The wild success of DOTA 2 and League of Legends on the PC has driven many developers to try and replicate that result. Some have simply taken the same type of game and modified it for consoles. Others decided to go for something different by applying the characteristics of a MOBA to more familiar genres. Gigantic takes the latter approach, and from what we've seen in the latest closed beta, it seems to work.
Gigantic's approach is that of a MOBA/shooter hybrid. On the MOBA side, you have heroes with specific roles, such as healers, summoners or tanks. Each character has four specific actions that can be used, along with at least two inert abilities. Actions can be leveled up during the course of the match, with each of the two levels providing two different branches that can change those powers in a few different ways. The rest of the game relies on shooter mechanics, though there are actually more melee characters than ones who depend on projectiles for combat. You're provided a third-person perspective and controls with a slight camera shift for some over-the-shoulder view. Leaping also plays a part here, as you can use elevation to your advantage in combat.
The game features some intriguing elements. Both sides have three control points where they can spawn creatures that act like towers from other MOBAs. They're fairly mobile in that they don't stay in one place, but they can only roam in a restricted area. Depending on which creature you choose to spawn, they'll either act as healing totems or get on the offensive when enemies approach. They initially spawn in a younger form, and you can upgrade them after some time, so they can be larger Cerberus or dragons with increased abilities. One thing missing from the game are any other sort of cannon fodder to gain cheap levels, so you'll only deal with creatures and the heroes.
The guardians really change the game and make Gigantic feel different from many other MOBAs and shooters. Currently, your guardian is either a giant snake or gryphon. In both cases, taking them head-on is suicide, since your attacks don't affect them at all and theirs are potent enough to kill you in a few hits. The only way to harm them is to have your own guardian tackle them and expose their heart, the one weak spot that you can actually damage.
Getting to that scenario is where the game takes on a different tact than shooters and MOBAs. Each side must amass 100 points, which is done by various tasks, including killing foes and creatures, summoning creatures, and collecting orbs. If your side reaches this threshold, your guardian reaches the enemies, and you have 20 seconds to deplete their energy and wound them. Likewise, if you're on the defensive, you can use the opposing guardian's travel time to amass more kills to give your own guardian an extra shield. If the damage isn't enough by the time the attack timer expires, the guardian escapes unscathed. Otherwise, sustaining three wounds ends the match.
The departure from standard MOBA strategies and techniques actually helps the game. Though they can be pretty simple to understand, MOBAs can be intimidating to those who aren't steeped in real-time strategy or become overwhelmed once they realize that intimacy with the gameplay mechanics is necessary to master the genre. By proxy, shooters are ubiquitous enough that just about anyone knows how to play. If a few players don't take part in the tactics that are synonymous with the genre, like lane control and aiming for towers, they can still make an impact by shooting at the opponents.
Based on what we saw in the closed beta, the shooter mechanics govern the game. While there were some situations where you had a well-balanced team of tanks and healers, we also saw other situations where a team was comprised of melee assassins and brawlers, and that was enough to win the match. It feels more inviting to the newcomer, since you don't need to learn a role to be completely successful, although taking on a particular task makes it easier to score a victory. As a result, it feels like a safe game to check out if you have no prior experience in the MOBA genre.
Currently, Gigantic's presentation is gorgeous. The graphics are colorful, the frame rate is smooth, and all characters have some excellent animations. The designs are whimsical, and while the outfits aren't as diverse as one would see from a game like League of Legends, what you do see from the palette swaps is still done well. There's a great sense of fluidity to just about anything you can imagine, from swishing tails to flowing capes. On the audio side, the effects are good, and though it is used sparingly, the music does a good job of heightening important situations, such as going on the defensive and preparing for a full-on assault. There is a need to do some audio balancing, though, as some of the voices uttered by the characters can be drowned out by the action.
Thus far, Gigantic is the kind of MOBA that can appeal to those who aren't fans of the genre. The emphasis on the shooting portions over the MOBA aspects makes it accessible to most, but the MOBA elements give it some depth that makes it a pretty strong title overall. There isn't a solid release date for the title yet, and since another beta is planned for the end of 2016, you can safely expect this game to hit sometime in 2017. It's scheduled to be a free-to-play title, so the chances are pretty high that there will be a pretty big community at launch.
More articles about Gigantic