|Pub: Warner Bros.|
|Release: Q3 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Robert VerBruggen
Though multiplayer online battle arena games have a dedicated following, and League of Legends has become an undeniable hit, this genre has never really broken into the mainstream. It’s just a little too obscure and a little too frustrating for beginners.
The forthcoming free-to-play PC title Infinite Crisis aims to change that. Not only is it set in the world of DC Comics, but it also offers a variety of features to make itself more accessible to inexperienced players. And it does this without compromising its depth or competitiveness--in fact, developer Turbine has already announced a partnership with Major League Gaming.
I'm a newcomer to the world of MOBAs myself, so I was perhaps the ideal candidate for the Infinite Crisis beta. After stumbling my way through a few rounds, I quickly learned to enjoy the experience. This game has a ways to go before its release later this year, but it's certainly a title to watch.
A quick primer for my fellow noobs: A MOBA is a bizarre hybrid of action-RPG and real-time strategy. Like an action-RPG such as Diablo, you control your character from above, click the ground to move, and learn a variety of special attacks as you level up.
However, your character exists in a much larger framework that resembles an RTS. You're part of a group that has to conquer a series of bases in an arena, and your character gains power quickly during the course of each match rather than slowly becoming powerful over long periods of time.
As you fight your way from one objective to the next, you encounter weak AI enemies in addition to your human opponents, so you have plenty of opportunities to earn EXP and skill points. Furthermore, you receive a constant stream of currency you can use to buy perks.
Basically, Infinite Crisis plays like a warp-speed, multiplayer Diablo. Thanks to the rapid leveling, you're constantly improving your character. And thanks to the comic-book setting, you can use all sorts of fun moves in combat, including throwing cars at bad guys. Add it all together, and each fifteen-minute match is a frantic experience loaded with action, strategy, and lots of intense clicking.
Most notably, there are always tons of options when it comes to customizing your combat experience. Before a match even starts, you can choose from numerous comic-book stars including Batman and Wonder Woman--and not just the basic characters, but special versions drawn from different universes. (For example, the Gaslight characters are steampunk-inspired, and the Nightmare characters are sinister and supernatural.)
The characters also specialize in a variety of roles, making them well suited for particular play styles; an assassin deals lots of damage and then runs off, while a bruiser runs straight to the middle of a melee. Each character gets to pick two special "stolen powers" before the fighting starts as well. These powers are traditionally associated with a particular character, but once you’ve unlocked them, you can use them with all your heroes.
Needless to say, all this choice quickly becomes overwhelming for someone who's new to the game, a problem Infinite Crisis addresses by recommending specific options along the way. As you learn the basic elements of gameplay, you can let the game make some of the harder decisions for you. Then, as your confidence grows, you can experiment more and tweak your character to fit your needs.
The developers have gone out of their way to make the maps interesting too. Catastrophic events can change the territory during a match, and some elements of the maps are destructible.
Even on a technical level the beta was impressive--the graphics and animations were nice, the controls were smooth, and the matches I played didn’t suffer from too much lag or glitchiness.
Of course, the game is still in beta for a reason, and the developers have a lot of work to do. Only one map was playable--Gotham Heights, a circular arena that’s often compared to Dominion in League of Legends. Three maps will be available at launch, and from there the developers will expand the game with new options and characters.
Also, there's still a lot that the developers can do to make the game easier to learn. In particular, an interactive tutorial would be nice, so you can get started without roaming around in a competitive multiplayer game completely clueless as to what's going on. Doing that does not make you popular, especially in a genre with such fanatical players.
If the idea of a multiplayer battle arena appeals to you, Infinite Crisis promises a lot of fun for little or no money. It should introduce plenty of newcomers to the fascinating and slightly quirky world of MOBAs.
Date: July 9, 2013