Hands-on with Infinite Crisis, the new DC Comics-themed MOBA

Infinite Crisis

By 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.

“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

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.

23 comments (Leave your own)

Fuck yeah, Dominion!

 

Nightmare Batman reminds me of Warwick lol.

Is there last hitting in this game? I guess it would’ve been hard to tell given you seemed to be playing Dominion where last hitting is irrelevant but if last hitting is in the game then that’s a deal breaker.

 

Why’s that a deal breaker? It’s a common part of DotA, DotA 2, LoL, HoN and lots of other’s TLA’s…

 

I had to google “last hitting”. It sounds like a silly mechanic. Why can’t you have a system where gold is rewarded based on damage done to the monster?

 

I suck at last hitting, but I understand why it’s there and respect the mechanic. It’ll mean the difference bewteen and good game and a great game.

 

Because it’s a “mechanic” (I use the term very loosely given its function and origins) that shouldn’t exist. It’s tedious, unintuitive, passively non interactive and just plain boring. There’s nothing interesting in sitting there waiting for an NPC’s health to slowly go down before you take the last shot. It’s also the sole cause of LoL’s stale 0cs support meta and why jungling is considered a requirement rather than a tactical decision.

It’s a legacy effect left over from how the War3 engine functioned and needs to disappear like denying did before it. Even the lead designer for LoL says last hitting is archaic but he feels simply removing it without replacing it with something else would do more harm than good.

 

mrthumpy,

I think Sins of a Dark Age is going down this route though I worry this will end up with a similar effect as last hitting with players only doing the minimum damage needed to get the gold.

 

exe3:
passively non interactive and just plain boring.

You might feel it is boring, but it is most definitely interactive. There is a lot that last hitting contributes to lane control. It is often the reason you can harass (rather than constant all-ins). Choosing exactly how much damage you want to do to the enemy creep wave, while ensuring you get as many last hits as possible, while avoiding as much harass as possible is pretty interactive indeed. Are you freezing lane? Are you pushing? But what about the jungler, maybe you should just reset it instead.

All that is on top of the fact that it is another aspect where players can mess up. Meaning another opportunity for one player to prove himself above someone else. Yeah, conceptually its a bit boring and a bit odd… but you’re still requiring timing, precision and awareness from the players.

One of the major differences between high elo players, and low elo players is cs. If you can find something that would fit the genre better, while providing the same benefits… by all means, share your ideas.

 

Here’s the problem. Technically what you said isn’t completely wrong, sure certain strategies can result from last hitting, but last hitting is a purely mechanic skill, not the strategy itself. To me you’re manipulating bad AI to create your strategies, that’s silly, if you have a strategy you should be able to act on it in fluid and intuitive ways, not manipulate the game to produce effects not originally intended, and don’t think for a second that just because it’s now widely accepted that it was ever originally intended let alone think the games systems were ever designed to incorporate these strategies.

Two other examples for LoL I can think of in regards to manipulating the game to create new strategies not originally intended is jungling and leashing. Jungling was an exploit limited to very specific characters with very specific rune and mastery sets that resulted in a champions ability to not die in the jungle at level one. Jungle was there as bonus objectives for later in the game, not as a fourth lane. It caught on and was changed by Riot to make it more legitimate but still wasn’t originally intended to be used the way it is today.

The other example is leashing where you manipulated jungle creeps poor AI to confuse it allowing the jungler to get a bunch of free hits on it for his jungle run. This was thankfully removed.

I just feel like DotA was a genuinely poorly made game and each subsequent game based off it has to deal with the games poor design in their own way. Some one needs to take the genre to its core and figure out what does and doesn’t work and make an intuitive game based on the spirit of DotA.

As for me if I were making a MOBA it’d be a bit different to what’s around now. One of the big changes would be i’d try and remove the laning phase. The laning phase has a false purpose imo, it looks like it’s doing something when it really isn’t. Only in extreme circumstances (someone gets fed) does it actually have an effect on mid/late game but otherwise laning feels like a total (and imo not fun) separate game (and waste of time) to the other two thirds of the game. Not to mention the laning phase is the only part of the game in which last hitting even matters so two birds with one stone. :P

purehybrid:
One of the major differences between high elo players, and low elo players is cs. If you can find something that would fit the genre better, while providing the same benefits… by all means, share your ideas.

Exactly the problem. The ability to kill an NPC shouldn’t be one of the defining thing between a new and an experienced player, it should be their mastery of the champions they play. this is PvP, not PvE.

 

So your version of an MMO would remove all the laning experience, to do what then? Pit each other directly and remove creeps all together? The only way to level up is by killing the enemy players?

so basically a top down RTS version of COD?

 

Seems DC are constantly chasing the current hot genre without trying to innovate.

 

exe3:

Exactly the problem. The ability to kill an NPC shouldn’t be one of the defining thing between a new and an experienced player, it should be their mastery of the champions they play. this is PvP, not PvE.

All I can say is thank god you’re not a game developer.

Unintended things have a long history of DEFINING great games. Can you imagine quake without strafe jumping?

Your comment regarding pvp/pve shows that you’re approaching lasthitting from the wrong angle. Last Hitting is a “PVP” action, unless your in a lane with no opponent. Taking a cs improves your power each and every time. Every cs you take, punishes your opponent for not stopping you.

Saying last hitting is pve, is the same as saying weapon/map control in quake is pve. You arent’ shooting anyone, but you’re ensuring your opponent is at a disadvantage.

This sort of thing doesn’t remove, but creates and fosters strategy.. and DEMANDS mastery.

An experienced player’s CS isn’t higher than a newbie’s just because they’re timing every last hit. It is because they’re timing every last hit, while simultaneously positioning themselves safely, maintaining map awareness, and punishing the enemy for every last hit they take, to the point where they can completely zone them.

Just because you aren’t holding your mouse over an enemy champion doesn’t mean your action isn’t directly affecting them. All pvp games are about maintaning good mechanics while making choices and simultaneously making your opponent make choices, preferably ones they don’t want to make.

If you can’t think any deeper than “see enemy, attack enemy”…maybe try CoD?

mindsnare:
Seems DC are constantly chasing the current hot genre without trying to innovate.

Isn’t that what you do with a global IP? :P

 

mindsnare,

If that means they give us more games like Arkham Asylum/City, then who cares.

 

Last hitting is necessary as a alternative way to influence the outcome of the game rather than pure PvP clashes. Imagine if there were no lane/jungle creeps, then the only way to get gold/exp would be to fight enemy heroes, what happens when one team gains a lead and has a teamfight advantage? They snowball out of control and win so the game is almost entirely decided early in the game.

The alternative is that you don’t need to get the last hit to get gold, it would just be distributed like exp, which would be significantly more boring than last hitting. This is all ignoring all the early/lategame scaling of heroes that would have to be removed to prevent snowballing from pure PvP as well as a complete revamp of many aspects of the game.

That being said, it’s not entirely impossible to balance but you end up with a much more different and symmetrical game like the Warcraft 3 map Warlock where everyone more or less has the exact same options and snowballing is pretty significant.

 

purehybrid,

Just because I don’t just accept what’s there at face value doesn’t mean i’d be a bad developer, i’d imagine it’d be quite the opposite actually. I like to look at a game and ask, “is this actually good?” Maybe it creates good gameplay but in poor ways (as is the case with Moba’s imo) in which case i’d look to see how that same gameplay can still be achieved in more intuitive ways, or perhaps i’d look for entirely different gameplay and experiences which is what I commented on with removing the laning phase. Of course just giving everyone 3k gold and pretending the game started at the 20 minute mark would be bad. I would, personally, want to work at evolving the early game into something different that didn’t revolve around sitting in a lane and last hitting in preparation for when the game really gets started. Preferably i’d move to something that involved mobile skirmishes across the map while simultaneously trying to keep lanes pushing. I would work to try and create a smooth flow from early to mid game rather than the jarring change it currently is. This would involve countless fundamental changes so don’t assume that because I don’t give you a 10 page action plan that I don’t know what i’m talking about.

You also talk about map awareness, positioning, zoning etc, all completely legitimate skills of which none of them require last hitting to be linked, they serve the act of last hitting just as much as they serve the act of team fighting, not the other way around, to say otherwise is to say that mid/late game has no strategy when those are the stages where the most strategy takes place. Simply put you could still gank if last hitting didn’t exist, the act of ganking doesn’t go anywhere and doesn’t rely on last hitting to exist.

Furthermore I don’t appreciate your comments that i’m no more than some mindless CoD player that only knows how to blindly attack, it’s quite insulting. Putting words into my mouth also isn’t appreciated. Disagree with me, present alternate views if you desire but please don’t insult me.

And yes, emergent gameplay is a powerful force but emergent gameplay in and of itself isn’t a good thing, it needs to be refined by the developer when discovered otherwise it’s just messy and doesn’t fulfill its potential. See the LoL jungle (as i’ve already commented on) for an example of emergent gameplay that was picked up and polished by the developer. Simply put emergent gameplay is practically just exploits players discover, a developer needs to look at these exploits and determine whether they enhance or harm the core gameplay intended by the developer and act accordingly whether by polishing and facilitating this new gameplay or by removing it.

 

I never said all those things REQUIRE lasthitting… I said last hitting provides a reason for the player to engage in them. I asked for your ideas on what to replace last hitting with, and you’ve pretty much come back with global objectives. So maybe just play dominion?

This argument has been done to death, and the reason last hitting still exists, is because no one has come up with a better way to provide all those things that last hitting provides.

 

Can someone count how many times he says Nightmare Batman?

 

Dominion lacks a satisfying conclusion, you just kinda *win* rather than have this epic climax (ala destroy the Nexus). There’s no sense of progress either unlike the basic game where you can see you’ve smashed a bunch of towers. I probably would play Dominion more (it can be fun) if there was a sense of progress and a climax at the end of a match but I still would argue you can have more global objectives and a greater focus on strategic champion combat in the base game rather than laning. My experience with Twisted Treeline shows that this is possible.

Also i’d argue it isn’t a case that no one has been able to come up with something better than last hitting, rather no one has tried to come up with something better. Some games have made tweaks but currently we’re still very much in the ‘Dota/LoL clone’ stage of the genre where everyone;s trying to replicate Dota/LoL’s success rather than taking the core game and running with it.

As for Infinite Crisis I just learnt that they have done away with last hitting and are using a system where you gain gold from just hitting an enemy minion which imo brings about its own set of problems. I think the issue is deeper than just last hitting and revolves more around the fact that minions are a players main source of revenue and XP.

 

I agree with exe3 to a point, the creep denying shat me to tears and I honestly believe LoL made the correct decision in removing it.

That being said, last hitting mobs for CS is still the best way of measuring the constant harassing/skirmishes that occur in early lane phases. I can’t remember the specifics of how DemiGod managed the gold vs XP, but it did not involve last hitting mobs. It was a damage based calculation on the mobs hit, and you also got gold from the gold mines you controlled. I really enjoyed DemiGod actually, and the balance of beefing up your hero vs buying upgrades for the creep waves was a welcome change to the standard.

That being said the launch was awful and this killed the game from the get-go which was a real shame.

I’m going to be interested to see where the Arena style gamer go in the future. It’s already progressing fairly well, and it will be good to see how they break free from the “RTS mod” constraints they’re still conforming to.

 

So they removed last hitting and then the emphasis became zoning instead by the support.

Which was what the support did in DotA/HoN anyway along with denying – to do as it says, deny the opposition carry gold and xp.

If you don’t like it though don’t play it, pretty simple.

For reference I play LoL – but used to play DotA and HoN.

 
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