MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) was once that genre in gaming. League of Legends was bringing in big money, Dota 2 was a force in esports, and copycats were springing up all over the place. In truth, that hasn't really changed. Sure, everyone is streaming battle royale and auto chess now, but MOBA is still alive and well. League of Legends keeps paying Riot's bills, and Dota 2 still brings in those huge prize pools. The copycats have slowed somewhat as developers flock to make auto chess games. The goal for MOBA developers now seems to be to tap into empty markets. That's probably the inspiration behind Genesis, a new MOBA exclusive to PS4.
Where Genesis Is Unique
Genesis opens by explaining that humans and aliens teamed up to go through a portal in space. There are unknown dangers on the other side, which warranted the formation of a group of specialized individuals. Right after, you're dropped onto a single-lane bridge and put in control of the beginner-friendly archer hero. Sound familiar? I immediately had flashbacks to the League of Legends tutorial. Genesis does try to set itself apart by focusing more on story. The tutorial introduces mysterious aliens that attack our alliance of heroes. What they are, and why they're hostile, is a matter for the campaign. Oh yeah, there's a full-on campaign mode. Too bad it doesn't work at the moment, an issue the devs are actively fixing.
With its campaign, the one thing that could really set it apart, inactive, Genesis has your typical MOBA modes. There's training, a humans vs. AI mode, and 5v5 competitive. There's only one map in the rotation right now, the usual three lane battlefield where you aim to destroy the enemy towers and reach their core. That's not to fault Genesis for having this familiar element. The setup is just typical to MOBAs. In fact, there are some smart things going on in Genesis that address common MOBA problems.
The biggest change is the addition of a win condition. Either team could destroy the opposing base to claim victory, but they can also just get 60 kills. The idea, I imagine, is to stop that endgame drag that always happens in close matches. Both sides hunker down in their bases, carefully turning back creep tides and maybe jungling. But mostly they play it safe, retreating the moment a team fight seems to be going bad. It's tedious, boring, and only amplifies post-match toxicity because the stalemate usually ends when someone gets antsy and gives up a team fight. In Genesis, you can play it safe all you want but one side will eventually get 60 kills. In theory. In my 6-7 hours of play this only happened once. That match still went on a little too long. So while the ultimatum does pressure teams to actually push lanes, it isn't a complete cure for turtling.
Before I talk Genesis gameplay, I feel like I have to share my MOBA experience. My street cred, if you will. I played a lot of LoL during its heyday, and made it a point to collect all of the Ahri and Rumble skins. When ranked was first introduced, I grouped up with four friends and tried to take on the world. We fought hard just to stay in Gold Rank. We once experimented with Dota 2, which I enjoyed but also too complex to stick with. After the team dissolved, I played Smite briefly. With this in mind, I feel rather confident in saying that Genesis plays like an easier League of Legends.
Genesis has a top-down view, mid goes solo, bottom duos, and hopefully someone jungles. Thankfully, every champion has the ability to teleport to friendly towers. There's a cooldown, of course, but it's still nice to have that ability not locked to a summoner spell. The shop is also available everywhere, not just at base. This all seems designed to expedite the laning phase. There's even an option to begin with your character at level four. It's like the Genesis devs know that farming creeps is boring and are helping players get to team fights faster.
Building up your hero is automated by default. If you don't "pre-order" a late-game item, the game will prompt you to buy the next affordable recommended item as soon as you have the gold. When you level up, the game will automatically apply a point to an ability. Since you can't freely choose targets with a mouse pointer, there's a priority system. With a click of the left stick, your hero will cycle between targeting creeps, structures, or enemy heroes. It's all streamlined, designed for console players who probably never played a PC MOBA. Fortunately for experienced players, it can all be turned off. Well, except for the game pad controls. The devs are planning to eventually put Genesis on PC, but have stated that they don't plan on incorporating mouse and keyboard controls.
You Can Do Better, Just Not On PS4
After playing several hours of Genesis, I have this vague desire to play more. I don't totally credit that to anything unique to Genesis, however. The simplified experience is nice in some ways. I didn't use voice chat, and there's obviously no text chat, so other players couldn't be toxic without going out of the way to send PMs, which didn't happen. The connection was surprisingly stable even on wi-fi. It was also nice to play a MOBA without a definitive meta, with beginners who are just there to have fun (and don't have the map awareness to avoid my ganks).
Still, I miss the accuracy of a mouse for skill shots. The characters don't quite have the charm of Ahri, Rumble, or any of my other LoL mains. I find their voice acting annoying, and their 3D models don't quite live up to their art. I don't see myself dropping cash for skins. In the end, I think I just want to scratch the MOBA itch I've been ignoring for years. Genesis definitely does that, and will do so for any curious PS4 owners. It also doesn't require PS Plus, which is a... plus. Give it a shot as your first MOBA, or first MOBA in years. If you have a PC, however, stick to the classics.
3 Out Of 5 Stars
Genesis is free-to-play, and available for download now on PS4.