With the release of the third installment of the game series just around the corner, a lot of fans are itching to dive back into the world of The Witcher. So how does the free to play mobile game stack up to the main series? Does it have enough in it to scratch that itch until the The Witcher 3 release?
First off let me say that more than a few red flags were raised when I heard the words “free to play” and “mobile game” all in the same sentence, especially regarding one of my personal favorite series. But much to my surprise and delight The Witcher Battle Arena manages to deliver an enjoyable mobile experience.
The Witcher Battle Arena is what I would call a “moba-light”. It’s a moba type game but it is designed to be quick to play and easy to pick up. Unlike some of the heavy hitters on PC such as DOTA or LoL, Battle Arena is very easy to understand and doesn’t require hours of playing to really get into. The game consists of 10 minute 3v3 matches with two potential game modes. The first is a game mode where each team tries to cap and control 3 nodes on the battlefield, and controlling more nodes leads to a quicker win. The second mode, which was recently added with the latest patch, is a more straight forward pvp mode where the first team to score 20 kills is the winner.
The game modes are simple to understand but the real meat of the game comes from the characters. Well, to be more precise: the character customizations. There are three general types of characters in the game: warrior, mage and ranged. Warriors tend to get up close and personal. Mages sit back to blast away with magic and Ranged deal damage with their trusty bows. But each character has their own unique set of 3 skills. These skills really change up how each character plays. Furthermore, as you level your character (experience is earned through matches) you unlock the ability to adjust those skills.
So for example, say you’ve chosen the hero Geralt of Rivia as your character. Geralt has a skill that allows him to lay down a magic circle that slows enemies and does damage. But you can alter how much of each the ability does. If you want your circle to just act as a trap to slow enemies you can amp up the slow down effect at the expense of turning down the damage. Or you can turn down both to have a much quicker casting time for the spell in general.
This ability to tweak your spells and abilities may not seem like much but it goes a long way to customizing your character to fit your style of play. You want to just rush in and blow some people up? Then turn down all the debuffing elements of your abilities and crank up the damage. Or vice versa to keep your enemies locked down. Or choose somewhere in between to keep yourself more balanced. It all comes down to how you want to play and how you want your character to handle.
Speaking of customization there is also a whole host of gear to equip onto your characters. You obtain gear after each match, and it’s random as to what gear you receive. Gear comes in three different varieties: gauntlets, belts and boots. And each of those is further divided up into heavy, medium and light gear weights. With each gear weight corresponding to a specific class type (warrior, ranged and mage respectively). Gear rarity ranges from common to rare to epic to legendary. With legendary gear being the most powerful as well as character specific.
Also thrown into the mix are bombs and potions. When going into battle, you are allowed to equip one type of bomb and potion each. There are numerous types of bombs and potions to choose. Some bombs are made to be more of a snare where they root your enemies in place but deal little damage. Others are high damage dealers but have no side effects. Again, the type of bomb you wish to take into battle all depends on your play style. Potions are generally used to heal yourself but some potions forego any healing ability and instead will buff your damage output.
The actual battles are often quick and fun affairs. As the match progresses you earn both gold and skill points that can be used during that specific match. The gold can be used in one of three skill trees. The three skill trees affect either your attack, defense or magical stats for the match. It allows for you to customize your character even further to tailor them for the specific match up. Plus, since each of these upgrades is only match temporary, it allows for a new build every time until you find one that suits you. The skill points earned during a match are used to upgrade your skills as you see fit.
The only downside to matches is there is no communication possible between team members. I personally didn’t find it to be too much of an issue since matches are rather quick and objectives are straight forward, but some form of communication might be nice. On the other side of things though it does keep any toxic language or behavior out of the game.
So what about that real money shop? Is this really a free to play game done right or is it just another pay to win mobile game? Worry not! The real money shop is only used to either purchase new characters or new skins. Both of which can also be bought using in game currency! So if you are so inclined, you can theoretically unlock everything the game has to offer without ever dropping a dime of your own money. Also the game has a weekly rotation of 3 free characters you can play with as much as you want until the next week’s rotation. So, in my own case I’ve played on and off again for the past month or so and have unlocked 3 characters of my own. I’m also part of the way there with saved items to unlocking a skin for my main character. All without ever having spent any real money.
When it comes down to it The Witcher Battle Arena is an enjoyable moba-light. It’s quick to pick up and not particularly difficult to learn. Which may be a positive or a negative depending on your opinion of moba’s. I think most of your hard core moba players wouldn’t find much to dig into and would probably be quick to move on. However anyone out there who is looking for a quick moba experience or who just loves The Witcher may be well served to check this out. I’ve had some pretty fun times with the game and although it’s not something I would play for hours on end, I still find myself logging in regularly to get in a few quick games to level my characters or to hunt for some new gear.