While Overwatch may be the big beta everyone is clamoring about, I recently got an invite to another MOBA inspired game. Gigantic is studio Motiga’s take on the popular multiplayer battle-arena style game, and I’m happy to say it’s a good take. It’s not without it’s share of problems but overall Gigantic has a good amount of potential.
Normally in a MOBA you have two teams guide expendable mooks down lanes, knock over towers, and eventually push into the enemy territory to destroy their base. Gigantic works differently by not having set lanes, towers or bases. Instead the game works more like a capture-point mode in a shooter. There are points around the map that teams can capture. You can summon a creature at each control point to help fortify you position by adding additional firepower, defensive walls, or healing.
On each side of the map are Gigantic’s namesake guardians. Unlike cores or ancients in other MOBAs, the massive powerful guardians cannot be damaged by players alone. Instead teams have to gather energy to coerce their guardian to go on the offensive, rampaging across the map to deal damage and open up the opposite guardian to attack. Energy is gained by controlling points, summoning creatures, killing enemies, or -if you’re feeling brave- by stealing it directly from the enemy guardian.
Matches in Gigantic feel much more like a back and forth capture-points match in a shooter than a standard game in LoL or DOTA. Teams race to capture territories and summon defenses to power their guardian to attack. When a guardian does rampage across the map, teams can choose use the opportunity to press the attack and deal more damage to the guardian or to hunker down and fortify their own territory. It’s a really fun game style that’s a good break from the usual lane-pushing of other MOBAs.
After a few rampages from either guardian the two monsters enter “the Clash” part of the game. Guardians move closer together and become much more prone to rampaging. Points can no longer be captured nor new creatures summoned, meaning whoever controlled the most territory up until that point get’s an advantage until the end of the match. During the Clash, matches become much more aggressive as both teams scramble to get enough energy for the final strike or a last-ditch attempt at a turnabout.
But the changes in MOBA gameplay probably wasn’t what struck most people when they saw Gigantic for the first time. The game’s art style is wonderfully colorful and looks beautiful in motion. The environments and especially the heroes look a storybook come to life. Each hero has a distinct and unique design, and the way they move about and fight is amazing to watch. For instance, Uncle Sven is a rotund manic, scurrying around chucking dangerous potions all over. It’s always a joy to see him bounce into battle.
Meanwhile, HK-206 is a battered old robot who putters around, nervously checking his systems and searching back and forth even when idle.
More importantly, each character feels different to play as. Tyto the Swift, the regal-looking owl-man, easily launches in and out of combat and excels at hit-and-run tactics. Xenobia, a tentacle-y sorceress, can glide just out of reach while draining health and trolling enemies with a wide variety of debuffs. The Margrave (yeah that’s his name) has to lug himself around the battlefield, but can unleash his inner Hulk to both take and deal massive damage. Even though the the cast is fairly small compared to most big-name MOBAs, each character feels and plays unique. If your a fan of sniper, brawler, ninja, healer, or trickster playstyles from other games, chances are Gigantic has that covered.
Gigantic also has a pretty interesting system for building characters. For each level you get you can upgrade one of your hero’s abilities in different ways. For instance, Aisling is a character who can summon her ghost dad onto the field to help her attack enemies.You can either upgrade this ability so that ghost dad is stronger when he is unleashed, or you can focus on making Aisling stronger independent from her father. Each upgrade then splits into another upgrade you can invest in so you can further specialize your build. It’s a good balance between DOTA and LoL’s imphasis on specific build orders and Heroes of the Storm’s talent system.
My experience with Gigantic has been mostly positive, but there are a few issues I have with the game. First is that a lot of the game’s abilities don’t feel like they have much impact. A punch from Margrave looks and feels like a massive blow, but a grenade or airstrike from Beckett doesn’t have that same oomph. A rocket barrage from HK-206 looks and feels like a slightly more impressive version of his turret form than his ultimate attack. Your heath bar may decrease, but it doesn’t often feel like you’re taking damage. Death usually feels like surprise nudge than a grim finale. Even killing a guardian at the end of a game is met with little fanfare. Someone lands the killing blow and a millisecond later whisked to a victory or defeat screen.
On top of that ranged or projectile characters seemed much weaker than their close-ranged counterpoints. If a brawler or assassin got close it often felt like that was the end of the fight, even with a tanky or heroes with escapes. Most of my time spent as a ranged hero meant using mobility abilities to access areas close-ranged characters couldn’t access as I slowly ticked down their life bar. I felt like a cheesy second-stringer while all the Tripps and Margraves made the big plays and did all the heavy lifting.
My biggest concern is the Free-to-Play format. The game currently runs a character rotation like many other F2P MOBAs but Gigantic’s rotations offer very few characters. You get the choose out of six characters...for teams of five. Character selection usually starts with each player scrambling to lock in their favorite character before they get snatched up by someone else. Not fast enough? Too bad, you gotta fumble around as Imani the sniper again. Ugh. On the plus side, the game seems to rewards you often and handsomely with in-game currency to purchase new heroes and creatures. Right now it’s just a really frustrating model that doesn’t seem like it’ll make Motiga much money (a bad position for a studio that recently went trough significant layoffs.)
Other than that, the game just has a few other small bugs to work out. The UI for selecting upgrades and talents can sometimes be clunky and difficult to use when in a match. There’s currently no way to see upgrade trees for characters outside of playing as that character while in a battle. There’s the occasional dropped game or crash. Matchmaking is pretty bad at matching newbies vs seasoned vets. The game is still in Beta. It’s going to have these little problems to iron out.
But overall I’ve been having a pretty fun time Gigantic. It’s still got a ways to go before it’s as polished as other games out there, but it seems like a good match for people who want something different from the standard MOBA format or for fans of shooters who aren’t really into the MOBA scene. Right now I’d say its a game at least worth trying (it’ll be free!), but it’s not to the point where I’d give it a hearty recommendation. It’s got a lot of potential but it’s not quite there yet.
Zachary D Long is a guy who plays video games and is usually pretty chill about killing giant monsters. You can follow his dumb thought on Twitter @invadingduck. Also: please, Blizzard, let me in the Overwatch beta. ;_;