The amount of MOBAs released over the years has been rising steadily with everyone and their grandmother trying to get into the market. However generally most of them have been a success in their own right, Dota 2, League of Legends, Smite etc. Have all been successful. With this Bandai Namco are trying to break in with their sci-fi MOBA Supernova. The only feature that really makes Supernova stand out among the crowd is its attempt to put more RTS mechanics into the game by allowing you to customize your minion waves.
The game comes with all the standard bells and whistles of the MOBA genre, 5v5, 3 lanes, jungle etc. However you also have access to a tech tree where you can use the gold you acquire in a match in order to choose what minions will spawn in your lane. This is where the complexity of Supernova begins, certain minions counter others and you can see what your lane opponents are building in order to try and counter them. It’s reminiscent of Desert Strike the custom game for Starcraft II, a game mode Im very fond of but it just doesn’t quite click in Supernova.
When outside of a match you can customize the loadout of minions you want to take into a game, as well as obviously buying both commanders (the playable hero characters) as well as cosmetic skins for them. They also try to to tell a story of humans and cyborgs, however this does not come across well and really comes to down to how you want your units to look. There is also a League of Legends-style rune system where you can equip your commander with buffs prior to beginning a match.
All of this on the surface, a heavily RTS based MOBA, sci-fi setting, elements of Desert Strike and of course the top notch production quality of Bandai Namco should make Supernova great. However it just falls short, when playing Supernova the games felt too slow and to someone who has played and enjoyed long 2 hour Dota 2 matches, it felt like a slog. Having no snowballing items and simply leveling your minions and putting points into stats and abilities meant it felt like a long drawn out war of attrition. Games dissolved into finding one lane where the minions were countered heavily at a late enough point in the game and death-balling down it as a five man team. A strategy employed in other games but it just felt necessary here, the minion mechanic, while definitely interesting has two major drawbacks: It makes some strategies feel obsolete and it creates an incredibly steep learning curve.
“I can’t say I wasted my time playing Supernova but I was just left feeling unimpressed”
Being for lack of a better word a Veteran of the MOBA genre I jumped into Supernova expecting to have some mechanics to learn but generally pick up and play, similar to Heroes of the Storm or Dawngate. However this game was much harder, as while it was interesting and fun to think of lane synergies, it also meant there was so much to learn just in order to win one game. While this isn’t a criticism in itself of Supernova it just means, that in a genre that thrives on large player bases and esports, that Supernova will probably only garner a niche following. Having a small dedicated fan base in the “Free to Play” MOBA market almost feels like a death sentence and to have your game go the way of the Dodo just like EA and Dawngate (a game I was actually rather fond of). The complexity of the mechanics in trying to push more RTS into MOBA’s, which are already mechanically complex in their own right, just hurts Supernova.
I can’t say I wasted my time playing Supernova but I was just left feeling unimpressed. The overall package is quite appealing, but once you get down to the game it just felt mismatched and rather average. With each character being rather unique in design while some pulling from obvious sources (especially the mechs), with interesting but all be it seen before abilities I wanted to like Supernova. But it tries to force something onto the genre that doesn’t fit in with the currently established tropes of popular MOBA. While it could be praised for doing something different, I would praise it if it was done well. Heroes of the Storm tried something different and I was very pleased with as you can see in my review, however trying to micro manage lanes, focus heavily on minion composition and pre-equip loadouts makes everything too complicated and draw away from the team tactics, Hero interplay and objective control that make the genre popular.
Overall I just can’t see Supernova making a dent in an already oversaturated market filled with not only popular but genuinely good games too. It just doesn’t have the legs to survive in the market and if it’s a huge failure it may be the wake up companies need to stop trying to hop and the MOBA band wagon and make some easy money. After what happened with EA and Dawngate I hoped we’d see the last of companies vying for space in the traditional MOBA market. It seems that those that are well executed and separate enough from the existing games like Heroes of the Storm can succeed or it will need a different approach such as taking elements of MOBA games and putting them into other games like Microsoft is trying with Gigantic.