Warner Bros is no stranger to slapping a license on the MOBA genre. The publisher did as much last year with Monolith's Guardians of Middle Earth, which blended the genre with The Lord of the Rings. Where Guardians was designed from the ground up to work on consoles, however, Infinite Crisis is designed solely for the PC.
The plot revolves around the titular infinite crisis, which sees the many universes of DC Comics colliding and in danger of being destroyed. As you can imagine, there won't be much for superheroes and villains to fight over if there is no universe, so they set aside their differences to solve the crisis. Somehow, this is achieved by forming competitive teams and battling one another in arena-style bloodsports. Don't over-think it.
The basic gameplay formula is the same as other MOBAs. Select a character, enter an arena and compete to achieve various objectives. Players move their character around the battlefield using real-time strategy controls, firing off pre-defined sets of powers to kill AI-controlled minions and other players, which earns money and experience to upgrade your character's abilities.
At the moment, there are six different universes from which characters are drawn, but Turbine is working to create more. The roster includes multiple versions of various DC characters, like the already publicized classic, Gaslight and Nightmare versions of Batman. You'll be happy to know that these aren't just different skins for the same character. Each version is unique and has different abilities. After some advice from Turbine creative director Cardell Kerr, I opted for the tanky Doomsday, who can take plenty of damage and break up groups with a powerful tackle maneuver.
We played on Gotham Heights, a map that plays similarly to League of Legends
' Dominion mode. Two teams compete to capture and control specific areas on the map. Doing so depletes the points of the opposing team, and the first team to hit zero is defeated.
Again, the setup is pretty familiar to most MOBA players. What distinguishes Infinite Crisis
are some small but significant changes and additions. Chief among these is what Turbine is calling "destructive PVP," which boils down to more interactive environments. For example, the cars that litter Gotham Heights aren't just window dressing. If your character has super strength, you can pick one up and toss it into the middle of a team brawl (or right on top of a lone Poison Ivy). While I didn't get to try it in my session, I was also told that you can rip out telephone poles, or knock down buildings and throw the resulting rubble.
In keeping with the theme of universal armageddon, each map also features "catastrophic events" that dramatically alter the flow of gameplay. On Gotham Heights, this amounts to a massive meteor that falls from the sky. Both teams have the opportunity to activate special beacons, which will cause the meteor to fall directly on the opposing team's base, dealing heavy damage to the entire team. Neither team succeeded in activating the beacons during my session, so the meteor simply fell in the center of the map, making it harder to escape fights or quickly travel from one side to the other.
Other formula changes were designed to make the game more straightforward and friendlier to new players. One of the problems with other MOBAs, creative director Cardell Kerr told me, is that new players will often believe they are playing well when they're actually working against their own intrest. For example, League of Legends
requires players to score the "last hit" on an enemy minion in order to earn extra gold. A new player might think he's helping out by damaging minions and letting his own AI minions finish the job, but he's actually losing money, not leveling up his equipment and possibly hindering the team. Infinite Crisis
does away with this, instead awarding money for every attack against a minion. It's a simple change, but one that helps new players avoid confusion and enjoy the game.
Finally, while character abilities are usually static in MOBAs, Infinite Crisis
offers a small degree of customization via the Stolen Powers feature. As you level certain characters, you unlock their Stolen Powers, allowing you to bestow one of his or her innate abilities upon other characters. For example, you can assign Doomsday's super strength to another character that doesn't possess it naturally. Maybe Poison Ivy could get a little revenge that way.
It's hard to adequately assess all the complexities of a new MOBA in a single sitting, but Infinite Crisis
already seems to have the basics covered, and there are enough tweaks to the formula that genre fans should take notice. The fact that there is not just one, but three
playable versions of Batman is just gravy.