The “auto battler” genre—a mash-up of chess and turn-based strategy games—saw a boom in 2019 with the release of the Dota Auto Chess mod, the official Dota Underlords game by Valve, and Riot Games’ Teamfight Tactics. Since then, however, the genre has not seen many major releases challenging the heavyweights.
While Teamfight Tactics dominated the genre, Mojo Melee emerged as a new competitor.
The new auto-battler has entered an open beta phase that uses NFTs that act as skins, in-game characters, and others that also help improve the game’s funding. We went hands-on to see how this Web3 riff on the auto battler took shape.
Upon launch, the game immediately looked great. The characters are high resolution and full of life, and the vibrant world makes me want to dive deep into the custom gameplay. Considering it’s a free-to-play, in-browser game, the graphics and optimization are pretty impressive.
When you first create an account, you have to choose a Mojo—a little green guy that you start every game with. Each Mojo has a different ability, so choose wisely because there’s no going back.
Mojo Melee now offers two game modes: Duel and Melee. A Duel is a 1v1 battle, and the first to win three rounds plays. Meanwhile, Melee is an eight-player tournament mode.
The 1v1 environment feels a little short right now with a lack of development, but given the low player base during the beta, it’s a good way to quickly test the game. An eight-player tournament offers more opportunity for team development, but it’s hard to fill the lobby with real players right now.
Like any auto battler, this game is all about forming a team of champions to defeat the enemy. Each character has a unique ability like a heal, stun, or knockback, and you’ll want to build a team with a strong mix of damage, defense, and utility—but that’s if where the strategy stops.
Unfortunately, in this early beta state, Mojo Melee lacks the complexity and depth that will make you want to keep revisiting other auto battler games. There are no traits, synergies, or economic strategies that make the game more interesting or nuanced. It’s pretty skin-deep at the moment.
Especially in shorter 1v1 games, it often feels like the RNG (or random number generation) will dictate how successful you are. If you get a two-star Brooka Clawhaven in the first round, it’s like you’ve won.
It’s great to see the developer adding features and synergies to create more depth in a game with a solid foundation. In its current state, it feels like there’s little skill involved in winning a game, so it’s not very rewarding. There are also balance issues in the mix, including too many stun moves, but that’s to be expected from a pre-release beta test.
The Web3 angle
NFTs were used throughout the development of Mojo Melee. That includes a free mint for a Polygon NFT collectors passdeer “adoption” sale which unlocks a Mojo and some characters, and other chests for now is in Magic Eden.
You can’t open these “beta chests” in-game at the moment, but similar chests can be unlocked through natural progression. Chests include in-game currency, characters, and upgrades—but thankfully nothing upsets the balance and makes it feel pay-to-win.
Most of the ways NFTs have been used so far haven’t really affected the user experience, but they are a useful way for the team to raise funds for the game. And hopefully, NFT sales will help fund more polish and nuance to help Mojo Melee shine.
Currently, Mojo Melee is a simplistic, easy-to-pick-up auto battler that lacks depth for many hardcore gamers. That said, since it’s a free browser-based game, it’s hard to be mad that it’s now tailored for a casual audience.
The auto battler genre has probably struggled to grow at times because it’s a difficult concept to grasp easily. This is not the case with Mojo Melee. If you’re looking for a streamlined and simplified introduction to the genre, then this could be the game for you.