Another MOBA, But So Much More
MXM has had a long gestation period in NCSOFT’s development. Designed from the groundup for a world-wide launch, specifically targeted at the West, MXM is a MOBA-ish, Action RPG-ish, MMO-ish game that manages to somehow be extremely fun despite mixing so many genres together. We’ve been playing it since the closed beta, and have come to love this gem. It may be late to the party on the MOBA craze, but MXM proves there’s still life left in the flooded genre.
MXM stands for Master X Master, though this nomenclature has been dropped in recent months. Now it’s just the acronym, and basically the story is this: bad creatures and robots took over Earth. Everyone left and boarded capitol ships like the main player hub the Dredgion. Now Earth’s heroes, or Masters, are fighting back and taking names. You will play through a bunch of PVE missions, and plenty of PVP games (sort of like team sports for the Masters bored in space), and along the way your Masters will increase in power, get new skins, and overall compete to be the very best while saving the planet.
It’s basically a Saturday Morning Cartoon from the Nineties, and that’s alright with us.
Like any MOBA, you can play as any of a huge cast of characters, but you’ll have to unlock most of them first. You can do so via playing and earning Sol Fibers, or by opening your wallet and straight up buying them. That’s the key here in MXM, like all good F2P games, money doesn’t translate to power. It just lets you get stuff faster than everyone else. There are also bonus Time Distortion stages that open and close at specific times, allowing you to unlock Masters from other NCSOFT games like Lineage, WildStar, Aion, and Guild Wars 2.
There are two main modes of PVP – 3v3 arena dogfights, and 5v5 Titan Ruins (the standard MOBA with a Titanic twist). Each is fun, the former being great for quick dirty death match fights. The Titans Ruins mode, which I poo-pooed at first as just another MOBA is actually pretty fun. They make sure to keep matches to 30 minutes or less, and the added mechanic of unleashing or controlling a giant Titan spices things up quite a bit. It’s still 5v5 across 3 lanes with towers and minions, but that’s not a bad thing when the added spice and overall controls in WASD work so well.
The real fun for me in MXM is its bite-sized dungeon content in the form of Stages. These Stages tell the story of MXM, and there are roughly a couple dozen different maps with different layouts and levels of difficulty which extend the maps and increase the size of the party that’s allowed to play. Story mode is basically “easy mode” for 1 player, Normal is 2 player, Hard is 3, and so forth. The harder the level, the more rewards you get. These Stages all have fantastic boss fights at the end, and the polish and artistry of each monster really shines through.
NCSOFT paid a lot of attention to detail with MXM. Even if it’s a game that’s meant to be played in 15 minute sessions (because it is), you can easily spend an entire evening running PVE, PVP, and tooling about the Dredgion (the main player hub). If I have any one wish for the future of MXM, it’s focusing even more on PVE, and finding a way to break free from the restrictive Ticket system that limits how many player-chosen Stages you can run.
Tickets let you pick the map you want to play, and they cost real money, but you’re given one daily and more through completing missions. Still if PVE is your cup of tea, you’ll be doing a lot of random Stages. The reasoning, I’m sure, if because this keeps queue times down. But I’d love to see formed groups have the option to just pick what stage they want.
I mentioned a large cast of characters, and that’s the truth. At launch, there are over two dozen Masters to choose from, including tons of fan favorites like Mondo Zax from WildStar, Rytlock from Guild Wars 2, and the Statesman and Black Widow from City of Heroes/Villains. There are Blade & Soul and Aion characters as well, like Jinsoyun and Kromede, and a whole host of brand new original characters like the engineer Moro and the shaman Lilu. All of them so far have been fun to play… except MBA-07. The robot sucks, and don’t let anyone else tell you different.
Each Master has his or her (or its) own skills to level up, unlock, and weapons to customize, all of which can be done simply by earning in game gold. This means that progression for each Master is more than just unlocking skins. Most of those are behind pay walls or hard to earn currency, which is fine by me. The fact that I can invest in a Master and make them stronger is a new concept in a MOBA, and the game smartly keeps skill and weapon progress to the PVE only – PVP is unaffected by those changes.
The hub of the Dredgion ship is nice too – giving a real home to hang out in between matches where other games just put you in a static lobby. More stuff to do in the hub would be nice, but like Guild Wars 1, having just a place to stand idly and chat is a real boon to keeping you in the game.
MXM will not take over your day to day MMO addiction. But it’s not designed to. It’s the game you play when you just want to log in and kick some ass. The PVP is addictive, and even if its modes are unremarkable its gameplay is on point and its WASD controls really make playing feel far more interactive than the other click-heavy games in the genre. It also works beautifully with the Xbox controller and I can already see that NCSOFT is thinking consoles with this one.
Still, what really sets MXM apart is its PVE, and it’s the feature I hope the game leans more heavily on going forward. Either way, MXM is a solid entry to NCSOFT’s stable, and they should be proud of what they’ve achieved. It’s had little fanfare around the web, which is a shame. If any of what I’ve described sounds like something you’d enjoy, MXM is well worth a look.