Will Turbine's new gamble pay off?
By Katie Williams on April 15, 2013 at 11:25 am
You’d be forgiven for wanting to sigh, exasperatedly, “Why so serious?” when dropping into a random round with your standard MOBA’s tight-lipped, hot-tempered players. But the newly announced Infinite Crisis – which pits everybody’s favourite DC comic book characters against each other in the typical struggle for power, fight to restore order, et cetera – is actually a welcome change to the notoriously impenetrable genre. After all, who wouldn’t want to send a gift-wrapped box of chomping Joker teeth after a particularly surly player?
games.on.net were invited around to Warner Bros.’ event in San Francisco for some hands-on time with this promising entrant in the MOBA scene. After being divided into teams of five, schoolyard-style (guess who got chosen last?), we were seated before the character selection screen, where we got our first glimpse of the line-up. The available playable superheroes comprised characters pinched from various DC universes: there are the standard crimefighters and troublemakers we all know about, referred to here as “Prime;” the steampunky denizens of the Gaslight universe; and the Nightmare characters who, well, live up to their name.
Predictably, Batman’s various forms were quickly claimed – I instead settled with Poison Ivy, whose juxtaposition of support role and come-hither aesthetics neatly represented her sweet-and-sour abilities.
Though the developers stressed we were playing only an early build, I’ve gotta admit I was instantly impressed with Infinite’s Crisis visual polish. We dropped into a circular, semi-destructible capture-the-points map that screamed urban smackdown – crumbling streets and crude, metal-plank bridges carved through a gloomy metropolitan landscape, with abandoned cars casually strewn about to facilitate the squashing of one’s enemies.
Mechanically, Infinite Crisis isn’t too different from the likes of League of Legends – kill stuff, level up, kill bigger stuff, and eventually fight for overall control of the map. What differs, besides the obvious superhero-versus-villain colouring of the world, is its accessibility. It didn’t take me long to grasp Poison Ivy’s strengths, and I was soon throwing out teammate-healing, enemy-poisoning AoE spells while happily spiking opponents from afar with her oddly satisfying tunnelling root ability. Meanwhile, at-a-glance information kept me updated with how my teammates were progressing.
Whether dabbler or hardcore hours-a-day gamer, Infinite Crisis is easy to pick up (though once the beta goes live, I’d recommend reading up on the superheroes’ skills before booting up the game, just to save yourself trying to awkwardly read descriptions mid-combat). With the implementation of a gentle auto-level and -purchase system for newbies, the developers emphasised that Infinite Crisis is as accessible for new players as it is for seasoned experts, a noteworthy ambition given MOBA genre’s infamy for brutal communities.
As a player who fell somewhere in the middle on the spectrum, I never felt too frustrated or harried – the friendly teamplay mechanics actually encouraged a camaraderie between my allies that had us shouting in panic or whooping with joy, depending on how well-guarded our nodes were. “Catastrophic events,” such as the occasional crater-creation of a massive fireball, also helped keep things interesting by forcing players to alter their strategies on the fly.
Developed by Turbine, known for online heavyweights like Lord of the Rings Online, it’s not surprising that the single map we were shown is already looking mighty pretty. In addition to other maps, the release version will also reportedly see an expanded gallery of possible heroes and villains to fill the spandex outfits of. And finally, though not detectable in our preview time, the developers insist there will be an overarching plotline. But even if there isn’t, I’m cool with that — Infinite Crisis has got enough going on here that it’s looking to be a promising shake-up in the current MOBA scene, and it’s worth nudging one’s name into the beta for.