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Zynga bills Solstice Arena as the world?s first ?Speed MOBA.? Though that?s a bit of an odd term, I can honestly say that it?s the best way to describe this strange little game. See, Solstice Arena is a title which kind of turns the traditional MOBA concept on its head.

There are no creeps or minion waves to farm. There?s only one lane, and no jungle. There are no in-game levels; players have access to all three of their champions? skills right out the door (though these abilities can be improved outside of matches by leveling up your character). Each champion is limited to six items: armor, a helm, an accessory, a main-hand, an off-hand, and boots. You can also choose to play the whole game using a controller.

The end result is a game which ? though one can see the very vague similarities to games like League of Legends ? is effectively a black sheep of its genre. Matches are short, chaotic and ? perhaps surprisingly ? a hell of a lot of fun. Hey, this is Zynga we?re talking about. They?ve seen better days.

Aside from items, characters progress by gathering a number of different elements which appear scattered around the battlefield. Each element is tied to a particular stat ? Sun, for example, reduces your cooldowns, while Earth is tied to your attack damage. Each champion has one or two ?core? elements to which the damage of their abilities is linked.

The map itself consists of two bases, each guarded by three towers. These towers can dish out quite a bit of damage, but there?s a catch ? they?ll only fire if a friendly champion is alive nearby. It?s the same deal with the bases: eliminate the opposing team, and you?ve probably got a free structure.

These two bases are separated by a central platform linked by two bridges and surrounded by a river which slows anyone that walks on it, and on which a chest spawns that grants a large gold bonus to the team that captures it. The end result is that the center of the map forms into something of a choke-point, as well as a hot-spot of conflict: this?ll probably be where you?ll be spending most of your time when you aren?t defending or dead.

The champion pool is?reasonably varied, but it?s clear Zynga drew on inspiration from quite a few sources. For example, the first champion I unlocked ? Hanhock ? is oddly similar to League of Legends? Garen in play-style, right down to a spinning attack (which the developers have cheekily named ?spin to win.?) That said, every character I?ve seen so far has its own distinct play-style, strengths, and weaknesses.

Now, given that this is a free-to-play, how the game manages player payments is every bit as important as how it plays. I?m happy to report that Solstice Arena actually man

ages a better job of the business model than many of Zynga?s other titles. While saving up to unlock new characters is a bit of a grind, the game never really pressures you directly to spend real money on anything (though there are a few skins you could purchase, if you feel the need). That's definitely a welcome change from many of the money-grubbing titles we've been seeing with increasing frequency of late.

You can grab Solstice Arena either on Steam or through the game's website. 

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Reviewed by: Nicholas Greene