October 6, 2011
Opinions on Dominion
Now, before you berate me for once again bringing you news that’s weeks old, give me a moment to explain. I purposefully and intentionally waited to put out my review of Dominion. At first, all of my friends seemed to think it was a mess, and frankly, I felt like it WAS. I expected a mess, and I could’ve called it the second they announced this new gametype. Why? There was simply no precedent “meta”.
If you’re new to the realm of MOBA games (or “Dota-style” games, as I prefer to call them for personal reasons), the term “meta” refers to the overall metagame strategy. These are the elements of the game that are decided and “played” before the game has actually started. This includes the characters who are chosen, the roles they will fulfill, and what they will be doing during various parts of the game. For example, the current standard “meta” in ranked matches for the “Standard” League of Legends gametype is to have a ranged AD carry with a support “babysitter” bottom lane, a strong AP damager middle lane, a tank or offtank soloing top, and a jungler who is typically a melee damager (with an offtank top, the standard tank usually jungles.) If you didn’t understand a word of what I just said, I recommend looking up a few basic guides to League of Legends gameplay on Mobafire or a similar website before you continue with this article.
Back on topic. When Dominion first premiered, there wasn’t really much of a precedent meta. Many people experimented with using all sorts of characters in a variety of ways, and much of the games seemed random. When League of Legends was originally released, a lot of the community had a history with DotA. The game was similar, and even though there were new characters and elements, the overall strategy was familiar enough that the game was playable. Dominion, on the other hand, seems to borrow a lot from Battlefield, and there’s not much precedent for using RTS controls in a similar fashion. In short, nobody had any clue how to play Dominion.
Now, there seem to be roles emerging. Team compositions aren’t entirely random anymore, and you can “pick around” your teammates. A strong Dominion team typically has a character that’s good at defending capture points, a character that’s good at “stealing” points (and escaping alive), a character with a “global” skill that can stop the “thief”, and a couple of characters who can combine to take a capture point by force.
Now that I’ve seen clear, concrete strategies, I can begin to judge the game mode itself. While I still think that there will be plenty of updates and changes before we get to a “finished” Dominion, I’ll say that it’s a decently solid game right now. There are just a few things that need to be fixed up. For one, the usefulness of certain characters is all but nullified in the capture point-based game. Certain characters tend to be fairly weak in combat, but very good at quickly “backdooring” the enemy base. Dominion pretty much squishes this type of character. The things that make them useful for backdooring turrets and inhibitors (high attack speed and ability to wipe out minions) are rendered all but useless, and the speed buffs placed around the map enables the enemies to reach you from the other side of the map before the point is entirely captured. Unlike in the standard mode, where a nearly-destroyed turret is a huge cause for concern, almost capturing a point is merely wasted time in Dominion.
Other characters are far too strong. The “Tanky DPS” and “Burst Caster” type characters can completely dominate the battlefield, and giving a team with more than one of them even a slight early lead is almost certain doom. These types of characters generally have fairly tough “early games” in the standard mode, but since early game is pretty much skipped over (you start at level 3 with enough gold to buy a main item), they come out of the gate with a lead that generally is only granted by spectacular play (or poor performance on the part of the other team).
The biggest, most glaring issue with Dominion, however, is what it has done to teamwork. The standard game has the balance almost perfect. Every character has certain weaknesses that it has to rely on other characters to overcome for it. While there are instances of vastly more skilled players “carrying” an unskilled team, the standard game is moreso a game of strategy than of skill. Characters aren’t designed to work alone. Dominion, on the other hand, forces solo work. Full teamfights are incredibly rare (the biggest fight of the game typically happens within the first five minutes at the Windmill, the capture point equidistant from both bases), and as such, characters often have to venture off on their own. More often than not, this usually occurs in both teams operating on their own agenda and not communicating at all (except with ambiguous “pings”), and characters move around seemingly at random. At this level of play, the game is almost randomly determined. Watching the game progress bears a striking resemblance to watching two people who have just learned the rules of chess playing against each other. There might be some sort of basic strategy in their head, but overall it just seems to be a game of “Which piece would be most effective where at this exact moment?”
Balance issues aside, the game isn’t bad. However, it just feels really awkward. The characters’ strengths, weaknesses, and abilites are all tailored specifically to one mode, and putting them in a whole new situation like this feels something akin to trying to play Halo: Reach on Counter Strike maps. Sure, it sort of works, but it’s not what the Halo engine was designed to do. If Riot had originally set out to make a game with multiple gametypes, Dominion probably would have worked just fine. However, this is a DotA clone. I’m not accusing League of Legends of not being DotA. It’s in a similar situation as Rock Band was in relation to Guitar Hero, and I was a huge fan of both of those games. I’m just saying that the “new and exciting” gameplay feels pretty broken, and needs LOTS of tweaking before Dominion will be accepted by the current skeptics. League of Legends is a game that gets patched every Tuesday. Keep working on it, Riot. You’ve got a good start here, it just needs some modifications.
So, how do you guys feel about Dominion? Let me know in the comment box below!