Infinite Crisis Beta Impressions: The MOBA You Want, Not The MOBA You Need

infinite-crisis-bannerI’ve never played a MOBA before but with the release of the open beta of the DC Comics MOBA, Infinite Crisis, I thought now was a good time to get into the genre. Most people are judging compared to the big MOBAs, League of Legends and DOTA 2. Without that comparison base, what would I think of my first MOBA?

Infinite Crisis is a multiplayer online battle arena, MOBA for short, in which teams of five Champions, DC comics heroes and villains, do battle for supremacy.

infinite-crisis-coast-city-trailer-01On the main menu screen, Infinite Crisis has three tutorial videos that quickly go through the basics of a game including how the store works, how to join a game, how to move, how to attack and how the in-match UI works. These videos play in your default web browser on YouTube. Unfortunately, these videos don’t provide any tips on how to play or what the objective of the game is. If I hadn’t watched Day9 play some Heroes of the Storm, I wouldn’t know what the point of a MOBA is. That’s how new I am to the genre.

(The end of the final video also suggests that everyone should be well-mannered to make friends. I went 0-and-everything in my first game and heard about it repeatedly. The fact that orders teammates made like “get the EMP” and “gank” didn’t mean anything to me didn’t help either. Clearly, they didn’t watch the videos. However, I find that to be par for the course for competitive multiplayer games. Although that could be because I’m bad at video games.)

There are three maps available for play in the Infinite Crisis open beta. There’s the practice map in which you and four teammates play against AI drones (minions that don’t pose a big threat individually but come at you in greater numbers) but no AI or human champions. It’s there to give you a feel for how to MOBA in a non-competitive environment.

Outside of the training map, there are two maps that each has its own game mode. Gotham Divided is your standard three-lane MOBA map. There are three lanes filled with turrets. If you’ve never played a MOBA before, this is your standard setup. You move up one of the lanes to get to the opposing base to take out their central Power Core. In Dota, I think it’s called the Ancient. Basically, it’s the big structure in the enemy base that you’re supposed to destroy to win.

infinite-crisis-beta-screenshot-01My biggest problem with that map is that the games more at a glacial pace. I’m talking about games in the 30 to 50-minute neighbourhood. Maybe that’s standard for a MOBA but I’m not sure I’ll keep coming back to IC if I’m playing something like one game an hour when you factor in the time it takes to find a game. Again, maybe it’s typical for a MOBA but I’m not interested in waiting 3+ minutes to find a game and waiting another few minutes for people to choose champions and then load into a game.

The other map is Gotham Heights. That map is a capture-and-hold game type in which you and your team have to control the five points of interest. Holding control points reduces the opposing team’s 500 point bank. I’m not entirely certain the rate at which the opposing bank is reduced. It makes for a faster game with a 50/50 game taking upwards of 20 minutes. It’s nice that there’s a mode here that’s a bit more considerate for people who don’t have hours to sink into a couple matches though I think that’s more of a criticism of the genre rather than Infinite Crisis. This, I feel, is a point in IC’s favour.

It seems as though you can play the practice map, Coast City Marina, as a “Custom” game but you can’t queue into it either solo or in a group. It’s a two-lane map so I would think that it should be quicker than Gotham Divided. I don’t know that for certain but two lanes with two turrets each sounds like an easier battle than three and three on Gotham Divided.

Having seen some Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm gameplay, playing seems to be setup similarly. You have four skills tied to hotkeys along with your basic attack that’s tied to clicking on an enemy or A+clicking in their general vicinity. If you’ve played Diablo III (the only of the Diablo games I have some playtime with), it’s similar to the skill use hotkeys in that except MOBAs use Q through R rather than 1 through 4. There are also “Stolen Powers” which are acquired powers you can assign to any character.

infinite-crisis-beta-screenshot-02As you play, you earn experience that levels you up. Each level up boosts your character’s stats and gives you a point to apply to one of your four active and one passive powers. (Stolen powers can’t be leveled up.) You start by being able to select one power at Level 1 and you can take your skill point at each level to unlock a new skill or improve an already unlocked one. Infinite Crisis gives you recommendations of powers to select so I’ve just been going with those. If you take a quick peak around the internet, you can find builds for you to follow.

There are also in-match credits that are separate of the in-game store. These allow you to buy “artifacts” to boost your champion’s attributes. While leveling up can be done any time, buying artifacts only takes effect when you are at your own base, either by teleporting back or respawning after dying. It’s easier to just follow the game’s recommendations because the menu has a lot of items and the icons and text is all very small. It makes it hard to figure this out on the fly.

And there lies my biggest issue with MOBAs. You don’t really get time to figure out a character on the fly. It’s trial by fire because you can only have one of each champion on a team. If someone’s quick on the draw and takes your preferred champion, you’re stuck with someone you don’t normally play with. You don’t have the time to figure out what to do on the fly because someone is trying to kill you while you’re trying to read. You die a lot because you don’t really know how to use your character and you’re labelled a noob and accused of costing your team the game. At least this community hasn’t gotten too bad yet. Of course, I could just be trying to be nice for now despite having that scenario play out a few times in my games.

infinite-crisis-beta-screenshot-03-artifactsUnfortunately, Infinite Crisis doesn’t really give you much of a time to get yourself sorted. As I played a character over a few matches, I got better with them. It was the same deal as figuring out how MOBAs worked which the game barely explains. Infinite Crisis does nothing to help new MOBA or IC players. Maybe that’s coming by release but I think you have to stick with it for an arduous and frustrating while until you get your feet under you just to get to a stage of slight competence.

As you complete more matches, your account also levels up. These unlock champion perks that can be assigned to champions as a custom loadout but each champion comes with a default set of perks so these aren’t really important unless you have a very specific build or playstyle in mind. Over time, you unlock achievements for every ten levels you increase your account and are awarded Crisis Coins and Merit for that (more on those in a minute). This gives people who continuously play the game an advantage over their competition because they can unlock more powerful champions and perks while others are stuck with the free stuff.

As for the actual champions, each has its own role. My preferred class at the moment is ranged but you have melee attacking characters, tanks and support. Everyone has a certain class that they seem to excel with. I’ve run into a lot of really good melee characters. Tanks work well if they have someone to capitalize on drawing aggro. Support in the right place could make the difference between a continuing push and a retreat.

While all the characters have a class/role indicator, there isn’t any indication of which champions are noob friendly and which aren’t. Some sort of skill indicator would be nice. Heroes of the Storm has it so why not Infinite Crisis. Alternatively, a training mode to properly learn a character would be a welcome addition. The practice mode doesn’t really count because you never fight another champion.

infinite-crisis-beta-promo-01There are 27 different champions to choose from in Infinite Crisis but don’t expect all of your favourites to be in here. A lot of the champions have alternate universe variants. For example, there are three variants of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern while Joker, Catwoman and Poison Ivy have two champions each. So that means there are only 16 DC Comics characters represented so far. Another three characters (and three more repeat champions to bring the count to 33) have been confirmed and are coming soon but I wouldn’t call them A-listers (apart from Sinestro). Presumably, we can expect a more complete roster as launch approaches.

It seems as though IC follows the League of Legends free-to-play champion model. You get Joker unlocked permanently without paying a cent. Right now, there are six or seven other champions available for free now but you need to buy them in the store using in-game credit (Merit) or real-world money (Crisis Coins) to keep them permanently.

And that brings me to my single biggest complaint about this game right now: the monetization model. I’d imagine that I’d have this complaint about all the other MOBAs too considering that their monetization isn’t dissimilar. As of the beta’s launch, the total Crisis Coin price (excluding discounts and bundles) is 15,925. Right now, you can buy 23,000 Coins (that’s 12,500 plus 10,500 bonus Crisis Coins) for the low, low price of $199.99 CAD (prices probably differ elsewhere but currently there is no difference between CAD and USD). Pro-rated, you can buy all the champions for $138.47.

Why isn’t there a Launch Bundle that unlocks everything for $60? Your monetization would be a lot better at $60 than more than twice that. There is a $49.99 Starter Pack that includes 8 champions and 3,200 Crisis Coins. That means you have permanent access to one-third of all champions with the $50 starter pack. It pisses me off thinking about what a rip-off a game like this is. The fact that people probably have already spent hundreds of dollars on this game that’s still in beta means that we won’t be able to beat the system any time soon.

infinite-crisis-beta-screenshot-05-shopIf you want to earn your way to unlock champions using the in-game “Merit” currency, it’ll take a while. While some heroes cost only 400 merits and a few more under 2,500. Most DC characters you’ve heard of start at 5,700 and up. Given that I’m earning between 200 and 300 Merit per match, that means that I would take over 20 matches to unlock most characters. That earning rate encourages you to pay cash. In a beta. Can you see why I may have an issue with the monetization model?

Other than that, the game runs well enough. I’ve crashed coming out of the lobby and seen someone else do that once which holds up the game because IC seems to wait for that person to log back in and load up which keeps everyone on the pre-match loading screen. I also have been suffering a freezing issue going from lobby to load screen which means I’m the last to load into a game and holding everyone up.

It’s a beta so there is occasional lag which is frustrating when someone exploits that to kill you. Informational videos in the game require Flash or an HTML 5 web browser… Both of which I have and IC couldn’t figure out.

Apart from that, the actual in-game play works well. Once you get into the game, you’re set with almost no issues. The gameplay itself seems sorted out. It’s just everything that surrounds the gameplay that needs a lot of work before Infinite Crisis can be called ready for launch.

I also want to point out the surprisingly high minimum specs of this game. The minimum specs are an i3 processor with 3.1 GHz or higher, 6 GB of RAM and an NVIDIA 400 series or AMD Radeom 7000 series GPU. That’s awfully high for a game that doesn’t look like it needs it. Maybe all the destructible elements need that hardware power so it doesn’t bog you down. My first instinct is that IC needs that so the beta build doesn’t plummet your framerate to single digits until they get optimization sorted for the release build. It doesn’t look or sound like a game that has minimum specs close to those of Battlefield 4 but it does.

Conclusion

infinite-crisis-beta-screenshot-04Maybe if I knew more about MOBAs and had more time to figure out the characters, I’d like Infinite Crisis more. As it stands, you don’t get much time to learn. You’re thrown into the fire and expected to survive. It takes a while to get your feet under you and the MOBA doesn’t have the best reputation in gaming for being friendly to noobs. There’s a reason why I’ve been hesitant to try Dota 2 or LoL.

I don’t expect to be great at a game off the hop but I see videos of Blizzard’s MOBA, Heroes of the Storm, and think that it looks fairly easy to learn and hard to master. Even the three-lane maps don’t seem like such a lengthy slog. This feels hard to learn and harder to master. Maybe it would be better with a team working as a cohesive whole so that you aren’t hung out to dry by everyone doing their own thing. When your team does work together, it’s a fantastic feeling. Otherwise, it’s a pain.

I will give Turbine one thing: While it doesn’t seem like Infinite Crisis does anything particularly unique, at least this doesn’t seem like a cheap, licensed cash-in on DC Comics characters. The game actually works and is fun when the game goes into a back-and-forth slugfest. If not for the major monetization issues and a seemingly paint-by-numbers setup, it might be a great game. For now, it’s just okay. DC fans will love it… if the right characters are free at the right time.

Infinite Crisis is currently in open beta and was played on Windows PC. Your impressions of the game may differ based on PC specs, MOBA experience and whether you really hate competitive multiplayer just about every time you play. And you wonder why I almost never mention multiplayer in my reviews.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on March 25, 2014, in Game Reviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. yo bro, if u don’t know moba, don’t give it an opinion, go play your the sims, shut.

    Like

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