So, does it have what it takes to measure up to Auto Chess?
In a surprising turn of events, about a month ago, a game by the name of Arena of Evolution: Red Tides landed on the Google Play Store. Followed by an iOS release just recently. Normally, games without any major marketing or advertising wouldn’t make it to anyone’s radar nor would it garner any kind of large attention.
So what made Arena of Evolution an eye-catcher? Well, it lives and breathes the mechanics of a more well-known title — Dota Auto Chess. The custom map that is taking the Dota 2 world by a storm and one that is already on its way to the mobile platform. So frankly, even before Auto Chess got a chance to make its debut on mobile there is already a game out there taking its mantle.
Although, being first doesn’t always guarantee you’ll be the best. So, is Arena of Evolution: Chess Heroes just a blatant copy of Auto Chess or can it stand on its own and call itself a worthy alternative? And is it a game to Pause or to Play? Let’s find out.
Visuals and Art Style
Right, let’s start with how the game looks inside out. Arena of Evolution: Red Tides takes on a more colorful and brighter art style than what we have with its counterpart, Dota Auto Chess (since the custom map embodied the style of Dota 2, it’s parent program).
This gives the game a little bit of a joyous and “fun” vibe rather than serious and bloody, which is the entire theme of Auto Chess. Yet it’s actually a breath of fresh air, despite the detachment of the theme and visuals. It’s nice to see a brighter arena for a change.
The game itself is in full 3D and the sprites look great considering we’re on the mobile platform. The maximum graphics quality setting is eye candy as characters and the board are sharp and have a lot of detail. However, at the lowest graphics setting, we do lose quite a lot of detail and sharpness.
The animations too are spot on and look great. Effects such as explosions and lasers are well-made and don’t look overly artificial or out of place. This makes it a joy to watch heroes unleash their fury against each other. Even basic attacks look smooth and polished.
As for In-game UI, it isn’t that cluttered and there is enough space to view the information you need to see, whether for item effects or hero skills. Every button is also easily accessible though you only ever have to worry about two — the shop and level-up buttons. There’s really nothing to complain about here, the devs did a pretty good job in keeping the UI clean.
We also appreciate that there’s an option to study the hero species and class synergies via the main menu troop screen. A feature that wasn’t available at launch and is, quite frankly, a necessity as you can now strategize outside of matches.
Another feature we appreciate in the graphics department is that there’s an option to change graphics quality. Not all mobile games have nor provide this kind of flexibility. This is a godsend for those using lower-end devices as it gives them a chance to play the game smoothly. This is also good for high-powered devices since the quality loss (from one option to the next one) isn’t too big and lower settings saves battery. Take note though, the maximum and smooth options have a huge gap in visual quality.
Overall, we’re quite pleased with the graphics of Red Tides despite its hiccups in some departments. Especially considering that this is the mobile platform. The animations are a winner and it’s definitely one of the better-looking mobile games out there.
There’s not much to say with regards to the audio of the game. Since it’s not really that needed or that important in gameplay, other than providing sounds to the skills and attacks you see. Nevertheless, skill and attack sound effects are right on point and the background music isn’t too loud to be a distraction.
Some aspects of the game’s audio though are too familiar to miss. Particularly, the sound effects of earning money at the start of the round, winning or losing a round, and purchasing units. As these are all the same ones that we’ve heard from Dota Auto Chess, even the cheers after a match are here.
So, we really don’t have any qualms with the Audio, except maybe the few sound effects that could’ve been more original and not just a blatant copy of Dota Auto Chess’. Other than that, another job well done for the devs.
Alright then let’s dabble into the juiciest part of any game review — gameplay. We won’t sugar coat it, Arena of Evolution: Red Tides can be considered as, or is definitely, a clone of Dota Auto Chess. Every bit of gameplay is similar down to the core mechanics. Although there are some welcome changes and additions. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Dota Auto Chess, you can check out our article here as explaining every bit of the game in detail can be quite extensive.
Generally speaking, the underlying mechanic of Red Tides is to purchase and put pieces/heroes on a chess board, watch them fight against enemies, pray that you win, and be the last man standing. Looks easy at the surface level right? Well actually, there are systems in place that give the game a lot more depth than that. You will have to rely on complex strategy, quick thinking, and even a little bit of luck to win. So no, you can’t just go blindly picking pieces you think are great and pairing them all together, that will result in utter defeat.
Chess Piece System
The first of those systems that make Red Tides so complex is its Chess Piece System. There are four main aspects that control how chess pieces work in the game:
- Chess Piece Tiers — A ranking system for the pieces.
- Chess Piece Upgrades — The method of strengthening the pieces. Combining three of the same piece increases its power (and also changes its looks!).
- Chess Piece Species — Pairing chess pieces with the same species unlocks special effects.
- Chess Piece Classes — Same with species, pairing pieces with the same classes unlocks special effects.
Most of your time will be spent perfecting and mastering this portion of the game. It’s also the biggest draw and the reason why Red Tides can be very addictive. The mere notion of mixing and matching various chess pieces, makes anyone want to experiment until they find that winning or trusted combination. After all, there are tons of synergies that you can try thanks to the expansive class and species system.
We’re also quite pleased that the devs did their best in creating original heroes, classes, species, and even effects, instead of blatantly copying what Dota Auto Chess offered. At least, they did an effort into making Red Tides a game of its own.
Combat in the game is pretty much automatic, you have no control over when your pieces use their skills or who they attack it with, including their basic bashing. However, you aren’t limited to just watching them whack at one another hoping that you’ll win. There is still some form of strategy you can use to gain the upper hand, which is positioning and proper equipment.
Having a proper layout of your chess pieces can be the difference between a loss and a victory as much as having them beefed up by increasing their rank and equipping them with items. This is a welcomed aspect and made us completely forget the notion that the combat system is all automated. In fact, we even accepted the automatic nature of fights thanks to the challenges and hopes that positioning brings. After all, it’s one of the methods that can surprise an overconfident opponent, especially those that already have maxed out pieces.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, there’s also the case of items. A piece can better maximize their potential if given the proper equipment. For example, giving an item that generates energy (basically mana) faster to a hero that relies on skills will allow them to potentially use it early in a fight or even repeatedly. So, despite having the combat automated there is actually still a lot of thinking and strategy involved.
Right, as combat revolves around buying pieces and leveling up to put more of them on the board another important aspect to master is money management or economy. Yep, this is yet another thing you must learn and practice in Red Tides. Proper management of your funds can be the one factor that can bring you victory or the other way around, improper handling can lead to your loss. This is because you can’t just rely on the steady income you’re receiving from every match (5-gold), you’re going to have to take advantage of other methods:
- Winning a round — Grants you an additional +1 gold.
- Interest — After the end of each round 10% of your remaining gold is earned as interest (+1 gold if you have 10 left, +5 if you have 50). The interest caps at 50 gold, or a +5 bonus. Meaning having 60 remaining gold will not give you a +6 bonus.
As if thinking about the chess piece system isn’t enough, now you have to come up with proper strategies in handling your money. Will you go for a losing streak as you think of synergies and make a comeback, will you gun for winning streaks to earn the most gold and keep your life in check, will you expend all your hard earned gold in rerolls and levels or maintain a certain amount for emergencies and interest?
All of this adds to that layer of complexity we mentioned earlier and that’s why Red Tides isn’t as simple as it seems. Despite not having control over your chess pieces in combat, apart from positioning, these other factors will keep on making you think and strategize during matches. Yet even in the face of a solid strategy, RNG can wipe it all out as luck is also a big factor in this game. I’m afraid we can’t do much in that regard, perhaps appeal to positive karma?
Quality of Life Improvements
Arena of Evolution: Red Tides may be a copy of Dota Auto Chess but it’s not without it’s own changes or as we call them quality of life improvements. These are welcome additions that we wished Dota Auto Chess would incorporate to their own ecosystem as it either makes life easier or gameplay smoother.
Although, some of these changes do take out the small challenges we encountered with Auto Chess. So, hardcore enthusiasts of the PC custom map may not consider them improvements but rather a reduction of difficulty. Right then, so what are these quality of life improvements? Here they are as follows:
Easier Hero Upgrades
Heroes can now be easily combined with just a tap of a button. You no longer need to drag copies of it on the board for upgrades. You simply just tap the “upgrade” button that will pop-up if you have enough copies on your bench and on the field. Effectively increasing your preparation time.
Items can now be easily equipped to pieces via the following methods:
- Tapping on an item will open up a tab showing your active and benched pieces. The selected item can then be equipped by tapping on your desired piece.
- Expanding your active and benched pieces will also show your inventory. You can then equip the items on your inventory to the selected piece by tapping on the “+” button underneath the item.
These methods are a far more convenient way of equipping items on pieces rather than tapping and dragging. Although, this may have been added since we are now on the mobile platform. Still, we welcome this feature as it also increases your preparation time.
Checking out which of the synergies you have active is a lot easier in Red Tides thanks to the icons on the upper left corner. These icons also indicate which bonus level you already have active and how many members of that class or species you have on board. You can also expand this further to indicate inactive synergies as well as the specific units belonging to the class or species that are on the board or on your bench.
Attack range indicator
Piece attack ranges now have an indicator when your dragging them to the board. This gives you a better idea on their attack pattern and target priorities.
Swapping active pieces with benched ones
You can swap benched units with active ones by tapping and dragging them on the position of the piece you want to be replaced. Although, this can only be done when your bench is full.
Piece recall when board is full
When you exceed the number of allowed pieces on the board, the last one you dragged out will be the one that’s returned. Unlike in Dota Auto Chess, where the piece that will return is chosen at random. This removes the trouble of you losing precious synergies by not having ample time to recall a piece. Again though, these makes matches a lot easier compared to Dota Auto Chess.
The game owes it’s complex, engaging, and satisfying gameplay to the core mechanics of Dota Auto Chess, which it copied. Yet it also manages to add in a few welcome changes of its own. Those changes combined with the already solid foundation of Dota Auto Chess makes Arena of Evolution: Red Tides a surefire hit in the gameplay department.
By the way, the cash shop of the game mainly offers cosmetics for customizing your chess board and most of the boosts are geared towards silver generation (in-game currency for buying cosmetics) and main account exp (not exp during matches). Perhaps the only item that directly affects your rankings is “Rank Guard”, which prevents your rank from dropping during loses. Although, even this item can’t be bought easily and comes in limited quantity. So, we can confidently say, there is no form of pay-to-win here.
Again, we won’t sugar coat it, Arena of Evolutions: Red Tides is a copy of Dota Auto Chess. It owes it’s enjoyable nature to the core mechanics of the famed Dota 2 custom map. Yet, the developers of the game did a good job in inserting their own form of originality. Most of the items, heroes, species effects, class effects and skills are of their own creation. So at least, they did not entirely copy Dota Auto Chess.
They also inserted some welcome gameplay changes we deemed as quality of life improvements. Some of those we even wish to be added to the Dota 2 custom map. We’ll give them credit for trying their best to give the game its own identity, despite the clear similarities with Dota Auto Chess. Plus, they really outdid themselves with the convenience those changes offer.
So, is Arena of Evolution: Red Tides a worthy alternative? Certainly. It took everything that made Dota Auto Chess great and added in a few twists and changes of its own. Some might even argue we already have the custom map on mobile.
After all, Dota Auto Chess is already heading to mobile. Although, if Auto Chess maintains the structure of its PC counterpart, then Red Tides has the advantage in features and quality of life measures. Yet, only time will tell if it can maintain that mantle.
- It took all of the good stuff in Dota Auto Chess.
- Most of its heroes, skills, classes, species, and items are original.
- It has quality of life improvements over some Dota Auto Chess mechanics.
- No pay-to-win as in-app purchases are geared mainly towards cosmetics.
- It’s a copy of Dota Auto Chess.
- It’s relatively easier than Dota Auto Chess
So, with a score of 9 over 10, should you Pause or Play Arena of Evolution: Red Tides? The verdict? — Don’t even think about pressing Pause!