Doesn’t “MOBA” just roll right off the tongue?

It’s a sad fact of life for MOBA players that you can’t play League of Legends on your iOS device. Thanks to Gameloft, you may not have to, since it’s come up with a nice-looking freemium mobile MOBA (say five times fast for guaranteed fun) called Heroes of Order & Chaos. The tantalizing prospect of solo, co-op, or multiplayer battles on the go awaits you, but only one mode is polished in its current state.

If you’ve never played a MOBA before, you can think of it as the Player versus Player (PvP) portion of an MMORPG, but spun off and given even more richness as its own game. Heroes of Order & Chaos follows many of the conventions of this relatively young genre, pitting teams of three or five heroes against each other. Computer-controlled towers and mercenaries bolster the forces of both sides, making it essential to work together to destroy the other team’s base.

Two tutorials help with the basics, which are fairly easy to pick up. Either the virtual d-pad or tapping on a destination will move your hero across the map. Virtual buttons are used to attack, switch targets or use items. Perhaps the most important are the buttons on the right side of the screen that activate each hero’s group of four special abilities.

Heroes of Order & Chaos

While you battle, you’ll earn both gold and experience that are used while you play. Gold can buy you improved weapons, potions and other useful goodies from a store near the respawn point. Death is only temporary, though it will take you a little longer to come back each time you kick the bucket. Experience allows you to level up your hero, and each level allows you to upgrade one of his or her abilities. Powering up your hero in the middle of the action is an essential skill.

So is coordinating with your teammates, and that’s where the limitations of playing a MOBA on a tablet or smartphone start to show a little. A chat window can be summoned at any time, yet it’s hard to type on a touchscreen in the heat of battle. The mini map is useful for keeping an eye on which channel is the hot spot, but maybe even more than LoL, success in Heroes of Order & Chaos depends on understanding tactics and the way the four classes – Guardian, Fighter, Mage and Support – complement each other. Experienced MOBA players should feel right at home, while beginners could find it a bit daunting.

Full stats are kept for kills (player and mercenary), assists and deaths, and you are ranked separately for 3v3 and 5v5 play. Wins help level your overall account, helping to unlock special skills that can be used regardless of what hero you play. You’ll also earn talent points, which can be applied to separate trees of boosts for each class. Emblems can unlock more heroes to use, though the premium currency, Runes, is faster if you don’t mind spending real money. A rotating set of free heroes changes on a weekly basis, helping to keep things fresh.

Heroes of Order & Chaos

As mentioned in the intro, the battles can be played solo, co-op against the AI, or full multiplayer. Solo games run with nary a hitch, and are helpful for acclimating yourself to the gameplay. Co-op seems like it would be equally useful for testing out new heroes or strategies, yet I found long wait times trying to get a game going, suggesting that the mode simply isn’t too popular.

Multiplayer should be the bread and butter of a game like this, but it just isn’t up to snuff on the technical side right now. Hiccups are common while just moving across the map, and you should be prepared for the game to lose sync altogether for a period of several seconds once or twice a battle. Depending on what’s going on at the time, those seconds could be crucial, and it’s kind of an unforgivable sin for any competitive multiplayer game to be so unreliable. That goes for more mundane server issues as well, like having the game time out while trying to spin the daily bonus wheel.

When it is working properly, Heroes of Order & Chaos looks and sounds great. The graphical style borrows heavily from the World of Warcraft school of fantasy art, but the hero models and backgrounds alike are full of color and detail. Appropriately stirring music plays in the menu screens, and the characters even talk, something that surprised me when I first heard it.

Heroes of Order & Chaos

For a title that proclaims itself the first real mobile MOBA, Heroes of Order & Chaos is a good start. Until it gets those technical glitches smoothed out, though, that’s all it’s going to be. Play it now with a little bit of forewarning, and definitely check back on it in a few months to see if it improves on its promising beginning.