Well, this is a first for me. Today I’ll be taking a quick look at a free-to-play MOBA on mobile called Onmyoji Arena by NetEase games. Full disclosure, I have absolutely no idea about the lore behind this franchise and I’ll only be focusing on the gameplay aspect, so don’t expect me to talk about the story or the historical/mythical references that may be present in it (because this is apparently based on another one of the company’s titles).
The New Player Experience
First of all, as with any other MOBA on mobile platforms, the game tends to be very generous towards new players, granting monetary rewards and free shikigamis (for the sake of simplicity, I’ll refer to them as heroes) for the first week of playing. Playing through the tutorial also grants coins, which can be used to purchase a few starting heroes or give you enough to almost buy one of the more expensive options.
I’m not gonna lie, my first impressions were a bit negative due to the UI looking very cluttered. Similar to Mobile Legends, there are a whole bunch of events and gacha elements that I can’t be bothered to learn, but at the end of the day, none of these really affect the gameplay itself, so I just ignored all of it and started playing PVP. This is where I started to fall in love with the game.
What sets Onmyoji Arena apart from its competitors, such as Mobile Legends and MARVEL Super War, is the apparent lack of a power creep. I know I haven’t delved too deep into the game yet, but the general consensus is that all of the heroes in this game are relatively balanced and are viable in all levels of play.
As someone who usually mains as a jungler in MOBAs, I’m actually quite impressed by the amount of depth and variety offered by Onmyoji Arena‘s jungle. Each buff monster grants different effects to its killer depending on its element, with some enhancing one’s attacks to reduce their target’s defenses or their healing capabilities. The epic monsters, on the other hand, also grant highly impactful and permanent team-wide buffs, and they also spawn minions that deal tons of damage to the enemy’s turrets.
There’s really not much to say about the basic mechanics of the game since it’s essentially the same as literally any other mainstream MOBA, and if you’re reading this, you’re most likely familiar with how they work anyway. For the uninitiated, the gist of it is that there are three lanes with three turrets each, and the goal is to destroy the main building in your opponent’s base (in this game, they’re called inhibitors).
In each match, players can choose two out of 10 different spells. As a jungler main, I’ve only really used Subdue, which deals true damage to monsters, and Flash, a short range blink, but I’m sure some of these synergize well with certain heroes (e.g. Cleanse is great if you’re facing a team with lots of crowd control). There are also fully customizable Onmyodo pages, which grant small stat boosts that you can tailor to your preferred roles.
My only real issue with Onmyoji Arena is the very wide skill gap between veteran and new players in early levels. As someone who has years of experience in the genre, games tend to be complete steamrolls, but I’m sure this will quickly change once I start climbing through the ranks.
Overall, it’s a really solid game featuring a diverse roster that can each switch between different roles depending on a team’s lineup. I’d argue that this is probably one of, if not the best free-to-play MOBA in the market. The superb balancing makes it infinitely better than its competitors, which all suffer from the dreaded power creep that renders some heroes almost completely useless.
I haven’t even touched on the artstyle and sound design, which the devs clearly didn’t skimp out on. I really appreciate the subtle touches, such as that little clinking noise whenever Inugami, one of my favorite heroes, sheathes his blade when he’s done attacking.
If you’re craving for a new MOBA experience and are getting tired of the more mainstream titles out there, Onmyoji Arena should be right up your alley. The game’s available on both Android and iOS, and it’s completely free to play!