It seems PlayStation VR is starting to hit its stride. With so many games coming out for this nascent platform, it’s surprising to see that there hasn’t been a massive online battle arena (MOBA) game yet. SUNSOFT claims to be the first to develop such a title, with Dark Eclipse. With the player controlling not one, but three characters simultaneously in a real-time strategy game combined with multiple lanes of attack and defense, is it too much for the humble PS Move controller to handle? Time to find out in our review.
Is It Massive Enough?
Dark Eclipse calls itself a MOBA, but it’s really more of a real-time strategy game, with vaguely-defined lanes and a focus on hero characters. It’s only ever a 1-vs-1 affair, as there are no matches any larger than that. So, to call this a MOBA is something of a misnomer. Running between towers and inching towards the enemy’s base tower is the closest Dark Eclipse gets to really feeling like a MOBA.
Movement within a virtual reality game can be hit-or-miss. Dark Eclipse is a third-person real-time strategy game played from an isometric viewpoint. The player is tasked with controlling three different heroes, delegating resource collecting, and choosing strategies such as which types of towers to build, and when and where to attack the enemy. With so much going on, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the control scheme is convoluted, especially with the Move controllers. However, SUNSOFT managed to devise a way to control Dark Eclipse that is both simple and easy to use.
While rotating the camera is of course handled with the PSVR headset, moving its point of origin is performed by pointing the in-game cursor, represented by a 3D hand, and double-tapping the Move button. Holding the circle button and physically raising or lowering the Move controller will shift the camera up or down, while holding the Move button will pan the camera in the direction grabbed, as though moving by pulling oneself through the world. Pressing and holding the trigger on orbs floating above characters will direct them to move, attack, or bring up a build menu, depending upon what the player releases the trigger on. Triangle will cause minions to chop down trees, Dark Eclipse’s main resource for building towers. That’s pretty much it for controls. They don’t take long to get used to, and they work very well for a Move-based layout.
You’re on Your Own, Kid
A tutorial is offered to get players used to the controls, but it doesn’t do a great job of explaining Dark Eclipse’s mechanics. There are five different towers to create, each with different resource requirements and effects on the battlefield – it’s mostly up to the player to figure out which tower does what, and which should be used in a given situation. While there is no guide in-game as of this writing, an official guide is available online. SUNSOFT also reached out to us to let us know in-game access to a guide is coming soon, which should help players to strategize ahead of time.
There are a handful of maps in Dark Eclipse, though choosing which one to play is not an option – it is randomized every time. While Sunsoft has promised to update Dark Eclipse with new heroes and balance tweaks in the future, there has not been any mention of new maps in the works. Each map has a slightly different layout of locations to deploy towers, but there are generally lanes in each that offer multiple potential venues to attack. Some maps feature forests full of trees to gather building crystals from, while others are barren deserts where each tree is a precious commodity to fight over.
Dark Eclipse is heavily oriented towards its playable characters, or “leaders” as they are known. This is where its ties to the MOBA genre are the most obvious. There is a rotation of free characters, which would otherwise cost in-game currency known as Dark Coins to purchase. You can also earn each character by grinding for non-premium currency; expect a decent grind of a few dozen match wins to unlock each this way. The 15 leaders available at launch each have varying stats, with some tank, support, DPS, and other typical classes available to choose from. At the start of each battle, players are able to pick their three leaders for this round, something which cannot be changed once the match has started. Players take turns selecting leaders at this stage, and only one player may choose a given leader. If your opponent chooses a leader you had planned on using, your only respite is to pick a leader who can counter it, like a heavy attacker to counter a support character.
An online-centric game is nothing without a community to help support it. Unfortunately, at least in our testing, player population was rather low. Perhaps a deluge of gamers will appear online when the PSVR headset has inevitable price decreases during the upcoming holidays, and the online portion of Dark Eclipse will see some increased activity. Naturally, your mileage may vary based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to network status, location, and perhaps most importantly the time of day/week that you go online. Weekends seemed to have slightly more players, for instance.
The variance of an online population feels more painful when there are also no local multiplayer options. VR seems well-suited to allow for local games, where neither player can see what the other has planned when one plays on the headset, and another plays on the television. This has been done in other games, but Dark Eclipse insists that both players use VR, which only offers a 360-degree point of view as its main advantage, whereas this game could perhaps be played in 2D mode with a DualShock 4 or the Move controller for easier manipulation of the camera, to give the servers a higher population.
Dark Eclipse has a good foundation, with a good outlook for the future. New players to the genre may struggle at first, given the extra-light tutorial that expects players to figure out mechanics on their own, without so much as a codex to read about the five different tower types. Since the online population can fluctuate, the only real option for practicing is to play against AI, or in an online-only match against a friend. You can’t beat its free price, however, so all PSVR players should give Dark Eclipse a shot to see if it’s their cup of MOBA.