Review

Solstice Arena Review

  • Game release: May 23, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PC

Winner solstice.

In a genre where clones and knockoffs are the norm, Solstice Arena is a bright, refreshing beacon. In its entry into the multiplayer online battle arena foray, Zynga has created a fun and breezy game that has the same feel as Dota and League of Legends, but is played in brief 5- to 15-minute spurts rather than taking the better part of an hour. With the free-to-play "speed MOBA" Solstice Arena, the developer has proven it has the chops to compete with the big boys.

Solstice Arena puts you in a three-versus-three battle with the all-too-common final goal of destroying the enemy base. Each team's guardian is guarded by three towers. But rather than forcing you to wait on heroes to grind by killing minions and siege towers alongside an army, the game abandons both the concept of in-match levels and minions altogether. Instead, gold is earned through pickup style power-ups and a single capturable chest in the middle of the map.

You must establish control of the center of the map to capture the chest through a sort of channeling mechanism that slowly turns the chest toward your side. That channel can be instantly interrupted by even a heavy sigh from the opponents, however. So each team of three dances precariously around the chest, waiting for the perfect moment to engage. Whether that engagement comes when the giant ogre leaps onto a defenseless mage or the steam-powered robot launches his arm to hook your assassin into the tower and nonchalantly throw him over his shoulder, rest assured the engagement will happen, and it will be over quickly.

Earth, moon, sun, void, and iron. While Captain Planet won't be summoned by the combination of these, you have to find the perfect combination to maximize their potential.

Spells and abilities in Solstice Arena have only one casting resource: cooldowns. This means there's no waiting around for your mana to recharge and no waiting to build enough fury to reach the optimal moment of attack. That moment is ready and waiting when all three of your abilities are off cooldown. The action is nearly constant, and in the 12 minutes it takes to play a match, it's rare that standoffs take more than half a minute.

You can purchase items from the spawn platform to improve your character's abilities. Rather than deciding which items from the whole arsenal you'd like as in other MOBAs, you're given a choice of one head item, an accessory, an off-hand, a weapon, boots, and body armor, and you may carry only one of each. Most items grant you only two of the game's five attributes, and each item has three base choices that can be upgraded into three final tier-three choices, each with a different passive enhancement that can greatly improve your character's fighting potential. Bludgeons help you keep a target in place, robes improve the caster's damage or healing, and belts help you wear the pants in the family by making you immune to certain crowd-control abilities.

The small map means constant action.

Earth, moon, sun, void, and iron. While Captain Planet won't be summoned by the combination of these, you have to find the perfect combination to maximize their potential. Each attribute is tied to a stat such as attack damage, movement speed, cooldown reduction, attack speed, or defense. In addition to earning them through items, you also earn attributes that spawn as capturable power-ups around the map and smaller bonuses through instant pickups.

One of the primary innovations to speed the game up is that you don't have to wait around for items and attributes to siege the enemy's base. Towers are active only while a player is alive and away from his or her spawn point. If an entire enemy team is dead, or if they have retreated to heal, their towers simply won't fight back. An early sweep of the enemy team results in a power play, guaranteeing some free time to begin pecking away at the tower's defenses. As the game goes on and respawn times get longer, these power plays become much more dangerous, and a full team being aced at the wrong time could result in a quick defeat.

The game is limited at present by its meager hero pool. With only 20 heroes to choose from, and steep costs to unlock them, things become redundant in longer play sessions. You see many of the same faces and same groups of faces over and over across your games. Zynga somewhat offsets this by offering a fair helping of heroes in a free trial rotation, which refreshes every few days, but playing with or against players who have not unlocked a hero of their own means that what you see is all trial heroes, all the time.

The oracle won't fight back if everyone is dead.

Fortunately, character designs are all quite different from one another, and each hero has a unique style. Whether that style involves playing from the back lines as a high-powered mage of the sun, or turning to stone and spinning through the ranks of your foes, or throwing down a music box to pacify your foes while you spin around healing your teammates, heroes have signature abilities, and there don't yet appear to be redundancies among them. Each ability can be upgraded between games, as winning (or participating) earns experience for that hero. Each skill has three different paths that can be upgraded, but only two may be selected for the five additional skill points put into each skill. You can use these upgrades to suit your gameplay whims, whether that means making areas of effect larger, making stun durations longer, or just making skills pack a bigger wallop when you connect with an enemy.

While I have been exclusively playing the PC version released on Steam, it's imperative to mention that this game is cross-platform with iOS and Mac. The three platforms are seamlessly integrated with one another, and at any given time your teammates or opponents could be playing on an iPad or iPhone while you sit at your computer with a mouse and keyboard. I was unable to discern in my play who was playing from what media, which speaks well of the cross-platform support. The mobile format suits the game's short, burst play sessions to allow those on the go to be able to squeeze in a game or two in transit before returning to their PC, or simply sitting on their couch and continuing to play on the iPad.

While the lack of rage-filled hate speech is welcome, the ability to educate players is sorely missed.

There are a few expected features missing from Solstice Arena. Tooltips for abilities can only be read outside a game, so there is no way to refresh your memory mid-game on what exactly an ability does. Because some nuanced effects, such as bonus damage, amplified damage, or damage reduction, aren't communicated clearly through visual effects, this can be problematic at times. Each hero also has a passive perk, which is unique to that hero. These can also be seen only at the character select screen, and are not visible anywhere in-game unless it grants a stat boost that is communicated in that player's buff bar during a match. I didn't know these perks existed until after several hours of playing.

Each skill can be customized to your taste.

Additionally, there is no in-game chat function. This means you needn't worry about toxic players who berate, blame, and insult teammates who underperform. However, you're unable to help out teammates who may be playing or building poorly. The only form of communication in the game is through a single ping every few seconds. You cannot tell your teammate, "Don't hook the spinning guy into our team," or say, "Hey, build Nullifying Belt," when your opponents have stacked a roster full of silences. While the lack of rage-filled hate speech is welcome, the ability to educate players is sorely missed.

Players looking for a deep, rich experience will find themselves stuck in the shallow end of the pool. The short encounters and matches make for a lack of substantial depth in the game. However, with the upgradable abilities and the various perks on each tier-three item, there are more effective item builds depending upon the opponent's composition, and playing the same way each time will not get the most efficient play out of your hero. Clever players are free to deviate from the recommended items in order to play their hero beyond its defined role, but with ability scaling tied directly to certain resources, there are some boxes you simply can't think outside of.

Capture resources to power up.

Solstice Arena is explosive fun, and its short matches quickly entice you into the "just one more game" mentality so common in compelling multiplayer experiences. And though the game is great for the PC, each match's brevity makes Solstice Arena a fantastic choice for gaming on the go. If you have an iOS device, get Solstice Arena. f you don't have an iOS device, get Solstice Arena for your PC. It's as simple as that. The 10 minutes you play at a time will quickly add up to hours you've invested into this delightfully fast MOBA experience.

The Good
Short, action-packed battles
Simple item builds and resource management shift focus to the action
Great customization to tune a hero toward a specific play style
No in-game chat means no noticeable rage
The Bad
Missing features from UI can make for confusion
No in-game chat means no helping new players
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Tyler Hicks is preparing for the inevitable zom-MOBA apocalypse by hoarding all the free-to-play MOBA currencies he can find. He power-leveled to Solstice level 85 in a week.

Discussion

39 comments
missjustt
missjustt

good game, i enjoy it a lot.

Aaleyada
Aaleyada

The flow of this article could really use some work bro. The paragraphs could be rearranged in any order and no one would be able to tell the difference. Longer paragraphs that reference previous ones could go a long way toward the article reading as a cohesive whole rather than a series of bullet points. Just my two cents, take it for what it's worth.

Slagar
Slagar

Looks fun. Might give this a try :)

Wensea10
Wensea10

This game seems like it does an awesome job of really standing out from the League of Legends vibe.

TheGreatPhoenix
TheGreatPhoenix

means no noticeable rage.... well at least that's something to take to the forums I guess :P

Kyokamaru
Kyokamaru

pff we dont get GTA 5 but we get a shit load of MOBAS... whoppy im so happy to be a PC gamer...

meatz666
meatz666

Loved the fact that you didn't compare this game to other MOBAs to rate the review, comparing only to explain the features.

Thx for the unbiased article. Congrats!

Majkic666
Majkic666

The bad:  No in-game chat means no helping new players? i see it as a good thing... No Falmers, No Idiots Spamming, No Crybabies and so on.... beside the game is running over steam aswell so you can easily chat with people you know

nait2k14
nait2k14

Sounds like a fun game, but the graphics style is a little lacklustre. Cheers for the review, any idea if a gameplay video will go up after the rush?

binderdundat
binderdundat

um if a game gets an 8, i think it should get a video review... FYI this is the first ive been to gamespot in 2 weeks cause this website is going downhill incredibly fast..... even a 3 minute video review would be fine but this just seems lazy....giving multiple reviews of some games, no videos for others, ridiculous scores, bland uninteresting reviewers.....get your shit together. 

jesot
jesot

@tomservo51 Pretty much this.  Sounds like they did find a way to break free of some of the restraints and commonalities of other MOBAs, but...it's Zynga, dude.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@Kyokamaru

I think that you haven't been keeping up with the computer platform scene - that, or you just stay in one little proverbial corner.

lucasfreire
lucasfreire

@Majkic666 No Falmers? Great! I hate those pesky,blind archers with all those acid-spitting Chaurus pets

snxx
snxx

@binderdundat You know what seems lazy? Waiting and expecting a video review when you can just read the text.

June-GS
June-GS

@binderdundat  95% agreed. What's up with those double Wolf Among Us reviews? Schizo much. And in addition, their RSS feed, which was actually absent for several days, is just crap now.

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@binderdundat Typically, freelanced reviews don't get video reviews, though there are exceptions. More importantly, we are in the process of creating video reviews for Batman: Arkham Origins, Battlefield 4, and Assassin's Creed IV. Are you suggesting we should pull people off of those projects for... Solstice Arena? :/

You make it sound like we gave video reviews to every game before the redesign. There's no real difference currently in the number of video reviews we have been doing per week. 

But, you know, having our video team here to ungodly hours each night so we can get content for upcoming major games instead of doing a video review for Solstice Arena is lazy. Sure, sure. 

I guess if you think we are bland, to each their own. But if there's one thing I wouldn't call myself or any of my colleagues, it's bland. 

jesot
jesot

@EternalDecay @Aaleyada What?! No! This is professional journalism, which should be held to a HIGHER standard than an English term paper.  Don't give writers a pass for poor formatting and paragraph structure.  They and their editors are being paid to get those things right!

Aaleyada
Aaleyada

@EternalDecay @Aaleyada :D Yeah, I'm probably coming off as an ass. The points were conveyed and that's what matters. It's just the writer/elitist in me acting up again.

binderdundat
binderdundat

@snxx @binderdundat guess again, text only gives half the story to a video game. which is a VISUAL MEDIUM....at least you tried to sound smart. 

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@June-GS @binderdundat We now have the ability to do multiple reviews, something many readers have asked for for quite some time. It gives us an opportunity to share multiple perspectives. I am sorry you don't care for the possibility of multiple reviews from different reviewers. 

TiberiusAudley
TiberiusAudley

@Kevin-V @binderdundat Piggybacking this...  The gameplay of Solstice Arena is pretty much the same scenery over and over.  In my opinion (and, this is just my PERSONAL opinion, not necessarily those of GameSpot), while Solstice Arena's gameplay is fun on its own merit, it would make a poor backdrop for a video review.  Compare to my other reviews, such as Salvation Prophecy which has three distinct different gameplay modes, or League of Legends where at least the map is much larger (and there are other gameplay modes), there is more to appeal to the eye of the viewer.

Spectralfire0
Spectralfire0

@Aaleyada @EternalDecay @Aaleyada @EternalDecay So the paragraph flow is like this - game introduction, gameplay description, description of how this game is different from other games in the same genre, platform differences, limitations, conclusion.  It's supposed to be a series of bullet points, that's how you get reader's attention these days;  If you're not succinct everyone gets bored.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@binderdundat  

Then you have come here just to gripe - for what? Hoping that the site would turn into something you like, I suppose?

snxx
snxx

@binderdundat  "Possible" does not means "feasible" or "economically viable". Yes, computers did make it *easier* (not easy, just easier) to produce and edit videos, but looks like you're underestimating how much more work is needed to "construct" a video review when compared to a text one. A video review takes more time to make (considerably more), that means it also takes more money to be produced. Also, you give any reviewer the task to write to make an written review and he'll be able to produce it alone. That usually isn't the case with a video review, as most writers aren't also video editors.

Gamespot is a company, as such they should choose how to apply it's budget, because, y'know, personal and money don't come from an endless pit.

And, in the end, you assumption that videos "are better" because they have sound and image is as flawed as saying that "movies are better than books" for the same reasons. While video and sound can show us thing that text alone can't, the text has it's own advantages, meaning it's not a case of "video reviews being better", they just have a different set of qualities.

binderdundat
binderdundat

@snxx obviously its possible, but since computers have made it so easy to make video reviews, why the fuck wouldnt we start incorporating more video reviews. ofcourse text works, no one saying it doesnt. but is it as good?? video gives more, especially cause we want to see art design, graphics, smoothness of gameplay, etc....again thanks for trying. 

snxx
snxx

@binderdundat  OMG, that means that all those decades we've been writing about movies... we were doing it wrong?! All the centuries writing about theater were for nothing? And since music is all about listening, reading about it is useless?! O_O And those poor kids who survived before the Internet, reading gaming maganizes, oh, poor, poor souls! :(

I guess that we should take this moment of enlightenment to pass the knowledge to the people! We should make sure that no one will EVER buy a book about photography, movies, music of even game design ever gain!

binderdundat
binderdundat

@Kevin-V multiple reviews that gives one of my favourite games a 4/10?? My brother works for oracle and says that advertisement is about how many eyes see a page basically, and it felt incredibly transparent that this was just trying to stir up controversy to get hits. 

I also use adobe premier and know that it really doesnt take that long to do a 3 minute narrated movie. Text only really gives half the story to a video game review. 

As many long time gamespot fans for over ten years, this site doesnt seem to have the integrity it used to have, thats for sure. Although shoes like the point and reality check are an amazing addition to the site, maybe reviewing needs an update too.....AND NOT IN THE FORM OF MULTIPLE REVIEWS!!!! cause all it does is create raging, degrading fanboys. 

June-GS
June-GS

@Kevin-V @binderdundat So these multiple reviews are products of a new company (or at least site) policy then? Hmm, I see. And I do care about your reviews, @Mr. VanOrd. But double or even triple or more reviews from the same "magazine" for the same product?? Hmm, I don't know about that. Does anyone else even do that? What is this, a democracy? Don't answer that, LOL.

I mean, if the first review came from a reviewer I just can't trust (there's 1 or 2 on this site), I can see how this strange new decree COULD be good. But if the review came from somebody I already consider fair and has the same taste in things as me -- like you actually, then a second or third equally-official review after yours, just DAYS later, isn't just confusing, but is just plain weird. FFS, what will all those game "accolades" trailers say now? "2 thumbs up! 2 thumbs down!" -- GameSpot

I said it best before: Schizo much. I guess we could all just "ignore" the other reviews, but it's still too weird and...... awkward, to say the least.

Solstice Arena More Info

  • First Released
    • iPhone/iPod
    • PC
    Solstice Arena is a multiplayer online battle arena game that lets you form alliances and fight together in three-versus-three combat.
    5.5
    Average User RatingOut of 4 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Solstice Arena
    Developed by:
    Zynga
    Published by:
    Zynga
    Genres:
    Action