim required other than for a few specific heroes, very tactical, map technique and awareness is a must, everyone works as a team, team-play is needed to succeed, dark and gloomy, serious and angry, 2.5d (3d but no 3rd dimensional movement), huge competitive scene.
Similar to DOTA2 but a much more fantasy based layout, very bright and colourful, wider range of CC and effects, insanely large competitive scene.
For MOBA players who don’t like MOBAs, 2d Platforming, all aim based (no true homing abilities), very fast paced, unique and colourful, cheerful and funny, has a very varied and wide soundtrack, hype as all hell, more beginner friendly than DOTA and LoL, Very small competitive scene but is very welcoming.
For FPS fans who still want MOBA tactics, 3d movement involving jumping, flying and leaping, heavy fps qualities, still has moba ability features, mostly colourful and funny, if you can’t aim you’re in trouble, very sci-fi based, HUGE competitive scene.
“Overwatch but free”, similar gameplay and movement, features a VERY bright artstyle, much more based on fantasy than real life or sci-fi, less CPU intensive than Overwatch, small competitive scene.
Cult Classic gameplay, dedicated fan-base, Like the others on this list, it has toxic spots in its community but also has shining stars, very well balanced, infuriating gameplay at times, large teams, filled with silly and whacky twists if you so choose, can go from 1-10 seriousness between games, has an alright competitive scene
In the end…
You can always play more than one game, so if one doesn’t fit your style then try another, but be aware if you wish to dedicate yourself to a game, you can’t go spending time on others as it will usually distract you in game or cause slight faults in thinking processes, mistaking one game’s mechanics for another, such as between LoL and DOTA2. Personally, I picked one from each of the little mini-genres, being DOTA2 as the 2.5d game, Awesomenauts as my side-scroller and Overwatch as my shooter. Many skill transfers across games and general game-sense will always transfer between games. Just be aware that there ARE those who will troll or insult you or get angry for not doing what they want you to do, but you just gotta ignore that and have fun!
– Kai xx
Professional Awesomenauts player and skrub, huge MOBA/MMO nerd.