Prime World, a combination MOBA and MMORTS-ish game by Nival, is a fresh take on what appears to be an ever-growing genre. Will vets of the familiar match-based games feel as though it goes too far into new territory, or will they appreciate the changes to their beloved gameplay? While I'll leave that question up to the experts over at Not So Massively, I can say that as someone who is more of an MMORTS fan than a follower of MOBAs, I appreciated the fact that Prime World gave me something to try in both. Better still, games like Prime World are enjoyable for a relative newcomer to the genre like yours truly because they encourage me to become better by being fun to play rather than by being brutal on newbies.
What makes Prime World a bit different from other MOBAs is the way you level your heroes. Instead of just pushing them through match after match and leveling through combat or by purchasing small upgrades in the cash shop, you'll level heroes through the castles or buildings that you slowly build up over time. It's not quite an RTS, but it is a juicy bone for those of us who love the tiny details within miniature cityscapes, details like waterfalls or animated buildings. Prime World has these details in spades. In fact, the game is one of the best-looking games in the MOBA genre in many ways. The cityscapes are just fun to look at and interact with, and they definitely made me feel as if I wasn't just grinding out MOBA battles for the sake of grinding.
As your castle levels up, you will gain access to new buildings and new heroes that you can purchase with silver (in-game cash) or with cash-shop funds. In this way, the level of your hero and the abilities of your buildings are basically intertwined, dependent on each other for mutual growth. The prime distiller, for example, is a building that creates crystals. These crystals are then used to purchase new abilities for your heroes.
While I really enjoyed the castle interface and the break from PvP that my city provided, it does feel a bit strange to go from the real time-sink that is your castle and buildings to the MOBA instant aspect of the game. I'm no massive MOBA fan by any means, but the exposure I have had to the popular genre has shown me just how immediate combat can feel while in a match. To go from an intense match with lots of players yelling to the more zen-like experience of my city is a bit jarring. Fortunately, it all blends well together and as I mentioned earlier gives my heroes a bit of a background story and reason for fighting.
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The MOBA aspect of the game has a lot of earmarks that you'd expect from the genre. There are many heroes to choose from, each with a very unique set of abilities, but they benefit from the additional abilities that you can choose from your castle's different buildings. There are towers to attack and defend and plenty of mobs and quests to take on during gameplay. I found myself attacking mobs more than anything in order to gain more Prime, the force that unlocks new abilities as higher tiers of abilities open while my character plays in a match. Outfitting that hero with desirable abilities in different tiers is a nice touch; essentially players are predicting the future and hoping that the abilities they place in the different tiers will come in handy during matches. A single character has quite a few different abilities, and I enjoyed just jumping into a match to see what I had unlocked. I played a melee character, for example, and found out later that he could heal as well. It was news to me!
Back in the castle, you need to invite more NPC citizens to your town in order to grow your population. The population is then needed to unlock certain buildings, and then the buildings are used to make your MOBA experience better. It's a sort of chicken and the egg thing, but the game did not seem to force me into building anything I didn't want to. I already had some good heroes to choose from right out of the gate, and I could simply use those same heroes for quite a while before I really needed to grow. In fact, the slower pace of the castle and building different buildings, as well as in gathering different materials that are used for further construction, balanced against the MOBA combat well. By the time I grew tired of a certain character, I might be able to come back to choose another or to build a new type of building. There was always something to do.
The key to Prime World is in its combination of two familiar genres. The castle-building is not that amazing, and the MOBA combat is a bit sluggish and tedious at times. But put the two together and you have a pretty fun game that challenges players of different ability levels and gives you something to do at almost any point.
There is a familiar Facebook sign-in option in the game that allows me to sign in with a single click, something I wish more MMOs did. Sure, I understand security concerns, but the convenience of logging in with the press of a button and having the game load is awesome. In fact the game might remind some players of popular social-network games in the way it allows build times to be shortened with real-life cash, but the mechanic is so common these days -- especially in the world of MMORTS titles -- that I wonder who in the world has never seen it in action before.
Prime World is a great looking game that seems to offer something for almost any type of player to do. I enjoyed the city-building aspect more than anything, but the MOBA was pretty good as well, even for a newbie.
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!