Sins of a Dark Age is the first and so far the only multiplayer online battle arena game developed by Ironclad Games. The company however was already known for the successful release of Sins of a Solar Empire, albeit a project with a small budget. The moment they ventured into the uncharted territory of the MOBA genre, they chose to draw some inspiration from the classics. It brought a couple of new things as well and the result is a game fun to play in multiplayer, although less successful as an eSport.
Gameplay of Sins of a Dark Age
Ironclad Games took some of the ideas from its previous games and wanted to braid them into the gameplay of Sins of a Dark Age. The result is a mix of genres that should appeal to real-time strategy fans as well. More precisely, the two teams of five players each are aided by another player who assumes the role of Commander. While his teammates play a classic multiplayer online battle arena game, the latter is immersed into a fast-paced RTS-like game.
Some elements from this genre have been ditched, such as the time-consuming resource gathering, so players can focus exclusively on the battlefield. Instead, resources are earned exclusively by killing other players and AI controlled creatures. The system is more suitable for the fans of the MOBA genre and it borrows some elements from Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm. Players need to capture and control resource nodes which appear across the map to harvest those resources.
The five players that control the heroes do most of the fighting, but the aid granted by the Commander is invaluable. The latter is of critical importance for the team and enjoys a lot of leeway, as it can focus on offensive, defensive or support abilities. Meanwhile, many of the traditional MOBA elements are still in play, so players can expect AI controlled opponents to stream from one end of the map to the other. Towers and other defensive structures prevent the two teams from pushing the lanes too quickly.
Sins of a Dark Age Heroes and Abilities
Sins of a Dark Age heroes play support and tanking roles, while some deal damage with weapons or spells. They look different enough as to be recommenced easily on the field of battle, but the developers didn’t dwell too much on weaving a narrative for each of them. That’s because the game is supposed to be played and enjoyed in multiplayer, rather than having a fully fledged single player campaign.
Players can choose to tweak their characters to perform roles well beyond their standard continuation, but there are generally better suited for specific tasks. One difference between the gameplay of Sins of a Dark Age and other MOBAs is that heroes are far more mobile here. That’s the result of players being able to use the teleport ability to move the characters on selected areas on the map besides their own base. These are particularly important to hold and control since they ensure mobility.
Sins of a Dark Age heroes do level up and when properly supported by the Commander, they are more than a match for AI controlled minions and towers. The average length of a game is shorter than the classic MOBA and matches are more intense. Ironclad Games plans on introducing new heroes and also grants new abilities to Commanders, such as building towers of their own.
Sins of a Dark Age Multiplayer and eSports Potential
Sins of a Dark Age developers took advantage of their significant experience in developing real-time strategy games. In multiplayer, they chose to do away with mechanics that would artificially complicate the game and focus on what matters the most. For instance, players don’t have to worry about denying their opponents the chance to kill AI controlled minions.
Players who strike the killing blow collect most of the gold, but participating once also receive a share. This puts its multiplayer somewhere in between League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. By implementing this mechanic, the developers have tried to make the community friendlier and mitigate the risks of players complaining about kill steals.
Sins of a Dark Age checks all the needed boxes for becoming a popular eSports and mirrors some of the most popular multiplayer online battle arenas. Commanders proved to be less popular than expected do and the community of professional players wasn’t exactly ready to embrace the concept. As a result, even though the game had plenty of fans at all skill levels, it never truly made it into the professional arena.
Popular and Critical Reception
Sins of a Dark Age had a distinct advantage compared to Ironclad Games’ first major hit Sins of a Solar Empire. The developers were already well known and respected by players seeking original games, rather than copy cats. At the same time, the expectations were high and when the game was released players were hoping for a flawless game. Much to its credit, Sins of a Dark Age received high scores from critics and was played intensely right from the start.
People found the addition of the Commander intriguing and were anxious to see how they could tap into the potential of this new concept. The customization options for heroes, such as equipping them with special gear and unique abilities also brought the game praise. The idea of sharing the gold among players that participated in a hero or minion kill generated mixed reactions. Having said this, the concept was never fully embraced or demolished even in the most popular multiplayer online battle arena games.
The overwhelming majority of players were happy to hear that all the heroes were available right from the start. A select few were a bit disappointed to be deprived of the thrills inherent with unlocking a character at a time. Ironclad Games made this game free to play, so it had to rely on micro-transactions to fund the project. At the same time, the items and accessories bought don’t influence the gameplay and paying customers don’t have an unfair advantage over their peers.
Key facts about Sins of a Dark Age
- Sins of a Dark Age is a free to play multiplayer online battle arena game integrated with Twitch
- Ironclad Games introduced the Commander and chose blend elements of MOBA with RTS.
- Sins of a Dark Age had an impressive amount of hero customization and a complex gameplay.
- Games are played on a single map with three lanes and the matches are objective based.
- All Sins of a Dark Age heroes are available right from the start with no unlock required.
The Bottom Line
Sins of a Dark Age met the high expectations set by the successful release of Sins of a Solar Empire and appeals to the fans of Ironclad Games. While it features all the common MOBA elements, the game has a RTS flavor and the addition of the Commander spices things up. The game is free to play and doesn’t have any pay to win elements, so paying users don’t have an advantage. It never became an eSports phenomenon, but the game is fun to play in multiplayer at all skill levels.