CD Projekt Red has been one of the game industry’s biggest up-and-comers. With the release of The Witcher, they proved that an independent Polish developer can put out a world-class RPG, and with the sequel released a few years later, they showed they could truly compete with AAA devs like Bioware and Bethesda. With the third and most ambitious game in the series looming on the horizon, The Witcher’s newest mobile spinoff is sailing in an a wave of goodwill amassed by their as-yet-spotless track record, but Battle Arena is not what we’ve come to expect from CDPR.
Developed in conjunction with Warsaw-based Fuero games, The Witcher: Battle Arena is a MOBA – or at least a simplified take – designed to bring PC gaming’s biggest free-to-play genre to mobile sphere. It seems like everyone on earth is taking a stab at MOBAs right now, and yet only same handful are able to maintain any real following. The Witcher, despite the likeable license, doesn’t seem to have much to make it an exception and maintain long-term interest.
Perhaps wisely, Battle Arena accounts for both the simpler input method of the touchscreen and the general lack of communication between player in mobile multiplayer by streamlining a lot of familiar elements out of the game. What we’re left with is a dead-simple capture-point game, where camping points allows a team to control them, and controlled points gradually drain the opponent’s points. Combat is tap-to-hack, with a small array of character-specific special moves to be dispensed as needed, as well as a two-item inventory for health potions and the like.
That’s more or less all there is to it. There’s not a lot of high level strategy, which is fortunate, since there wouldn’t be much way to communicate it even if there was. The maps are tiny, you can scroll freely to see what’s happening, and there’s a mini-map tracking all players on the map, so there’s not much mystery to planning your attack. No matter what, they’ll see you coming. Although it has Google Play support, there’s no way to invite friends to matches or play with specific groups, so the cooperative strategy that typically drives the genre is flat-out absent.
There’s also a desperate dearth of content. There are only two very small maps, and one mode (as well as a few variants for those wanting to play with AI bots). You’ll start with three of nine characters unlocked and enough currency to grab one more of your choice. From there you’ll have to slowly build up the money for more. Although the Witcher series has a huge amount of lore amassed through novels, short stories, and games, the roster here mostly consists of Witcher 2 favorites like Letho, Zoltan, and Iorveth. In-game purchases seem fair and don’t seem to unbalance the game nor take the fun out of it, but there are bigger problems at work.
The Witcher: Battle Arena feels more like a beta than a game. While it’s a free download, and it seems likely there will be more content and updates in the future, what is there right now is terribly thin, both in terms of gameplay and content. There’s simply nothing here to sink your teeth into, and a familiar cast of characters is hardly reason to stick around after the first hour or two. With work, it could develop into something more substantial, but as it stands, there’s just nothing here.
Neither Witcher fans nor those craving a mobile MOBA will find much to like here, with pathetically simple gampelay and very little content to explore.