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Returning to Prime World in its English open beta

Andrew Ross
Back in April, I had the opportunity to explore Prime World in its Russian beta. Now, the game is in open beta for English-speakers, so I wanted to update my impressions. Unfortunately, Prime World has developed less than I had hoped in the interim. For example, the screenshot above shows off my mate's Prime World home in contrast with the one I showed you last time. My friend is a bit of a nature lover, so I told her we'd try the red team this time. It's a lovely layout, but this playthrough marked the first time I've seen it because we couldn't see each other's bases -- just as in the old Russian beta.

Playing with other English speakers this time instead of Russian players means I could have chatted about this with them about it but for the game's deafening loading screens (no, really, take off your headset when loading a match; volume control is mute or nothing). A lot of the non-MOBA complaints from my last review sadly still hold true, as do a few issues with the tutorial. While the new additions to the game greatly increased my satisfaction with the combat parts and I want to talk about the new game modes, I still must readdress my issues with the game that haven't changed at all.

The first problem is that the game is trying to add a more social level to the genre, but it generally doesn't succeed. Unlike last time, this time I was playing with only one friend for the game's open beta, which means working with more randoms and fewer "friend slots" to use to increase my base's resource production. The game's guild system adds a guild tag to players, so it's easier to point out who on the other team could be duo-ing on voice chat to your less observant teammates, which can be handy knowledge. Outside of that, however, guilds function as just another perk system that you can't even join at the start, and guilded players aren't making much effort to get other folks to join them.

Without a general lobby to meet people, the ability to see other people's castles, or even a way to give praise after a match a la League of Legends, I found that meeting other people in Prime World seems more like something you do on forums. My friends from other games and I have felt we can meet people in MMOs, but we don't really make long term connections with people during or after a MOBA match. If other people do this a lot, I'd really like to hear some stories about it in the comments! Sadly, most of the "social" commentary we saw in matches had to do with AFKers and the inability to boot them or people who used the in-game option to leave the match (since those people then have a flag icon but sadly won't get a new teammate).

Prime World ReReview English Open Beta Edition
Next up is the tutorial. It's cheesy at times, but I really think that PW is one of the better games to introduce someone to MOBAs at least in part because of its useful tutorial. Heck, there's even a practice mode that awards a little experience, silver, and talents so you can play by yourself to learn! The problem is that some mechanics seem critical to "getting" the game, but there's nothing to really guide you. Yes, the tutorial does have you "expand" your base (gives you more room to build) one time at the start, but I still don't know if you can do it again later. My friend worried about her base layout since she didn't want to waste resources building if she'd never have more room again. Yes, you can store buildings, but storage seems to be something that's intended for when you mess up, and that's not a good feeling.

The minigames in the middle of most of the bases for most game modes still aren't explained well. One of the protips I learned through trial and error is that the scrolls you get from the minigames can make gameplay more exciting and unpredictable, but the feature just seems underutilized. More people were playing the minigames this time than when I tested it with the Russians, but I really noticed only the damage scrolls being used, and rarely. Even when they were used, I saw only one kill that resulted from scroll use.

Now, that's most of my complaints. The issue I had about gender-based characters seems to have been partially fixed and will probably be tweaked more over time. As mentioned in my first hands-on, there is a certain buff you can give players of the opposite real-life and in-game gender. They have to match. If not, you can't get the bonus, which really isn't fun because some of the heroes are available in only one gender to begin with, so you have to break the bonus or just not play that character. However, some heroes have a skin that changes their gender, which makes this more tolerable, especially because open beta introduced a lot more of these skins. But there are still more male options than female; you have to pay real money sometimes to play with a skin that shares your gender; and oddly enough, one of the game modes regularly breaks this perk by its very nature. We'll come back to that.

Prime World ReReview English Open Beta Edition
As someone who deals with a lot of repetitive game play, I was very satisfied with my new experience. While the regular Borderlands matches shouldn't have too many curve balls for MOBA vets, two new game modes might. The first is Apocalypse mode. In this mode, killing mobs results in zombies sometimes based on the last hit. The zombies work for your side, adding to your own units, but they last for only 20 seconds if they don't attack another "living" unit (so two zombies fighting each other will both die after 20 seconds). It's nothing huge, but it does mean a single player farming a lane without an opponent can quickly snowball into a zombie invasion at your front gate.

Next is something called Native Lands. In PW, the game has a feature called "native land" that grants some of your moves bonuses for fighting on that terrain -- maybe a move hits harder or heals for more health. However, in Native Lands, this bonus also gives players a lot of additional stats. It's like being two or three levels higher. I noticed a lot of sneaky players would avoid a direct fight, go behind enemy lines, and take over a flag to gain native terrain and attack their opponent from the back with their newfound power. It was brutally effective and a lot of fun the one or two times I was able to pull it off.

There's no ARAM mode, but PW does have Outpost. Likewise, there's no randomly selection of heroes, but it's still a single-lane mode where you're a bit more powerful at the start than normal. However, you're not just running down the middle to kill each other. Every once in awhile, each team will spawn a major siege unit. This guy has a hefty shield that needs to be broken and can attack towers outside of their aggro range. What happens then is that you're trying to protect this unit while attacking; on defense, you're trying to kill this unit while (usually) still defending your tower. The ability to take care of your siege vehicle has given birth to some amazing reversals in my experience, so I really loved this mode.

Prime World ReReview English Open Beta Edition
Finally there's my new favorite mode: Dragonwald. Players go through the maze, defeat the dragon, and bring its egg to the enemy altar. This one felt very different from gameplay in other MOBAs. It was almost like a story mode in an RTS, though after a while people figure out routes to take to level, so it's kind of like a big jungling match. Fog of war is pretty much everywhere, and you can't just teleport wherever you want. Clicking in the middle might eventually take you to the dragon, but it also takes you straight through some bad mob spawn. In addition, there are some flags you'll want to hit for transportation purposes. Remember, you take the egg to the other team's altar. It's good to stick together, since healing is also reduced a bit. But it's not quite as simple as find the dragon. There's a poison trap that we disabled for some unknown reason, and there are switches to bridges once you go around the long way to the other side, but no one explains any of that. As one matchmate of mine said, "It's not rocket science," but unknown mechanics on a strange map in a game mode I don't recall experiencing in other MOBAs has led to mass confusion about the map from players. Still, it was fun for me.

Now, there is another game mode I tried called Switcheroo, and this one is the gender-breaker. While it doesn't count for or against your rating, it can still be frustrating. The game has each player pick a hero and then randomly switches your choice with someone else on your team. It's nice when someone has a hero you want to try out, uses a cool build, or (my favorite part) teaches you the ins and outs of a favorite hero. However, in addition to breaking the gender bonus if you and your hero don't match genders any more, the mode might also make you deal with someone who didn't read the rules of the game and chose a character that he hasn't leveled or that has random talents. It can be pretty rough, but at least it's an interesting idea.

I've read that there is a survival mode vs. the computer, but I've yet to experience it, and it's not in the map rotation schedule. However, different game modes award different talents, so people may want to do a little reading, especially min-maxers. For people who haven't tried a MOBA yet, or have tried a lot and want something different, Prime World is worth the look, even though this new beta doesn't fix all of the old issues. I won't call it king or queen of the MOBAs quite yet, but it's something I'll keep an eye on.

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