Two and a half years have passed since I was first introduced to Evercore Heroes – or ‘Project-V’ as it went by back then. I’d had the opportunity to sit down with Vela Games CEO and co-founder Travis George over a Zoom call, listening intently as the former League of Legends developer boldly explained that the new studio’s first outing would not be a MOBA, nor would it be an MMORPG, but something entirely new.
Vela had dubbed the genre ‘MOCO’ – a multiplayer online co-op game – and within that designation Evercore Heroes would itself draw on a multitude of cross-genre influences to form a unique competitive PvE experience. Additionally, thanks to its core design philosophy, Evercore Heroes represents a concerted effort to mitigate toxicity in competitive gaming at a fundamental level – something George and the team are particularly eager to achieve, but are aware can’t yet be stamped out in its totality.
Having spent several hours previewing Evercore Heroes it’s clear that, despite some rough edges, there is plenty to be excited about as the sci-fi fantasy game hurtles towards closed beta in June.
Evercore Heroes pits four teams of four players against each other, with the preliminary goal being to protect their Evercore (the Nexus for you League of Legends players out there) from waves of enemies. Between onslaughts, you and your crew are allocated time to explore the map, clearing neutral minions and objectives that can grant buffs, gold, or even health for your Evercore.
But, of course, it isn’t as simple as clearing camps, buying up boons, and defeating those who would dare desecrate your Evercore. While your opponents exist on a separate layer, and can’t directly be interacted with, certain objectives can be contested by them, allowing them to possibly net the lion’s share of the rewards before you get a chance to cash in.
Additionally, certain items can be used to impede the progression of other teams, providing a deep level of macro skill expression when it comes to planning out map pathing, accruing the necessary tools to succeed, and ensuring that your Evercore won’t be the first to explode.
Once the first two teams have been eliminated, the win condition – which changes from map to map – reveals itself, pitting the final two teams against each other. On one map, the final two teams had to take down a giant troll that utilised multiple MMO-style skill checks, with visual indicators precluding devastating attacks.
Meanwhile, in the game that my gallant group came out on top of, we had to once again protect our Evercore, this time in a smaller area, with the added ability to send minions our opponent’s way. This may be a familiar scene for those Destiny 2 players who enjoy its PvEvP Gambit mode.
However, before you even take to Evercore Heroes’ arenas in the hopes of picking up a win, you need to make sure that you have the right heroes for the job. 16 characters – divided into DPS, Tank, and Support roles – were available to me while playing, with each one putting its own spin on familiar archetypes.
In my first game, I piloted Riiva – a berserker-style tank who could leap in, taunt enemies, and briefly make themselves invulnerable to damage. While I thought I was repeatedly dying in glorious combat to secure victory for my developer-filled team (no pressure), I was actually, in fact, inting. Indeed, as Overwatch 2 players came to learn after the shift from 6v6 to 5v5, having a competent tank is critically important. During the play session, we were advised to queue two DPS, one Tank, and one Support, so after my embarrassing first outing I switched to DPS and let the pros take over.
From there I tried out Shade, who uses highly-mobile strikes to build power which can be expunged through a finishing blow. It is the quintessential World of Warcraft rogue fantasy, but with a slick elven cyberpunk exterior. Indeed, Evercore Heroes does well to not only incorporate its gameplay influences into its heroes, but it packages them beautifully, too.
While Shade felt incredibly satisfying to play, it was a much more simple hero in Cynder – a pyromancer who operates similarly to Annie from League – who would enable my boomer hands to put out the necessary DPS.
With that said, though I had to lower my skill ceiling to deal the necessary damage to help ensure victory, Evercore Heroes definitely rewards those who efficiently utilise heroes with higher skill ceilings than others. For example, one victorious team built a composition that went hard on damage in all roles, at the expense of survivability and crowd control. Thanks to how well they piloted it and juggled threats, they ceremoniously smoked the rest of the lobby.
Although I spent much of my time with Evercore Heroes getting to grips with its plethora of objectives, as well as the cadence of its gameplay loop, it only took a handful of games to begin understanding its language, and appreciate Vela’s design goals. Evercore Heroes may come across as another MOBA like League or Dota 2, but don’t be fooled. There’s already a strong level of depth to its systems, its gameplay is distinctly MOCO, and its titular heroes feel great to pilot.
How far Evercore Heroes will go, however, remains to be seen. I do worry that its meta will quickly become optimised to the point that only a few compositions are viable, especially when considering much of its core gameplay loop is effectively clearing banks of enemies with set patterns as quickly and efficiently as possible. In its defence, there certainly seem to be more than enough balance levers to ensure every hero has its place.
As for Vela’s crusade against toxicity, I remain cynically optimistic. As a long-suffering League player it is certainly refreshing to play a competitive game where the enjoyment factor is equally as important as its stakes. Although I can see teammates still turning on one-another when it comes to ranked play – should it ever be introduced – as long as Evercore Heroes guides its community down the right path, we could at the very least begin to feel the light breeze of change.
With the aforementioned Evercore Heroes beta arriving on June 20, I can confidently recommend that players interested in this bold, borrowed-yet-new genre jump in and give it a go. There’s certainly a lot to get your head around at first, but the initial learning curve quickly gives way to a rich MOCO experience that will have you and your comrades coming back for more.