MoBA has been the most popular gaming genre of this decade with games like League of Legends and Dota 2 topping profit charts and the esports scene. But in the latest years we’ve reached a point of oversaturation which prompted developers into making hybrids rather than pure MoBA games. So, it was only a matter of time until a serious combination between MoBA and RTS was going to happen and that’s how Dropzone was born.
Dropzone is a sci-fi game in which players take control of three rigs, robots piloted by heroes, and lead them into battles of tactical ingenuity and micromanagement. Dropzone is a pretty damn difficult game and here are a few pointers to ease your way into it:
It’s a MoBA…
One of the two pillars the compose Dropzone is the inspiration taken from MoBA games. Compared to the traditional layout the game has small maps without lanes or defensive structures but riddled with vision towers and creeps. The vision towers work in the old fashion way by helping in gaining the much-needed map control in order to see your enemy movement and predict their next step. The creeps stand as a way of leveling up and gain victory points, being split between regular ones which guard objectives and bosses which grant damage buffs when defeated.
… but also an RTS
The MoBA genre was born out of RTS but Dropzone takes an extensive road on being more like a strategy than anything else. The players have to control three units at a time, each unit being equipped with a number of cooldown based or passive abilities which could create combos. This leads to some pretty high micromanagement requirements to succeed at being remotely competitive in this game. There is also the tactical component which isn’t a feature necessarily attributed to strategy games but it’s usually the first genre everyone thinks about when hearing the word tactics.
This wild cocktail of genres, gameplay mechanics and innovative features raises Dropzone’s skill ceiling above the average of online competitive games.
Before heading to battle the first thing players should play are the Tutorial missions which will implicitly present the Build feature. The Build feature allows players to construct a squad of three unique rigs. Each rig is specialized on a certain role and has a wide variety of customization options which are unlocked through loot boxes. The customization options aren’t purely cosmetic, defining the abilities and stats for each rig. Abilities have two functionalities: the basic one provides passive stats like movement speed or HP as well as basic attacks, the active/amplify/trigger functionality is the more complex part of an ability which providing enhancements or special attacks. It’s also worth noting that all the abilities are split between different tiers which mark the level at which their complex component becomes available during a match.
Squad builder and synergy
Dropzone already has a decent number of heroes for a barely released Early Access game, that being coupled with the huge number of customization and it can already be off-putting for some players. Finding a good squad to play with requires a time investment but the game provides some helpful tools to deal with the complexity. The test squad option provides a good way to experiment with each rig’s customizations and see how they work alone and as part of a synergized team. If a satisfying setup has been found it’s time to take it to the next level into a versus AI match and see the results. This trial and error process might take a while but it’s part of the game’s experience and a pretty good one I might add.
Dropzone has an individual progression system despite being a squad based game. Each level counts for the squad but can only be used to level up one of the three squad members. Levels are gained not by killing other players but through PvE. Experience is awarded for killing creeps and the amount is decided by their type with the late game powerful creeps providing the most XP. When a level is gained, players have to enhance one of the three available rigs which will boost its passive stats and based on the customizations setup it can unlock new abilities. When a rig reaches level 5 its ultimate, a powerful battle changing ability with a higher cooldown, is unlocked.
The leveling process has impactful choices which can be decisive for the course of the battles. Knowing your setup’s strengths and weaknesses as well as those of your opponent is mandatory for choosing the right leveling path during a match.
Focus on objectives
The temptation of fighting the opposing players is quite high in a PvP mode, but as with many other games the focus of Dropzone is on objectives.
The objectives are split between multiple categories that have the same end result, which is bringing victory points to decide the fate of the match.
Each match has three global objectives which are randomly chosen before the battle starts and can be completed only once per match. The global objectives vary and can be pretty straight forward tasks as getting the First Blood or Killing 100 Kavash (creeps) but they can also be a little more demanding like Killing 3 bosses or Controlling all 4 map wards (vision towers) at once.
The standard way to get victory points is by killing the non-boss groups of creeps which drop from 1 to 6 cores depending on how many times that group has been killed. The dropped cores have to be picked up and placed in the structure at the center of the map. Each core is the equivalent of 1 victory point but transferring them is a dangerous endeavor as each rig can only carry 1 core at a time and has to go through a channeling process leaving the team vulnerable for attacks.
Killing the groups of creeps is a much more important task as they not only drop cores but provide the much-needed experience to level up your squad. The effectiveness of the routes taken is going to be decisive as PvP battles will constantly occur and the squad level plays an important role in them.
Fights can be decisive
Focusing on objectives is important but keep in mind that fighting the other players is unavoidable. Either you meet in the middle, harassing each other when attempting to deposit the cores, or disrupting one another when killing creeps, PvP fights are part of the match and can be decisive. Losing a rig in a battle can considerably lower your grinding effectiveness or map control, but poorly executed battles can have devastating effects. Having 2 or even 3 rigs knocked out for the next 30+ seconds without causing at least the same amount of damage means your opponent is free to do whatever they want and not only can recover or gain an advantage over objectives but can also get in front on squad levels making future fights even harder.
Dropzone is focused on PvP but it’s also focused on tactics and you should never forget that. Take direct fights when you’re in the lead or you have the positioning advantage and, if need be, walk away from a bad fight even if you have to sacrifice one right as tactical retreats may keep you in the match.
New abilities and crafting
Customizations are an important part of Dropzone and most of them aren’t free. As with the rigs, customizations can be obtained through purchases and at the current time the game offers 3 types of loot crates which contain various passive and active abilities. There are multiple ways to purchase loot crates the first option being in-game currency which is gained from finishing matches and completing daily tasks, tasks which can also grant a loot crate. Premium currency is also a rather sketchy option but since the abilities are more about play style than power I don’t think this poses a problem in the current state. The third option of gaining customizations is through crafting.
The crafting system is pretty straight forward. Unwanted items can be broken into materials which then can be used to craft new items based on blueprints. The blueprints are part of each rig’s progression with a total of 14 being obtainable for each rig’s maximum profile level.
While using RNG, the process of gaining new items isn’t all that slow. Playing a few matches per day is more than enough to buy at least 1 loot crate but with the addition of new content it might get harder and harder to obtain what you want. So, save some of that currency for later.
It isn’t only about PvP
An online PvP game cannot be on everyone’s taste and for those players that aren’t interested in poking the rigs of other players in their electronic eyes there are a couple of PvE options. Playing against an enemy with scaling difficulty in the VERSUS AI mode is a good way to enjoy the game’s standard mode without feeling the frustration of the PvP competiveness. But if you want more, Dropzone has a pretty cool horde mode called Infestation in which you can play alone or team up with other players and try to fend off endless waves of Kavash. Even if you are not into PvE, don’t forget that you can use these modes to test out setups and train your micromanagement skills!
It’s going to be free to play
Dropzone is a game that’s probably going to scare a lot of players from buying into Early Access. But do not worry, this is just a development stage and Sparkypants Studios is working on making this game free to play in the near future.
Dropzone can be overwhelming as a competitive experience. This list’s goal is to make things a lot easier for newer players by presenting some of game’s mechanics, tricks and other information which I hope will come in handy.