Yesterday CD Projekt Red, in conjunction with Fuero Games, announced The Witcher Battle Arena for iOS. As the name suggests, the new game is a multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA), in the vein of Riot’s League of Legends or Valve’s Dota 2. The catch, of course, is that all of the characters are from the Witcher, a series of sprawling PC and console role-playing games, based on a group of fantasy novels by Polish author Andrezj Sapkowski.
This isn’t the first time CD Projekt Red has ventured into mobile games: The Witcher Versus was a turn-based fighting game released a few years ago (and since taken off the App Store), and The Witcher Adventure Game has been “coming soon" since January.
Two things about The Witcher Battle Arena stand out: it’s being designed from the start with mobile devices in mind, and it’s free-to-play. Here’s what studio boss Adam Badowski had to say, in a prepared statement: “With mobile devices as powerful as they are and the graphics they offer being so beautiful, we can finally plunge into mobile gaming and deliver our take on free gaming to gamers worldwide."
Free-to-play games tend to be contentious, but the Witcher Battle Arena announcement includes all of the appropriate marketing talk: “In a world full of enter-your-PIN-number-to-win mechanics, what we value above all is well-balanced and honest gameplay,” said Tadek Zieliński, the studio’s creative analyst. “Battle Arena is all about skill and dedication, and we’ve spent hundreds of hours planning to make it a paragon of fairness in mobile gaming."
That said, the game’s website also explains that while all in-game items can be earned through play, “if you want to get something unlocked faster, you can purchase it for a reasonable price." Most free-to-play MOBAs make money by selling aesthetic items or alternate costumes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with The Witcher Battle Arena so far.
If you’re unfamiliar with MOBAs, the genre involves two teams of five fighting to control a map. A match ends when one team destroys the others base—in League, this is the “Nexus," and in Dota 2, the “Ancient." Each player controls one “champion," which can be outfitted with special abilities and perks. In most MOBAs, AI-controlled “creeps" are also present: these are weaker minions who can be killed for gold, which is then used to buy items from a base camp.
The Witcher Battle Arena sticks pretty close to the standard, but its main “Conquest" mode has some pretty major deviations. For starters, Conquest matches are three-on-three instead of five-on-five, and there don’t seem to be any creep mechanics. Conquest also features a points system and certain capture points, similar to King of the Hill or so-called “Domination" modes in other multiplayer games: securing a critical zone drains the opposing team of points. When a team runs out of points, the match is over.
So far, “Conquest" is the only game type, with only one map to play. There will also be an offline single-player mode, as well as a humans-vs.-bots option. For more info about the game’s map, modes, and lore, The Witcher Battle Arena website is pretty detailed. Series protagonist Geralt of Rivia is notably absent, but fan favorite Phillipa Eilhart is one of the game’s eight champions.
The game will be released later this year for iOS, Android, and Windows phones and tablets, with free updates planned to expand the character roster and add new modes. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt the last game in the series, is targeting a February 2015 release on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.