While soft-launched for nearly half a year, it really wasn’t until we saw Vainglory [Free / Free] during Apple’s September event that we’ve been keeping a close eye on it. Super Evil Megacorp’s keynote presentation was more than just a cool demonstration of Metal — it was also a pretty damn cool looking MOBA in its own right. With its recent end of its lengthy soft launch period and subsequent debut in the US Apple Store, we thought we’d take it for a spin and see how it compares to other iOS MOBAs. Suffice to say, I think Vainglory is one of the best genre offerings available and sets the bar in terms of visuals, balance and controls.

For those that haven’t been exposed to MOBAs before, here’s a quick tutorial. Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas have been around on the PC for quite awhile, with DOTA (now DOTA 2) and League of Legends being the most popular of the genre. Players choose from a variety of heroes, each with their own special abilities, and participate in 3v3 team battles with the goal being to slowly make your way to the enemy stronghold and take out their base (or, in the case of Vainglory, taking out the Vain).

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MOBAs typically feature creeps, which are automated allies (and opponents) that blindly charge towards the opposing base, attacking anything in sight. A lot of the action in MOBAs takes place in lanes, which feature towers that must be attacked (or defended) and are the paths that creeps run down. In essence, MOBAs charge you with using your hero to destroy the opposing creeps, attack/defend against heroes, gain experience and gold, improve your character and eventually make your way to enemy base to win.

Vainglory includes each of the major MOBA elements but modifies them to fit its own playstyle. For example, the game includes creeps (called Minions), but its map only one lane, simplifying lane management. However, the game has a pretty robust jungle area with plenty of over brush that can hide your heroes. The jungle also has plenty of neutral creeps and a shop in the middle for item purchasing needs. Vainglory’s jungles also include three important keys to victory: Minion Mines, a Gold Mine, and the Kraken. Minion Mines are initially controlled by a strong neutral Minion Miner. Take him out, and your minions last longer and deal more damage, increasing their likelihood of taking on opposing minions, heroes and towers.

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The Gold Mine is another important feature. A powerful Gold Miner constantly mines gold in the middle of the jungle. Kill him and your team earns all the gold he has collected and will continue to earn gold as the game plays on. Both types of mines can also be stolen by the enemy, making for a pretty good back-and-forth battle that takes place in the jungle at the same time as lane battles. The Kraken is the final piece of the puzzle: a powerful enemy replaces the gold miner at the 16 minute mark and requires the entire team to take him out. However, if you do so, you recruit the Kraken to your side and he’ll slowly make his way to the enemy base, taking down opposing turrets, heroes and eventually the Vain itself. He can be stopped, but for most teams, having the Kraken launched against you is a death sentence.

As you can imagine, Vainglory has what it takes to be an incredibly deep game simply from the setup. Its heroes take that depth even further. Heroes are generally classified into the MOBA archetypes, which some designed for laning, others for jungling and others still for utility roles. Heroes are well balanced and while some require more timing and game awareness to play, I found each to be immensely enjoyable in their own way. Vainglory’s shop system also complements its heroes well, with a plethora of items to purchase that improve stats or offer consumables.

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Visually, Vainglory is absolutely beautiful and takes full advantage of Metal (one of the main reasons it was featured in Apple’s keynote). On my iPhone 6, I was met with cool visual effects, highly detailed heroes and backdrops, and no slowdown at all. Admittedly, visuals are probably not on the short list of what makes a great MOBA, but it’s still cool to play a game that looks this great on your iOS device. Relatedly, I never had an issue with latency or freezes in the dozens of matches I’ve played online.

Controls are another important facet for mobile MOBAs and Vainglory executes them near flawlessly. Everything is controlled via taps and menus, power selection, and targeting are all implemented in such a way that I hardly ever had issues with mis-tapping. In fact, I was pretty impressed with how every facet of Vainglory felt tailored to touch controls. Even the in-game ‘Help’ menus, which offer a wealth of information at a glance for your heroes, are implemented well. Speaking of help menus, Vainglory has some of the best tutorial videos I’ve seen yet on an iOS MOBA.

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Hero selection itself is where the game’s freemium elements come into play. Heroes are rotated but can be purchased permanently via Glory (the game’s in-game currency which is earned with every battle) or ICE (the premium currency). It’s important to note that I considered no aspect of Vainglory’s freemium facets to be considered pay-to-win. Instead, its monetization favors the more established free-to-play MOBAs and is very fair.

So Vainglory’s parts are all excellent, how well does it play as a whole? Quite awesomely. Battles are relatively lengthy (15-30 minutes) but are a bit less complicated than most desktop MOBAs. However, the great balance of all the heroes, combined with the decent amount of activities to do within the game’s map means there are a variety of ways to aid your team. In fact, the only issue I’ve had so far is with players going AFK during battles. However, Vainglory includes a ‘Karma’ system that rewards players that stick around to the end of the match. The hope is players that don’t leave matches early will eventually only be paired with similar players, minimizing matchmaking with dropouts.

I absolutely love everything that Vainglory has to offer. It’s a full MOBA experience that offers all the strategy and excitement that the genre is known for while modifying and tailoring the core concepts to mobile. Streamlining some facets (like lanes) while retaining hero and power/upgrade depth makes for battles that never feel boring. Vainglory also retains that awesome MOBA feeling of domination when all three team members are in sync. It’s an important aspect which should encourage players to develop a robust friend system for party gameplay.

Seeing how Vainglory is free, there’s really no reason not to check it out. However, I’d go even further and say that it’s probably the best MOBA on iOS and offers both an awesome experience for MOBA veterans while also providing an approachable avenue for novices. Simply put, you owe it to yourself to check out Super Evil Megacorp’s latest masterpiece.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Skyfluks

    It is incredible to play a game of this level on IOS!

  • Codeb1ue

    Have been playing this game for awhile on Asian servers and it is without doubt one of the best games on mobile and in my personal opinion the best! Developers are also friendly and have a real passion for interacting with the community.... Support this game!!!!

  • chad_smash

    As a developer myself I can safely say that the iPhone 5 is quite a beast. Pretty poor that this is only 5S and above. More fragmentation, yay.

    • garbul

      Yeah, I can't fault them for pushing mobile gaming forward, but I looked at my iPhone 5 in a sad way today. You did your best, son.

      • http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-4-new-skins-themes-launches/740147-neurotech-hd.html#post5637502 Jay

        Obsolescence has always been a factor in gaming, though. It's one of the cool things about being a gamer - you get to look forward to the next big technological step, then all the wonder and joy comes back anew!

      • garbul

        Oh, definitely! We just had a LAN and played Warcraft 2 over IPX. Good times!

      • http://www.epic-monsterhunters.com Hanfos

        1. Download Vainglory with iTunes on your PC/Mac.
        Note: The downloaded .ipa will be stored in "Mobile Applications", a folder where your iTunes Library is located.
        2. Download and open iFunbox (available for Mac and Windows).
        3. Connect your iPhone 5 to you PC/Mac.
        4. Click on "install App" in iFunbox and choose the Vainglory .ipa you have downloaded in the first step.
        5. Now you're ready to play Vainglory on your unsupported iPhone 5!
        6. If an update is out, you just have to repeat this the same way.

        now u can play on iPhone 5

    • err404

      The thing is an iPhone 5 would have no issue running this game at 30fps with no additional coding. They already support the game on weaker devices. The iPad version run nearly perfect on an older iPad 2/3. The iPhone 5 is faster in every way.
      The limitation isn't technical.

      • chad_smash

        Apple will have given them a chunk of cash to "make it" metal only. Fair enough for the dev, but must have been sizeable to make them cut out a huge (vast majority) of their potential market - i.e revenue - in this way. No sane dev would make that choice unless the incentive was great and time-limited... Guess we'll just have to wait until the deal expires - hoping to play on my iPhone 5/iPad 2 in the near future, it does look pretty decent...

    • ADITYA SRINIVASAN

      You can play it on iPhone 5 get the game on ur iTunes PC and then get ifunbox and install it just did it today for my friend works like a dream no lag whatsoever

  • dancj

    And I just searched a couple of hours ago to see it TA had done a review of this game and was disappointed that they hadn't.

  • RomanReigns

    Already playing on my iPhone 5s and iPad Air...well,i cannot express how great this game is.Yeah,im new to MOBA (because not much of my genre type) but i feel like i've been playing it since ages and became a master of MOBAs.This game is surely gunna stay on my iDevices for very long time to come..Only issue is the screen size on 5s.'ve to zoom abt 50% and play while its perfect on iPad Air..works flawlessly on both 😀

  • famousringo

    This game made me like MOBAs, and that's no small achievement.

    Although my first reaction on playing was "why the hell can't games in other genres be this incredibly polished." Everything about the interface, matchmaking and shopping is just effortlessly smooth.

  • ikelleigh

    It's a pretty solid entry into the mobile MOBA world, but still is plagued with typical issues such as leavers or AFKs which can make a game really frustrating... especially since the surrender option requires 3/3 to work. The lack of chat but the inclusion of "pings" cuts down on the toxic, which is also refreshing. I think I'm still leaning towards Fates Forever for it's faster games.

    • famousringo

      If you get a leaver, the surrender option opens up early and I'm pretty sure you don't need the leaver's vote.

      Also, it is possible to win with two. It's no advantage, for sure, but if a player on your team is beasting and keeping the other side dead, well, there's no substitute for murder.

      • ikelleigh

        Oh believe me I know. I was using Ringo in a match where one of our team went AFK. The other team had us nailed down winning the minion and gold mines, but I was pretty much stomping every one of their players catching them alone in jungle. They even had the Kraken on our base at one point, so I took that opportunity to solo the last two of their turrets, win back the minion mines and win the game.

      • http://adamsimmersive.com Adams Immersive

        Sounds like exactly the kind of tactics and situations I've loved about team FPS games--Time to finally try a MOBA!

        I've had the Savage MOBA installed on my Mac for ages and never even gotten around to trying it.

    • Fox Wong

      There are LINE groups for different regional servers that are extremely active, and there are also lists of players who you can add in game to team with. I don't play solo queue these days as the game is too new, and you will get lots of AFK 🙂
      http://forums.vainglorygame.com/index.php?threads/a-quick-guide-to-various-communities-of-vainglory.1056/

    • Kita

      When you get your reputation high enough you won't get paired with afk'rs

  • IAP-king

    MLG ios games confirmed? ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

  • ste86uk

    Love the game and can't wait for more content in the future.

  • StealthDawg

    Playing on my iPad Air 2 And iPhone 6 Plus. Smooth as butta!!!

  • donfuego

    How does it compare to Fates Forever?

    • kjax

      This is what I want to know as well.

      • ikelleigh

        Vain is one lane, less skills to lvl, more rewarding for last hitting, and from what I can tell, less skill-shot powers and more tap to cast powers. They are both free, so worth just playing a few rounds to see how they compare.

      • garbul

        Is Fates Forever ever going to come to iPhone? Looked on their forums and no plans it seems.

      • idmonfish

        Well both are good games. Fates has I think more characters at the moment and takes I think more skill to master - basically because the abilities are usually skill shots which are gesture based whereas VG is usually point click hit - little opportunity for kiting or dodging. VG's roles are more rigid (ie if your carry sucks you are doomed, whereas in Fates a tank can be rebuilt as an almost carry in a pinch. VG has a much more interesting and deep jungle, however Fates has two lanes + the jungle which I think makes the decisions tougher and the strategy more interesting.

        Other than that they basically suffer the same issues as all MOBA's do aka other players being afkers and or rubbish...

  • SupraMan21

    Why ! Whyyyyy! Tell me why! Super evil megacorp why cant vainglory run on 5c ?????????????!?!!!!! Makes no sence. Same hardware same retina display as 5s. I had some hopes for this game but now it's nothing , I hope Apple paid you a lot to only make it available for there newest hardware. It's feels like segregation from the rich to the poor.

    • dancj

      It's not the same hardware. At a guess I'd assume the app is specifically coded for 64 bit architecture

      • Kita

        it works on iPad 2 though

      • dancj

        That's that theory knacked then. For some reason I thought it was only for the Air and Air 2

    • Fox Wong

      It's not officially supported, but if you really want it to run on Iphone 5c there's a post in the official forum about how to do it:
      http://forums.vainglorygame.com/index.php?threads/tutorial-how-to-install-vainglory-on-your-iphone-5.1924/

      • SupraMan21

        Wow way too much work for a simple iPhone game

      • Fox Wong

        It's not a simple iPhone game, MOBAs by their nature are very complex games involving multiplayer, networking, communication, and a learning curve. Vainglory runs on a custom engine that is written specifically to optimize mobile gaming performance, and it's been in development for the past two years. It took me about a month of playing everyday before I am decent at Vainglory, there are LINE groups for teaming up, players write guides, it's a very involved type of game but also lots of fun.

      • Tommmy

        It's a simple iPhone game because it's a mobile game. Stop defending it.

      • Pyroknight

        Defending what? MOBA's are complex games, along with the fact that you can't just slap a game designed for other devices onto yours.

      • Tommmy

        MOBA is a simple piece of crap. Also the game can run on my device, but devs simply decided not to include it.

      • AbsolutePhenom

        You sound like the biggest idiot ever. Stop crying and have your mommy buy you a new iPhone.

    • garbul

      Sorry dude, I feel you, but the hardware isn't the same at all. The 5c is based on iPhone 5's internals, including A6 chip. The iPhone 5s is rocking the A7, which is the same overall 64-bit chip design as the A8 in the iPhone 6. Totally different beast. 5c is just a re-branded iPhone 5 with a better FaceTime camera.

      • SupraMan21

        I hate you

      • jamesgecko

        The iPad version of the game can run on the ancient iPad 2 hardware.

    • Tommmy

      Cause Apple wants more buck for us.

      • SupraMan21

        Yeah. You'd think a million dallor company would start giving out iPhones

    • http://www.epic-monsterhunters.com Hanfos

      u can play on 5c
      1. Download Vainglory with iTunes on your PC/Mac.
      Note: The downloaded .ipa will be stored in "Mobile Applications", a folder where your iTunes Library is located.
      2. Download and open iFunbox (available for Mac and Windows).
      3. Connect your iPhone 5 to you PC/Mac.
      4. Click on "install App" in iFunbox and choose the Vainglory .ipa you have downloaded in the first step.
      5. Now you're ready to play Vainglory on your unsupported iPhone 5!
      6. If an update is out, you just have to repeat this the same way.

  • FootSoldier

    This game is just to fun.

  • ceszar

    Im rocking, aways carring my team, add me, Ceszar

  • Alan Baldwin

    I've yet to try this, but I'm excited to try it on my iPad. I deleted it from my phone though immediately - there was absolutely no care in the 5S version of it. The first thing I tried to do was register for an account, and the text box is both not big enough for a short email address (asdfgh@gmail.com), and doesn't scroll so you can see what you're typing. It works fine on an iPad - but I don't trust it to play on the 5S.

    • Agkelos

      I have been playing it on my 5s for a few days now, and it works great. It is weird that the registration box was so oversized but I registered successfully with no problems. Probably just a coding glitch.

  • dr. radicals

    This game is why I'm upgrading my 4s to the six.

  • Kalahan6

    How does this game compare to Fates Forever? FF seems more polished

    • Fox Wong

      The frame rate is higher in Vainglory, and the gameplay feels deeper and the jungle is more important than it is in FF. I suggest you download it and try it out since it's free 🙂 There are many guides on builds and I suggest reading up on them 🙂

  • ChiefMcCloud

    Super Fun by Super Evil Megacorp.

    "You're so Vain! You probably think this game is about you!"

  • Crimzzen

    It's fantastic. Nuff said!

  • Piranjah

    Officially my favorite game on iOS! Been playing this for a week and totally hooked:-)

  • Pyroknight

    Wondering why there's no chat, would be great for coordinating

    • Agkelos

      I find the ping options work ok for cooperative players. Although it took me a few matches before I figured out what they are. Wish it was in the tutorials.....unless it was, and I just missed it....

  • Agkelos

    So much fun! I honestly have not had this much fun playing an iOS game before. Everything just work together so seamlessly! Playing this on the 5s, and having no problems with the touch controls at all. Love this game!

  • Kita

    I can't stop playing this game. I thought Fates Forever was gonna be the first great moba for IOS but it didn't hold my interest like the others but this one is really, really good!

  • Jun Hyeon Mun

    Why no support for iPhone 5????

  • badjester42

    Seriously this game is so deep!

  • drewpoc

    For iPhone 5/5C, download via iTunes, install "ifunbox" on pc, install and profit...game runs smooth as butter on my 5C...the metal only is a gimmick for Apples metal...trust me it runs amazing

Vainglory Reviewed by Eric Ford on . Rating: 5