Massively got some hands on time with DotA mode this week during a brief dev testing session this week. Skip past the cut for our views on the Vorp! alpha and its new gameplay mode, and head over to Facebook to give the game a try and see what it's like for yourself.
Patrick Mackey's impressions
I like Vorp! particularly because it rehashes the old, tired DotA formula by injecting aim and maneuvering into the same kind of creep/tower gameplay. A lot of core things are done right, particularly the way ships handle and feel. The visuals also are pretty nice considering the game is designed to run on any computer.
My main issue with Vorp! is the initial ship balance (although the devs said they were aware of a lot of the problems). I definitely think that certain ships in the alpha we played were so good that they were a little brain-dead to play. I also think the game could use a couple of different maps to shake things up a bit. Lastly, I also think that the power-up dropping from fallen ships should be adjusted. I'm OK with ships dropping power-ups or experience in general, but it often resulted in problems when one player would destroy your allied ships, but then you picked up the items and experience, which penalizes the enemy for killing your creeps. I think that should be adjusted in some way. Overall though, the game is really fun, and I look forward to playing it when it goes live.
Brendan Drain's impressions
Being thrown in the deep end with Vorp! was an initially disconcerting experience, but I quickly found myself getting to grips with the controls. New players would definitely benefit from playing some survival mode to get used to the controls and gameplay before heading into a DotA-style match. A lot of the core DotA elements are definitely there, with waves of creeps in the form of space ships and defense turrets in the place of towers. Where Vorp! really changes the formula is in the inclusion of movement and aiming mechanics. Rather than auto-attacking a selected creep, for example, players have to aim their ships and attacks manually. This opens up some interesting gameplay options, like tank ships that block shots heading for other players.
My first test was rudely interrupted by a graphics card reset, an issue caused by overheating that I've only encountered in extremely graphically intensive games like RIFT on maximum settings and EVE Online's new captain's quarters. It became clear that the game didn't yet have a frame rate limiter built in, but developers assured me that one would be added to stop the game eating up unnecessary system resources and prevent this issue from occurring. It's worth noting that the minimum requirements for Vorp! are so low that it should run fine through a web browser on a five-year-old laptop.
The DotA item system has interestingly not been included, with developers choosing to substitute the strategic gameplay of creating item builds for action-based elements. I found the gameplay quite fun, though the Hirudo's area effect main weapon felt very passive and disconnected compared to the Ant's railgun. My main gripe with the current gameplay was that the experience-giving Atom dropped by destroyed creeps has to be collected manually and can be picked up by anyone, taking up valuable time and leading to experience-stealing.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about Vorp! is how open the developers are to changing the game based on feedback. If players are unhappy with any of the gameplay encountered in DotA mode, they can quickly leave feedback at the end of the round and have a real chance of getting some changes made. I must admit that while I didn't like some of the ships and mechanics in this early beta release of DotA mode, the game is fundamentally fun and it had a strange draw that has made me want to go back for more. I've made a rule out of never playing games on Facebook, but this is one game I may break that rule for.
Matthew Daniel's impressions
Vorp! solicited mixed feelings for me. I'll start by saying that I had a lot of fun with the game. That's really the bottom line; I really enjoyed it. It takes the time-tested formula of Defense of the Ancients that I know and love, but it puts a few interesting spins on it. The space setting and shoot-'em-up controls definitely set it apart from the crowd. The game is no longer all about your build and which character is the flavor of the month; now you have to be able to maneuver and shoot accurately will evading enemy attacks.
That all being said, there is one thing that I absolutely, positively could not stand: When you kill an enemy, Atom (the game's experience-granting currency) explodes out in all directions. As a result, you have to take precious time to gather up your experience points, unlike in other DotA-alikes where you simply get the kill, get your XP, and get out. Another small detail is that, along with dropping XP, destroyed ships drop health, and let me tell you that there is nothing more infuriating than whittling an enemy down to a sliver of health only to have him heal up to full from a creep ship that you destroyed yourself. Aside from these two details, though, I really enjoyed the game and look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
Join us every Saturday for Not So Massively, our roundup of the top news from popular online games that aren't quite MMOs. If you think there's a game we should be covering in Not So Massively or you've found some interesting news you think deserves attention in the next roundup, please mail the details to email@example.com.