When I first booted up Dark Eclipse, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Cynicism drove me as I started my journey into what the game had to offer, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw and heard as that journey began. Now to give you some context, Dark Eclipse is a free-to-play VR MOBA developed by SunSoft, Inc. in which two players face off against one another, each commanding three champions.
The objective is simple: you and your opponent each have your own main tower and you lose if your tower falls. As the game progresses, you have to capture mounting points to build smaller towers and eventually push your way to your enemy’s main tower once your champions are strong enough to win. They become stronger by beating neutral mobs of varying strength throughout the map called “eaters” that grant certain bonuses when killed, with the occasional legendary eater spawning that promises a bigger bonus than its peasant counterparts. The game as a whole may be more accurately described as a bit of a MOBA/RTS hybrid, bringing the best of both worlds to the table.
Mechanically, Dark Eclipse does break away from popular MOBAs (Heroes of the Storm, League of Legends, DotA etc.) in a few distinct and interesting ways. The first and perhaps most pronounced way is that it’s not a team-oriented game. For the time being it’s strictly 1v1 and admittedly I like this aspect. It removes a lot of the toxicity you often find in MOBAs and relaxes the experience a lot more. The downside to this is that the game can punish you if you’re bad at micro-management since you control 3 champions by yourself, and this can become frustrating because each champion plays differently.
The game currently has a modest roster of 15 champions to choose from, divided into heroes and dominators. At the beginning of each game you pick one hero and two dominators to be your champions for the match. You have to pay for heroes either with in-game currency or real money, but some are on free rotation each week so you’ll never have nobody to pick. Each champion has a single active ability alongside a single passive effect they benefit from or provide to allied units. This may seem somewhat underwhelming in the context of other MOBAs where heroes have multiple abilities, but it works well thanks to a minion system the game has in place.
Each champion can have up to three upgradeable minions following them, which makes for a total of up to 15 units in play on each side per game. These minions have quite a bit to do with the strategic depth the game has hidden within it. When you start a game, a minion is pretty much a standardized melee unit that’s actually low-key kind of useless when it comes to combat. As you defeat eaters and build towers, you gain points which you can then use to upgrade those minions into increasingly dangerous melee or ranged units. So if you’ve got a champion that dies easily, you can cover for that by upgrading a minion or two of theirs to be on the front lines so they don’t take damage. Got a tanky champion? Give him ranged damage-dealing minions!
The emphasis on composition focus is also highlighted well by another one of the game’s mechanics. As the game progresses, you are required to populate the map with a variety of towers so you can pave your way to your opponent’s main structure.
Dark Eclipse’s visuals are, in my eyes, its weakest aspect. They’re not atrocious, but when you load into a game, it becomes plain to see that a lot of textures have been downscaled...
There is no single player campaign whatsoever, and the only experience you’ll have playing solo is going against the AI for skirmishes.
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25 September 2018
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