Nice variety of upgrades
Every now and then, you have to return to your base to heal (before an opposing hero picks you off) or purchase upgrades. You can do this quickly with a single teleport button-push, but an enemy strike interrupts your teleportation. At your shop, you can choose improvements in categories including: Utility, where you can find fast boots that improve your movement speed; Weapon, where you can choose among a bunch of weapon specialties, each with several upgrades; Defense, which gets you better shielding; Consumables such as healing potions, which come in very handy in the field; and Ability, which gets you treats such as faster regeneration for your abilities.
It also has another upgrade shop in the middle of the jungle. It pays to examine the weapon types ahead of time, since you don’t have time for that in a match. Fortunately, the upgrade store gives you a list of “recommended” improvements that you can buy once you have enough gold.
Vainglory comes with multiple tutorials, and YouTube has a lot of player-generated tips as well. For the initial batch, you can tap on the tutorial and see four options: I’m New (a tutorial for those who have never played MOBAs), I’m Awesome (a tutorial for those who know MOBAs), The Team, and The Jungle. Each section describes what you need to know to get into the game. That said, nothing is better than having a veteran player look over your shoulder while you’re playing to give you tips.
It rewards team play
You can’t really communicate with your teammates. Vainglory has no chat or voice communication, unless you’re in the same room with your teammates. But you can tap the map and drop an icon telling your comrades to either go to that spot or avoid it. This is important when you’re taking on enemies. When you’re fighting 2-on-1, you’re almost always going to win. And if you want to unleash the Kraken, you need some serious firepower from multiple allies. For some portion of each match, it pays to play separated, so one of your team members can surprise the enemy by stealing a gold mine while a big battle’s going on in the main lane. But when the others are ganging up on you, you have to amass superior firepower.
What you won’t like
Finding a match
It’s not always easy to find a match. You tap on the public match, and you’ll get going as soon as five others confirm. The problem is that players often don’t confirm, and you’ll sit there waiting. It requires you to pay attention, but more often than not, it takes longer than it should to begin a battle.
It’s not League of Legends
Mobile devices come with trade-offs. Compared to League of Legends on a PC, the action isn’t as fast. Vainglory has just one lane instead of the usual three. And each team has three players instead of five. If this is too much of a baby MOBA for you, play on the PC.
I’ve played Vainglory on my home Wi-Fi network, and it rarely crashes. It has once or twice, and it is possible to recover if you drop out. But the more annoying problem is that it will stutter every now and then. This isn’t a serious problem, but it means that weak Wi-Fi connections will hurt the experience.
Humans aren’t perfect
Once in a while, your teammates will be lame. One of my teammates pretty much sat out an entire game by standing in one spot. But since we were playing against three weak players, we still won. You can surrender a match when all three of your side agrees to do so, but you could very well get stuck with a bad team for a match that can last 30 minutes. That’s not fun.
It needs more
Super Evil Megacorp has a lot of work to do. It needs to release more characters, weapons, abilities, and maps. And it should do this on a regular cadence to ensure that people will keep coming back. And hopefully, the company will convince players to start spending money on the free-to-play game at some point. With competitors such as League of Legends out there, players have plenty of free content to choose from already.
I’m pleasantly surprised to see such a high-quality game on mobile devices. It is proof that progress is happening in mobile gaming, even though the top rankings of the biggest revenue generators have been pretty static. Super Evil Mega Corp. is benefiting from Apple’s advertising, and I have to believe it is winning over a lot of fans now. If it can keep that momentum going over time, it will have a very valuable game on its hands. I’m glad the company made such a big bet, and I hope it pays off. I’m just happy that the game has given me something more fun to do on my iPad than surfing the Web.
Vainglory is out now for iOS devices. It runs on iOS 6.1 or later on the iPad Air, iPad Mini with Retina Display, iPad with Retina Display, and iPad 2. It also runs on the iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus, so long as you play it on iOS 8.0 or later.