It's not often that an established hardcore genre is successfully translated to iOS.
And by that I mean PROPERLY translated. As in, made to fit naturally on a touchscreen rather than being shoe-horned in with sub-optimal virtual controls.
Fates Forever deserves to be praised to the hilt for just such a feat by people who know far more about the PC-based MOBA genre than I.
All I know - and all you really need to know - is that it's a gorgeous multiplayer action-strategy game that makes working in small teams to bash other players round the bonce feel really fun.MOBA awards
First, a quick explanation for those who thought that a MOBA was an urban music award.
MOBA stands for multiplayer online battle arena. Think of it like this: if a classic Diablo-style action RPG was granted the kind of team-based multiplayer mode found in your average online shooter, the result would look and play a lot like a MOBA.
You take direct control of a single fantasy hero, directing them around a symmetrical arena by tapping where you want them to go. You can have up to two human-controlled teammates all doing the same thing, and you'll be facing up against three more.
There's also a steady stream of automated grunts that spawn and charge off towards the end goal, engaging enemies along the way, which serve to flesh out encounters and bolster your attacks. Taking out opposing examples will fill your coffers.
The goal in all this is to destroy the opponent's base, located at the other end of the map. Along the way you'll vie for territory by claiming and destroying enemy outposts and spawning points.
Role of a lifetime
You can attack enemies directly by tapping on them, but you also have a steadily unfurling range of special attacks, each on a separate recharge timer, located along the left side of the screen.
Depending on which character you choose, these can be charge attacks, area of effect attacks, or evasive manoeuvres, among others.
As you gain experience, you'll be able to level up each of these special abilities as you see fit. Add in a shop that dispenses more powerful weapons and armour, and you have a system that will be familiar to anyone who's ever played an RPG.
But the key to each round is tactical thinking and tight teamwork rather than stats and grinding, and that's why even RPG-hating action or strategy nuts will get some joy out of Fates Forever.
Charge straight in and you'll soon be overwhelmed by opposing numbers, while you can't take out enemy structures on your own. You need to attack in numbers, with AI grunts serving to distract the automated defences that protect said structures.
Duel screen controls
Taking out human opponents is the real thrill here, though. While standard attacks are automated, there's plenty for you to be busying yourself with in each encounter.
Some special attacks need skilful user input, whether it's a precise slingshot-like motion or a sketching a precise path out on the screen.
There are defensive measures that can restore health or bolster your armour temporarily, which can turn a fight on its head if timed properly.
Adding to the drama, there's an announcer taken straight out of an online first person shooter, informing you of human players on a killing streak.
Indeed, Fates Forever's presentation marks it out as something particularly special. The term console-standard is perhaps overused, but it's certainly apt here.
Even on my wheezing old iPad 3, the game was a fluid, detailed delight with well-drawn characters and a slick frame rate. Yes, there's the odd stutter, but then this is an online multiplayer game. You expect the odd glitch.
I should also mention Fates Forever's freemium IAP-fuelled nature. While such funding models are never ideal in such a hardcore game, this is one of the best judged we've come across.
Put simply, you can always join a game, and there are no annoying wait timers on anything other than the natural ones (like respawning). All you're really paying for here are additional characters, or more ways to enjoy the core free game.
Fated to succeed
This is a game whose strengths and weaknesses will likely manifest over tens of hours of online play, so it's quite hard to pick on any major flaws at this early point.
If I were to choose anything substantial, it would be that many of its skirmishes can feel too chaotic for their own good. When two or more human-controlled characters converge with a full load of AI accomplices, good luck differentiating anything from anything, as all becomes a single seething mass of light and polygons.
This invariably leads to slightly hopeful screen mashing on the player's part. I'm sure that the best players have adopted coping mechanisms, and can see through the clutter to initiate a winning strategy. But as a non-MOBA specialist, I often could not. And that's a bit of an issue any way you cut it.
It's one of very few examples of the developer's ambitions scraping up against the host platform's limitations, though. Fates Forever is a superb online multiplayer game, and the first successful compromise-free MOBA to be made for mobile.