Auto battlers, a game genre pioneered by the Dota 2 mod Auto Chess, were initially a flash in the pan. Millions of players flocked to them, with Riot Games and Valve getting in on the action with their own games. However, as analysis by PC World showed, the initial momentum was short-lived. What once was a popular genre with millions of players and Twitch viewers saw its numbers dwindle significantly.
However, in their short time in the gaming spotlight, auto battlers garnered enough fans to maintain a cult following. They’ve even made a tidy profit, enough for mobile versions and new titles to crop up. Consequently, they’re still alive, and their fan bases ensure they’ll be around for a while. At least, that’s what publisher Hi-Rez Studios is counting on.
Hi-Rez Studios has spun off yet another development studio focused on an upcoming title. In this case, it’s Prophecy Games, developing an auto battler game called – you guessed it – Prophecy. The Prophecy auto battler is based in the setting of Hi-Rez’s Smite . It has many of the same gods, goddesses, and other characters. Here’s what Prophecy has done right so far, what it needs to work on, and our thoughts on its overall viability in the auto battler scene.
What sets Prophecy apart from other auto-battlers?
The Prophecy auto battler has a lot of the same conventions other games in this genre have. You pick characters from a random selection, place them on the field of battle, and watch them automatically fight. Success in Prophecy, much like other auto battlers, is reliant on unit synergy, positioning, and keeping your army up to date.
However, there are a few conventions unique to Prophecy. Perhaps the biggest difference between Prophecy and other auto battlers is the fact that you can buy synergy traits and manually assign them to your units. In other auto battlers, synergy traits are inherent to the character you buy and cannot be changed; you must adjust your unit-buying accordingly to take advantage of synergies.
That’s not the case with Prophecy. In Prophecy, while each unit has its own unique abilities and attributes, synergy traits come separately. Naturally, some characters do better with different synergy traits, but this overall adds another layer of strategy.
Another unique feature of Prophecy is the Leader. At the beginning of each game, players are assigned a Leader unit, selected in the main menu before you queue for a match. These Leader units have their own unique abilities, both passive and active, and are generally the most powerful units players have in their arsenal. These Leader units also gain whatever synergy traits you have activated with other units, making them even more powerful and useful.
Prophecy’s current flaws
The thing is, not all of these changes to the auto battler formula are necessarily good. One difference I am not a fan of is the lack of ability to sell units and other things you buy. You can replace units you own with ones you buy from the shop, and the items and synergy traits you bought for the previous unit are transferred over to the new one. However, selling synergy traits and items is apparently impossible. You can replace synergy traits and items on your units much the same way you can replace units themselves, which is nice, I guess. But there are a couple aspects of shopping that work against this layer of strategy.
The shop is fixed in always displaying two units, one item, and two synergy traits at any given time. This wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for one more aspect of Prophecy I’m also not a fan of – the inability to hoard the gold you use to buy things. Hoarding gold, while maybe not the most honorable of strategies, is a way to keep yourself flexible enough to change your army on the fly in other auto battlers. With enough gold, you can switch things up against opponents you’d otherwise have no chance against. In Prophecy, though, you’re capped at 10 gold, and there’s no way to save past this cap.
Combine this with the other aspects of shopping and replacement mentioned above, and it feels quite constraining. Some of the thrill of auto battlers is being able to switch it up late game; in Prophecy, however, by the time you reach late game, you’re kinda stuck.
Can Prophecy survive in the auto battler market?
The other flaws Prophecy has at present are things that are to be expected of an early access game. Lack of optimization is one obvious flaw. The graphics of Prophecy are downright beautiful; in some ways they look better than Smite. However, in their current state, they’re a bit on the finicky side; they’re buttery smooth one time I boot up the game, and choppy with frame rate issues the next. Again, though, it’s important to note the early access nature of Prophecy right now. These are issues that (we hope) will be rectified when the game eventually releases in full.
Prophecy definitely has unique aspects that set it apart from other auto-battlers. The greater focus on actual strategy over random number generation gives this game potential. It’s sure to be distinctive enough to stand on its own in the genre. However, one thing we’re concerned about is continued support. Hi-Rez Studios attempted to get into strategy games in the past, with the ill-fated, now-defunct Hearthstone-like Hand of the Gods. Uniqueness wasn’t able to save that game from eventual extinction.
This isn’t meant to be a stab at Prophecy’s chances. Hi-Rez Studios has a potential winner here, but in order for it to stand a chance, the company needs to commit to this game. Here’s hoping they follow through.