- Sci-fi setting new to MOBA genre
- Army/minion building mechanic adds new strategic layer
- Impressive visuals and scope
- Core commander control feels responsive
- League of Legends monetization strategy
- Army maintenance can get tedious
- Permanent upgrades dilute PvP balance
Supernova is a sci-fi MOBA game developed by Primal Game Studio and published by Bandai Namco. It was first released in 2015 and is currently on an Open Beta test phase.
At its core, Supernova is an MOBA, akin to Dota, League of Legends and other similar games in the genre. But what sets it apart from the rest is its theme and setting. Unlike most other MOBA games, Supernova has a Sci-Fi theme. It’s set in the far future, where humans have left Sol and found out that they are not alone in the universe.
For those living under a rock, MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, an offshoot of the RTS genre. In an MOBA, two teams compete in destroying each other’s base, but unlike in RTS games, you are only in control of a single unit. The single unit you control is called under a different name depending on the MOBA, on DOTA they are called heroes, here in Supernova they are called commanders. Supernova has 16 distinct commanders, each with their strength and weaknesses.
Unlike most other MOBA, in Supernova, you have a certain amount of control of the creeps. While you can’t micromanage them, you are in charge of producing them. There are a lot of varieties in the units you can build, from cheap ground fodder soldier units to expensive air units like battleships. You are also in charge of the units’ tech tree, allowing you to pick which area of technology to research. This army building mechanic gives Supernova another tactical element to the game. If you don’t keep track of what your opponent is building, you might find yourself facing an army of battleships with no units to counter them.
Another unique thing about Supernova is the lack of an item shop in game. Instead, there are proficiencies. Proficiencies are passive perks you can purchase for your commanders. They give a bonus depending on the selected proficiency. For example, Life-Steal+ gives you life steal, with increasing effect for each proficiency level. Each proficiency has three levels.
Like most MOBA, commanders get XP by killing enemy units. On every level up, not only do you get a skill point for your skills, you also get to customize your attributes via stat points. You can also get mastery points which you can use to set masteries for your commander. Masteries increases the max amount of stat point you can put in one attribute, and some of them can give you unique traits.
It’s a refreshing take on the MOBA genre. The sci-fi theme fits the game well. The commanders all thematically fit the setting. The graphics are great and makes for an interesting watch especially late game where both teams have hundred of units strewn across the battlefield fighting each other. It makes you feel that you’re in the center of a war.
The army building part is also nice and interesting. There are number of different creep types you can produce, each with their strength and weaknesses. As such, it doesn’t feel like a tacked-on gimmick. It really feels like it’s a core part of the gameplay and adds another element of strategy in the game. Neglect the army building part, and you will find yourself having trouble with creep control. This is especially true in late game, when the fully upgraded enemy creeps can be more than a match to your commander.
The game is free, but the commanders are not. You have to pay for the commanders to use them either with real money or by grinding for it. Now, there’s a weekly rotation of commanders you can use for free, this monetization strategy is used by LoL and other MOBAs but I wish they didn’t go with this method of monetization.
A greater problem, however, is the army building part. On every wave, you have to make sure that you’re building units. Fail to do so, and you might find your lane being pushed back. Needless to say, it gets tedious fast. The developers seemed to realize this and added an auto option that allows the AI to take control of your build/research queue, but frankly this is just a stopgap measure. In competitive play, letting an AI take control of one crucial aspect of the game is a surefire recipe for disaster.
This is more of an opinion but one thing I do not like about this game is the permanent upgrades for your commanders. While the permanent bonuses are pretty minor and not game breaking, MOBAs are supposed to be a game of pure skill. They add another progressive MMO layer to growth but I feel they violate the competitive integrity of the game.
Supernova is an interesting take on MOBA genre. It adds enough gameplay mechanics that makes it stand out from the crowd while not alienating the core gameplay that makes MOBA popular. So if you’re looking for a good MOBA that innovates the genre instead of regurgitating it, check Supernova out.