Recently, at PAX East, I had an opportunity to play Gigantic, Motiga's upcoming entry into the “Action-MOBA” genre. Let's start by getting a few things straight, when I say an action-MOBA, I do not mean a LOL or DOTA clone. This is the new breed of MOBA, more in the style of Smite, which means immersive third-person action, where every attack is a skill-shot. No tab-targetting here, every move needs to be lined up by the player, and precise timing is required to land a hit. Gameplay is much faster in the Action MOBA genre, in fact it plays more akin to a shooter game than to a traditional MOBA. Players still choose teams, in Gigantic's case it's five versus five, and then go to war in one of various arenas, and do battle, with both teams working to achieve the overall objective.
This is one of the areas where Gigantic differentiates themselves from traditional MOBAs as well. There is no lane vs lane combat here, at least. Not in the manner you a accustomed to seeing, nor is base attack or defense the key to the game. No, in Gigantic, the player's goal is to defeat the other teams gigantic Guardian, and to defend their own. I didn't mention the Guardians yet? Well they really are central to the whole game, acting as both massive team mascots and objectives for victory. Guardians are huge creatures, largely immune to player attack until they are rendered vulnerable. This happens when one teams Guardian lays into the other teams Guardian, essentially knocking it over, and allowing the players attacks to effect it for a short time, about twenty seconds. So, when your Guardian is down you need to defend it from enemy attack, and when the opponent Guardian is down you need to do enough damage to inflict a wound. In the game I played, the first team to do this three times wins the game.
So, now that we understand the game a little bit, let's get to the hands-on part. The good folks at Motiga escorted ten of us into the room where the game was set up, and divided us into two teams. The controls were pretty intuitive and simple, WASD for movement, R-Click and L-Click for basic attacks, Space Bar for jumps, and a handful of hot keys for special moves. Being a newbie at this genre, I opted to play The Margrave, a heavily armored tank whose arsenal includes a dash, a stun, a leap and a sort of defensive shield that reflects enemy ranged attacks back at them. Other characters include Tyto the Swift, a dashing duelist who relies on speed and finesse to get into and out of combat, HK-206, a robotic rolling turret, if you will, with a plethora of ranged attacks, and Griselma, a gnome-like old woman who summons a ton of both traps and monsters in her wake. All told, there are about sixteen characters to choose from, and they each look pretty cool, and have their own unique style and gameplay.
After all the players have chosen, teams are launched into the arena. Our arena was a long desert chasm, with lots of elevation changes, offshoot ravines, and blocking rock formations, that required one to keep one eye on the radar, to find where the action was happening, and one eye on the battlefield, so your character wouldn't get jumped. Gameplay is fast and furious, and exceptionally smooth. The graphics are cartoony, but full of character and special effects, and really very attractive overall. When I was told that the game was running on alpha graphics I was astonished, it felt very polished even at this stage.
For a while I ran here and there, getting a feel for my character and his talents, and I had one of the games veteran players advising me, he quickly showed me how I could summon a creature that would provide a useful buff, in my case I went with a creature that would let me spot enemies on the radar. He also showed me how to level up my skills as I grew more experienced. After a few minutes of skirmishing back and forth, the Guardians were released! I quickly learned that getting too close to a Guardian is a bad idea, unless you have a lot of back-up, so I focused mostly on defending my own Guardian. As mentioned earlier, combat is very much like a shooter game, with players running all around trying to line up ranged attacks, get close enough to clobber enemies with melee attacks, all the while trying to avoid having the same happen to them. It's very intuitive, and in no time all the players seemed to have it down, and we were trading kills at a blistering pace. Except me. I never realized how much using a highly proprietary control set up for my home PC would kill me (literally) when trying to play on the road. While I was able to get some kills, I definitely felt responsible when the enemy team made a huge surge late and scored the third wound on our Guardian, while we had only managed to score two on theirs.
Despite the agony of ignominious defeat, both sides had a great time, and I think that Gigantic is poised to make a big splash in the Action-MOBA genre, when it gets released, as early as this fall, on both XBOX-1 and Windows.