Battle Royales have been reigning over the gaming kingdom for some time now. The thirst for chicken dinners was finally satisfied and now people are looking for the next big thing. Luckily, the autobattler genre has just sprung up and is taking the gaming community by the storm.
What is an autobattler? Basically, it is a game where you buy and upgrade your heroes before having them fight neutral mobs or other players. All of this happens on a grid-like field, most often resembling a chess board. Seems quite easy, right? Wrong. These games, while being undemanding mechanically, are great at challenging your strategic skills versus other players.
The autobattler genre takes its roots from a Dota 2 mod called Dota Auto Chess. The mod quickly gained popularity to the point where many players downloaded Dota 2 only to play Auto Chess. Valve noticed this and decided to make a standalone version called Dota Underlords. So did Riot Games with their Teamfight Tactics, though this one is still available only through the League of Legends launcher.
The original creator, now known as Drodo Studios, noticed this trend as well and made his own standalone project simply called Auto Chess. Sounds familiar? Blizzard Auto Chess coming in two years? Jokes aside, all three games are great in their own right but who will come out on top?
All of the games have quite similar gameplay. You buy pawns and put them onto the field. Pawns have racial and class synergies. You can only have a limited amount of pawns on the field, which is determined by your level. You gain levels by fighting and can also buy some experience with gold. Gold can be gained in a number of ways, including automatically per round, via win streaks, victories, and accumulating interest once your gold reaches certain thresholds.
You have a limited storage of pawns, with unused pawns having to wait on the sidelines for their time to shine. Having three identical pawns allows you to upgrade them to two stars, which can be also done with three two-star pawns to make them into a three-star one. Each round the store gets rerolled and you can also reroll it again manually by paying some gold. There are eight players, each of which has a non-restorable amount of health. Losing a round depletes your health. The last man standing wins.
Same-same, But Different
Dota Underlords and Auto Chess really are the same game, just made by different studios. Can you guess who Redaxe Warchief used to be? If you said Axe, you are right. If not, you probably never played Dota in the first place. The differences between these two games are purely cosmetic as well as slightly numeric and, maybe, just a tad bit mechanic (interest works differently, for example). These differences are so small that calling them the same game would be pretty accurate.
Teamfight Tactics tries to take a unique approach – their gaming grid is hexagonal instead of a traditional rectangular chess grid. Your player avatar (Little Legend) is also present on the field: it can pick a pawn on a shared drafting stage (which is also exclusive to TFT) and dab on your opponents to assert dominance. Shared drafting is a stage where all players can grab a pawn with an item tied to them – 10 pawns, 8 players, only a few seconds to decide.
Teamfight Tactics is also different in the sense that it takes its characters from a different game. Yes, there are many skills and characters in Dota 2 and League of Legends that are quite similar but still, they have their unique skill sets and personalities, which makes Teamfight Tactics look slightly fresher. Nevertheless, the core experience is pretty much the same.
Right now, all three games are in their early stages of development. Naturally, some fair a bit better than others. Dota Underlords and Auto Chess seem to be rather popular both on PC and mobile. A couple of days ago Dota Underlords was top 1 on the Play Market with Auto Chess being number 2. Today, they have fallen to numbers 4 and 6, respectively. This, however, is still a pretty impressive result for games so early in their development.
Riot’s TFT does not have a mobile version and Riot are not planning one for now, though nothing is set in stone. Moreover, TFT does not even have a standalone launcher, being only a game mode on League’s Test server (PBE).
Auto Chess does not have a proper English localization: text only has machine or amateur translation, which is not completely understandable; voice lines of characters are not translated at all, so everyone is screaming in Chinese at you. Still, the game is very much playable right now and so are its two other competitors.
Future of Autobattlers
Autobattler games are definitely a hot topic right now and are going to be popular for some time. All of the three contenders have high chances of coming out on top. Auto Chess has the original creator of Dota Auto Chess, TFT and Dota Underlords have their own vision and the money of Riot Games and Valve. The fan-bases of all three games are already incredibly big, with more and more new players coming to check them out. It is obviously very hard to predict who is going to come out on top.
On the one hand, both Dota Underlords and Auto Chess are constantly in the top on Google Play and App Store, the former being always slightly higher. On the other hand, League of Legends has a huge fanbase in Asia, especially Korea. If Riot were to make a mobile version of TFT, who knows – maybe it could take the number 1 spot on mobile platforms.
Valve are known for making good games (aside from Artifact, we pretend it never existed) but are also known for their greed (Artifact, definitely Artifact) – so Dota Underlords’ future might be uncertain. Drodo Studios is an underdog – we cannot really tell how their game is going to turn out as a standalone project. Everything gets even more complicated with their PC version being available only through the Epic Games Store, which many people dislike.
There are also many other games in the autobattler genre springing up – some die fast, some are here to stay and contend for the number 1 spot. The future is unclear for now. Tell us in the comments, which autobattler is your favourite? Who do you think is going to come out on top?