A Polished MOBA with 'Me Too' Syndrome
Putting it mildly, there is an abundance of choice in MOBA circles these days. From what can now be considered the old guard of League of Legends and DOTA 2, to less fortunate but still fairly well known titles like Smite and Heroes of Newerth, to quirky experiments like Prime World, Sins of a Dark Age, Strife, AirMech and more. Lots more. Whether or not the market is saturated is up for debate, but it is certainly the case that standing out from the pack is more of a challenge than it ever has been before. The deaths of games like Dawngate, among others, stand testament to this fact.
Enter DC Comics with Infinite Crisis, a game that allows players to step into the boots, spandex and outside underpants of some of the DC expanded universe’s greatest heroes and villains. This all comes in a package that feels, well, a lot like most other MOBAs you may have played, with a couple of interesting twists and the undeniable appeal of duking it out with the likes of Superman, the Green Lantern, the Joker, the Flash, Sinestro, Swamp Thing, and oh, so many more.
Upon first glance, Infinite Crisis feels quite a bit like League of Legends with a DC makeover. The differences between the titles are a little more than skin deep (pardon the pun), but the comparison is an easy one to draw and it sticks better than perhaps is good for Infinite Crisis. The game is pretty enough in its way, tending more towards the MOBA baseline of League of Legends than the art styles of the various comics upon which these characters are based.
The game’s art is colorful, and as with most better MOBA titles the art direction goes out of its way to provide information to the players. Turrets have a burned circle around themselves indicating range, inaccessible terrain delineated from the traditional flat-as-a-board playing field, lanes and “urban jungle” are crystal clear to determine at a glance – these games rely on timing and precision and care has obviously gone into taking guesswork on many environmental elements out of the equation for the player.
Similarly, the game runs smoothly and the heroes react very quickly when given commands, important for the twitch-reflex combat that is expected in this type of game. This came as a relief to me, as in earlier builds combat commands were often sluggish and awkward. Also of note is that some steps have been taken to make the in-game item shop more accessible than in older generation MOBA titles – a constant point of contention for newer players, as grokking the significance of items and building advanced items from their parts is one of the more time-consuming process of learning these games.
A hair off from bog-standard in this genre, all heroes have 4 abilities: 3 normal ones bound to Q, W and E and an ‘ultimate’ bound to R. These are supplemented by a unique trait that can be leveled up, and 2 ‘spells’ chosen from a common pool, all very familiar to anyone who’s happened to have played one of these titles before. Like League’s Rune Pages, players can equip Amplifier Sets that alternately improve the effects of certain items and provide incremental bonuses to innate stats. This setup isn’t as cumbersome as some I’ve seen, but something in me appreciates the simplicity of DOTA 2’s eschewing of this meta-system. Definitely a take-it-or-leave-it feature.
Infinite Crisis gets its name from the so-called Crisis on Infinite Earths, a recurring DC story arc in which the DC multiverse, the multiplicative versions of its heroes and villains, clashed and reduced the complexity of DC’s cumbersome lore. The game uses this idea as a major catalyst: this is the explanation for heroes and villains fighting together, for multiple versions of a hero, and for alternate universe variants like Nightmare Batman, Mecha Superman, Atomic Green Lantern and Gaslight Joker. Still waiting for a Red Son Superman, by the way (hint, hint).
The game goes miles out of its way to explain in laborious and unnecessary detail the player’s role, the concept of leveling up, and the nature of the multiverse colliding. Perhaps some appreciate the canonization of game rules in this respect, but I found it… needless and even a little annoying.
Infinite Crisis is polished, snappy and a well-designed MOBA, all things considered. But its mechanics don’t address the long-standing issues with the genre in a meaningful way, or do they do much to set the game apart from its competitors. As a MOBA title where you can play Shazam, Infinite Crisis is your bet. As a mechanical differentiator from League of Legends, it suffers a little from Me Too Syndrome.
Gameplay – 7: If you’ve played League of Legends or its string of copycat competitors, you’ll be well equipped to play Infinite Crisis. The game has streamlined its in-match store and simplifies the Rune Page process, keeping the focus on player skill. Sadly, the moment-by-moment gameplay fails to introduce any features that set it apart from the broader MOBA crowd.
Visuals and Sound – 8: visually the game is clean and streamlined in exactly the way a MOBA should be, and the might of the DC universe is apparent. Map designs can be a little hokey thanks to the game’s slavish devotion to its multiverse colliding theme, and the general awkwardness of fitting DC lore into MOBA mechanics.
Polish – 8: Among the more polished and responsive MOBAs out there.
Longevity – 8: It’s hard to tell how Infinite Crisis will fare long-term against the juggernauts of the MOBA world, but it does have the deep and storied DC universe to draw from, and the developer team seems committed and competent.
Value – 7: In true MOBA fashion, Infinite Crisis makes a priority of waving heroes and skins you don’t yet own in your face, and its cash generation rate is low enough that players so inclined could easily spend considerable cash completing their hero (and villain) collection.