Closed beta happening now
Arena of Valor probably isn’t the first game you think of when asked to name a MOBA. It only launched in North America back in December and most attention we’ve paid to it has been with its addition of characters from the DC Universe to its roster. But make no mistake, this is absolutely a game people should be paying attention to. On mobile, it rakes in billions of dollars. In the past, it’s had as many as 160 million monthly users. It’s nothing short of a phenomenon, so it makes perfect sense the game is being ported to Switch, itself a phenomenon of a different kind.
Ahead of its full launch later this year, Tencent Games is hosting a closed beta for Arena of Valor from now through July 5. I’ve been playing it over the past two days and I’m absolutely blown away with just how good this game is on Switch. If Fortnite is to be the premier battle royale for this system, Arena of Valor is set to represent the MOBA well.
Players have access to most everything that will be in the final game during the beta. There are dozens of heroes to choose from (though the DC characters are MIA) as well as a variety of modes. The two modes I’ve played over the past few days are the standard 5v5 Grand Battle and the 3v3 Valley Skirmish.
Grand Battle is the main mode of AoV. Teams of five, made up of the different heroes available, do battle on the Antaris Battlefield, whittling down their opponent’s towers while fighting each other and their team of minions. The ultimate goal of the battle is to destroy your opponent’s core before they can blow up yours. Battles and characters start slow and weak, but grow more powerful over time.
Valley Skirmish takes place on the Flatland Battlefield and where Grand Battle has nine towers and a core for each team, the Flatland has just a single tower and core for the teams to defend. Bouts in the Grand Battle mode can take up to 20 minutes, which at times can feel so much longer than it is, but I never had a Valley Skirmish fight go longer than five minutes. It’s the perfect mode for getting in and out when you have just a little bit of free time on your hands.
In regards to controls, the mobile version doesn’t hold a candle to Switch. As expected, the buttons on the Joy-Con controllers (you cannot play with a single Joy-Con) give me a greater handling of my character than I have on mobile. “A” activates standard attacks while special attacks are relegated to the shoulder buttons. Holding down “Y” will purchase new items as they become available while holding “X” will let me upgrade my special attacks when I level up. Shopping can be set to automatic and I suggest that’s what any first-time players of the genre do until they get the hang of things.
My experience so far has been solely in handheld mode and, while the picture is a bit softer than I expected it to be, the game runs flawlessly. I haven’t experienced a single moment of slowdown or stutter so far, though the sound effects do feel a bit off. The announcer will say minions are about to spawn well after they’ve made their way to the battlefield. Perhaps the biggest change from mobile to Switch is just how cleaned up the menu system is. I don’t know if this is what it’ll look like when the full game launches later this year, but I love this clear, easy-to-understand set of menus for more than the cluttered interface of the mobile version.
Now, there is more than just Grand Battle and Valley Skirmish available, but I haven’t been able to experience the other modes thus far. The 5v5 Hook Wars, 5v5 Abyssal Clash, and the 1v1 Solo Battle have all failed to connect me with other players. It usually tells me there’s a four to five-minute wait for a group. At about the 15-minute mark, I give up waiting and go back to 3v3. I’d love to see how I handle myself in these modes, but I guess I’ll have to wait for the full game.
I don’t think Arena of Valor has what it takes to turn around anyone already disinterested in the concept of a MOBA, but for anyone who’s wondered about the genre and thought about giving it a try, it’s probably the best starting point on the market right now. Everything about it, from my experience over the past two days, is supremely polished and absolutely ready to bust out big on Switch.