For me, mobile gaming has always been about filling the time normally spent awkwardly waiting for something. A quick time suck while in line at the store, or out in the car as my kid finishes up practice. Every once in a while, something grabs my attention and I play it during other points in my day, but the core gameplay mechanics are the same and I can stop whenever I need to get up and do something.
Vainglory is nothing like my normal mobile game. It's a online game that forces me to sit down, block out at least half an hour, and focus intently on a larger mission. When the beta for Android started a couple of months ago, I wanted to see what it was like to immerse yourself in a mobile game in the same way I would a PC or console title. The genre is most commonly known a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena — MOBA for short — and is usually something I'd prefer to play at my desk in front of my rather powerful gaming PC. Instead I find myself curled up on the couch tapping away on the screen for hours at a time, and I'm unlikely to stop anytime soon.
MOBA games are nothing new, in fact this year we're likely to see more entries into the genre from AAA publishing companies than ever before. Most new MOBA titles are hunting for a niche in order to soak up users who aren't playing or watching League of Legends, and Vainglory's niche is mobile devices. The interface manages to keep all of the core gameplay elements associated with MOBA games, without feeling like the interface is cramped or awkward.
You can quickly check out any part of the map, communicate with teammates, and of course lay waste to your enemies. It's a fantastic battle system, both encouraging the player to fall into a groove that supports their play style and exploring all of the different characters that are available.
You'll also find a huge degree of challenging yet flexible options across the characters in Vainglory. The standard Easy/Medium/Hard difficulty flags are associated with each character to help users grow and learn how to play with increasingly impressive strategies, but the design for Vainglory makes jumping between the difficulty levels and exploring with all of the item combinations during a session well worth your time. Rarely will you find a MOBA that offers that experience, due largely to the chaos and pacing typically associated with these games. Even though you're in a 3v3 match where the enemy is constantly working to assault your base, the game is paced such that learning your abilities early on doesn't immediately put your team at a disadvantage.
Despite having been around on other platforms for a while, Vainglory remains one of more visually impressive and challenging games you'll find on mobile devices today. Its existence on Android opens the doors to a huge new group of players, and as long as you remember this game needs at least half an hour to play without abandoning your comrades on the battlefield you'll have a great time.
It's convinced me there's a lot more to mobile gaming than quick time wasters, and does a lot to shed some light on what the future of online gaming could look like. Now that it's on Android a little ahead of schedule, you can enjoy it as well.