Eternal Arena Review: An Action RPG Main Course With A Side Of MOBA


MOBAs may have evolved from real-time strategy games, but they also have a lot in common with the multiplayer aspects of RPGs. That means it was probably only a matter of time until someone reverse-engineered common MOBA elements and used them as the basis for an action RPG.

That’s probably the best way I can simply sum up Eternal Arena, the new NetEase title based on the company’s consistent top-grossing game in China, Battle to the West. Not only does Eternal Arena have characters who play like MOBA champions as you lead them through a fairly meaty story and a nice variety of additional game modes.

The set-up is a fairly standard one as fantasy RPGs go. In the land of Etryna, a mysterious figure known as the Master (not the one from Doctor Who, as far as I know) is threatening to take over. As the potential Chosen One, your avatar has the ability to command a team of three from dozens of playable characters in what perhaps is some kind of meta-commentary on MOBAs themselves. Or maybe I’m overthinking that part of it.

Regardless, the basic single-player gameplay involves you controlling one character with the other two fighting autonomously, though you can switch between them with just a tap. A thumbstick controls movement while virtual buttons allow you to execute basic attacks and activate up to three other abilities, each with their own cooldown timers.

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Characters have six gear slots for weapons and equipment, all of which can be buffed using basic currency every time your avatar levels up. The characters also grow stronger as they level up individually, and there are other ways to increase their power the more you play. On the strategic side, characters are divided up as Warriors, Tanks and Mages and can be proficient in melee or ranged attacks and specialize in physical or magic damage, so there are a number of ways to build a well-balanced team.

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As is the way with a lot of action RPGs on mobile these days, pretty much everything can be automated. Think that you suck and you would be better off with your team fighting on autopilot? You can actually tap the “Auto” button and make that happen, though you can also retake control any time you want. Previously cleared story staged can be instantly replayed for experience, gold and possible loot just by spending a few points of energy, though the rewards are less than if you actually went back through them yourself.

One really nice part of the game’s design is that while none of the stages are particularly mind-blowing in complexity, they at least give you very different things to do. Within the story missions, there are simple “get to the end of the level” stages, survival waves and base defense challenges. Add on not one but two different types of MOBA-inspired levels, one with a single lane and one with two lanes and a neutral monster area in the middle, and you shouldn’t get bored too easily.

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Those MOBA stages have a lot of the trappings of the genre, including towers and spawned minions. In the Arena mode, which uses the same maps, there’s even an option to challenge players who are physically nearby. You could argue that it’s still not a complete MOBA experience since there’s only a human controlling one character on the opposing team — and certainly hardcore genre fans won’t mistake this for something they’d usually play — but it’s certainly speaking the same language.

The character designs in Eternal Arena are mostly standard fantasy fare, but everything is certainly well-rendered, and the music is also fine. You’ll get a bit tired of the three or four sayings characters cry out in battle after a while, but that’s a relatively small complaint in the grand scheme of things. Some of the more powerful items could be purchased more quickly by people paying for premium currency, yet the game overall is pretty generous with ways for you to earn it too.

All told, there’s a lot to dig into in Eternal Arena, and it’s not hard to see why NetEase felt it would be a game that might appeal to Western audiences as well. It’s worth a try if you’re an action RPG fan who’s MOBA-curious or someone simply looking for slightly different presentation of some familiar RPG basics.

Pull the Trigger on Eternal Arena if …

  • You’ve got room in your heart for a new action RPG but don’t have a specific one in mind.
  • MOBA principles intrigue you but you find them too intimidating to play.
  • You need to see who the Master turns out to be.

Don’t Pull the Trigger if …

  • You separate the cream and the cookies on your Oreos and think RPGs and MOBAs should stay apart too.
  • You’d be embarrassed if the auto option clears levels better than you.