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As the barbarian warrior, Hamhock sat in a dome of glowing crystal light, he wondered if his life would soon be at an end. Was it to be victory or foul death at the hands of the enemy… Amazingly, it was victory! Total and sweet tasting victory.

I’ve never been an avid player of MOBA games, maybe down to the fact that they are now seen as a ‘sport’. I’m not a huge sports game fan. However, I have had a hand in playing League of Legends and Smite for short periods, trying to avoid professional gamers and sportsmen alike. Their free-to play foundations are a good setting for a gamer who lacks in finances and fancies a quick blast on something new. That is unless you do have cash and decide that your time would be better spent on the field with the best characters and upgrades.

I was pointed in the direction of Solstice Arena today. A title that has been flotaing around the iOS app store since June of this year. Zynga, the well known Facebook game developer, have decided to release it through Steam, again as a free-to-play experience. As you would expect from a game such as this, it has an in-game store so you can purchase characters, item slots, potions and other paraphernalia, both for in-game currency and gems. Gems are the expensive way to go, although you can unlock almost everything in the game for nothing but hours of your valuable time.

The presentation was minimal, yet functional. You’re invited into Solstice Arena with a basic title menu that allows you to enter a number of game modes, change your options and read over the manual, in case you need a bit of a helping hand. Game modes are as varied as much as the genre allows, pretty much an 3vs3 arena mode, a co-op vs bots and a solo vs bots challenge. For a mobile gaming point of view, this is a decent choice to while away the wee hours and spare time on journeys. It might be a bit less for those who sit at home with the option of a much wider library of similar yet more complicated fare. That is not to say it’s a bad game. Far from it, as I caught a slight whiff of a win and I decided to plunge into a few more battles.

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The servers found players fast enough, mostly in less than a minute and I was dropped into the fantasy world, huge axe in hand, hoping for some glory. The characters are colourful and varied, there are enough trial characters to play with from the start and they all have their own upgradeable abilities. From warrior tanks to assassins and support characters with magical powers, the full range of sword and sorcery backgrounds are covered. There’s a dog with what looks suspiciously like Ned Kelly’s helmet, a pirate wench called Calamity and the massive demon, Balthazaar. I was drawn to the assassin Marco though. Possibly because he looks like Auron from FFX has been put on witness protection and shipped off to Solstice, eyepatch, cloak and all.

The first thing I noticed was that the playing field was pretty small. You start on a platform with two other players in front of your Oracle, the game ending target that you must defend. A short distance ahead is a patio containing three towers that need to be turned to rubble in order to reach the Oracle. All of these work in a similar fashion to other MOBA’s in that they will shoot heavy damage projectiles while an enemy player is in range of them. This is true for both sides of the battleground. The middle of the map holds a lake and a bridge with a spawning treasure chest containing gold. The team who manage to capture this will instantly be awarded a sum of currency to buy in-match upgrades, such as boots to speed up your player, armour to make your character more resilient and so on. The more money you have, the easier it is to defeat the other team. The battleground is also littered with power-ups. Tokens that will grant a small health boost, damage increase or specialised ones that correspond with character classes. If you pick up a magic orb for a caster, their power will increase and so forth.

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The fight itself is back and forward across the map, picking off foes and defending towers while trying to gain ground. Pushing the enemy back toward their own base while slaughtering them and pulling down their towers is actually still fun on a less prestige game in it’s class. It’s good for quick bouts when you have ten minutes to spare rather than the drawn out wars on DOTA 2 or LoL. My team managed to rise to glory and were awarded with a win screen and a mass of XP to upgrade special abilities permanently. Time with any one hero will grant you a lot of benefits over another player with the same character, so your favourites can bring a bit more to future games.

At the end of some edge of the seat skirmishes, I’m surprised to say that I enjoyed my time on Solstice Arena. If players of bigger MOBAs need something to hone their skills on when out and about or away from their PC, this is a pretty good bet on mobile. On PC, however, I’m not so sure. It will satiate the needs of a MOBA junkie, waste some time for casual gamers and may even pick up a fan base of it’s own due to it’s smaller, bitesize chunks of gameplay. Standing next to the giants though, it’s not as shiny, powerful or challenging. It does however stand alone as a pretty good game with all the addictiveness of the rest of it’s kin and it’s still worth a download.

Solstice Arena can be downloaded for free now on Steam and iOS.

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