Infinite Crisis has basically made me a MOBA fan

    
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It’s 1989. My buddy and I are in a comic store and raising our eyebrows at this odd little one-shot called Gotham by Gaslight. You probably know it; the cover is all greens and blues with a gargoylish and scarier-than-usual Batman perched on a 19th century rooftop.

We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were looking at the first in a series of Elseworlds entries that transported familiar heroes and villains into exceedingly unfamiliar locales and circumstances. Fast forward to 2006, when DC’s Infinite Crisis arc officially dubbed this weird steampunkish world “Earth-19.” Fast forward some more to 2015, where three of the 41 champions in Turbine’s new Infinite Crisis MOBA hail from this alternate earth.

Infinite CrisisLet me state up front that prior to the past two weeks and 10 protector levels of Infinite Crisis, I hadn’t the first clue about MOBAs. Why would I, really, since I’m typically a sandbox MMO economy nerd and typically not a fan of PvP? If any character could help me overcome my longstanding MOBAphobia, though, it would be Batman, in particular the Victorian gun-toting Gaslight Batman who serves as your tutorial champion in Turbine’s latest effort and who tickled my newfound steampunk fancy so many years ago.

Infinite Crisis follows the basic gameplay formula well-established by League of Legends and Dota 2. Most matches feature two teams of five players, with each side tasked with protecting its power core and traversing both lanes and the (urban) jungle to reach the enemy’s core and destroy it. Actually, let me back up. I’ve been playing IC’s Coast City map almost exclusively, which is a two-lane setup as described above.

Infinite CrisisThe devs do occasionally enable other game types including Gotham Heights, another two-lane setup that involves control point management, and Gotham Divided, which is a three-lane map. There’s even a 1v1 map called Crime Alley, but for the past several weeks Turbine has funneled its entire solo population into Coast City, I’m guessing to reduce queue times. If you’re lucky enough to be playing IC with a large group or guild, you can queue together for the publicly disabled maps, but as of today you can’t queue for them on your own.

Got all that? Good. As I was saying, IC takes the standard MOBA formula and tweaks it a bit. Coast City, for example, features a couple of power relays in the jungle and one above the top lane. These things open for business periodically and add a bit of strategy/chaos to the standard lane-pushing game by providing elite drone bonuses to the side that controls the most relays. Oh, if you’re a MOBA newb as I am, know that drones are effectively NPC henchmen that march through the lanes toward the enemy power core, attacking anything unfriendly in their path be they opposing player champions or NPC defense turrets that can ruin your whole day if you’re not careful. Alternatively, they can save your ass if you manage to get back to one after over-extending behind enemy lines.

The Doomsday Device is another Coast City wrinkle. If you and your teammates manage to down a center-of-the-map raid boss before the opposing team, you get a free nuke that you can chuck in the direction of an enemy turret for what amounts to an insta-kill.

Infinite CrisisAll 10 player champions start a match at level 1, and killing enemy drones, players, turrets, and neutral jungle NPCs provides gold, which is used to grow a character over the course of a match. Gaslight Batman is a marksman, which means that I typically stay at max range and snipe enemy players and drones, with the goal being to last-hit them and thereby maximize both gold drops and e-peen.

And yes, “last-hit” is exactly what it sounds like: getting the last hit that finishes an enemy. Gaslight Batman features a powerful auto-attack called echoes as well as three active attacks and an “ultimate,” all of which are housed in an MMO-style hotbar and leveled up over the course of a match.

Infinite CrisisThe character progression process can be a little confusing at first, due mainly to IC’s busy itemization interface and the sheer number of choices at your disposal. Do I take Joe Chill’s Revolver or an Atomic Axe? And should I stick with the default stolen powers, or do I want a heal and maybe some temporary invulnerability? These are all questions you’ll be asking yourself, and there’s not a lot of time to waste on deciding in the heat of a match.

I tend to focus on purchasing (and later upgrading) items that buff my attack damage first and attack speed second, but part of IC’s charm is the way that it requires you to progress your champion dynamically in response to both the makeup of the opposing team and how said team is building its champions. Theoretically no two matches will be the same, but there are of course best practices for playing each champion as well as determining what role your champion will fill on your current team.

In addition to marksmen (ranged damage), there are bruisers (melee damage), enforcers (tanks), assassins (stealthy melee damage), controllers (CC and support), and blasters (burst damage), all of whom are represented by a dizzying array of DC universe heroes and villains.

Fortunately there are a lot of good guides out there for scrubs like yours truly, and so far I’ve found IC’s community to be far less toxic than I’d imagined. Yeah, I got yelled at a couple of times during my earliest matches, but more often than not, typing, “I’m a newb” in the pre-match chat box will earn you some slack and usually some advice.

Infinite CrisisIn-match progression isn’t the only progression, though. Each time that you play a match, you’ll earn protector XP, where “protector” is Turbine’s attempt at lore, at explaining how mortals like the players are aiding superheroes as they battle across time, space, and the multiverse. In gameplay terms, it’s your account level, and ranking up earns you everything from cash shop currency to avatars and the like. And of course you can level up every individual champion for similar rewards.

IC’s business model is the usual free-to-play with a selection of basic champions plus a rotating assortment of paid heroes that routinely become available for you to try on a weekly basis. Turbine is presumably making its money on the cash shop currency needed to unlock both additional champions and spiffy costumes.

And that’s Infinite Crisis in a nutshell. A commenter in one of my recent IC-flavored Daily Grinds cautioned me that Turbine’s MOBA is a gateway drug to the real thing, given its relative accessibility compared to kingpins like Dota 2 and League. Though I’m still a neophyte, I already see the truth in his statement, as I find myself thinking about IC when I can’t play it and trying my damndest to log at least two matches every day. Not only that, but my ever-wandering game eye is already casting furtive glances at more established MOBAs and making me wonder whether or not I’d enjoy them without one of my favorite IPs sweetening the pot.

If the rest of the MOBA genre is basically Infinite Crisis only better (or at least, more complex), then my free time is in big trouble! The laser-focused format is incredibly appealing to someone who’s still competitive but who is also too old for twitchy shooters and too bored with ill-conceived MMO gankbox PvP.

Massively Overpowered skips scored reviews; they’re outdated in a genre whose games evolve daily. Instead, our veteran reporters immerse themselves in MMOs to present their experiences as hands-on articles, impressions pieces, and previews of games yet to come. First impressions matter, but MMOs change, so why shouldn’t our opinions?
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PizzaDoh
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PizzaDoh

Kosmic I agree. The game is on a MUCH better engine than League of Legends however feels clunky and weak in terms of gameplay.

The art in the game is not terrible, but it’s far from great. Everything did feel fairly stale and grey.

I compare it to League simply because it’s very obvious they took HUGEEEE influences from it.

I honestly see no reason to play it over League unless you’re a giant DC fan, so much so you don’t feel the bland presentation is an issue (I do art stuff so I’m very much bothered by weak work where some of my friends don’t even notice)

carson63000
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carson63000

q945 Because MOBAs are a stultifyingly conservative genre, and if you change one little thing about them, people will get pissed off and not play.

ColdinT
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ColdinT

Greaterdivinity jefreahard LoL is basically the WoW of MOBAs. It has such a large following that most people already into MOBAs aren’t going to leave for a new one.

Kosmic
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Kosmic

I love me some dc comics, but I just couldn’t get into infinite crisis no matter how hard i tried to like it. I play moba, but something about infinite crisis just felt plain to me. The character skills just felt boring compared to other games. It’s similar to strife and league, with the item customization and stat boost, but I feel it doesn’t offer enough to be something i’d personally recommend for someone looking for something new.

Hots has been the only game lately that has got me into the moba genre again. The ability to change your skills depending on the team comp or the map is a nice change. It really lets you get a feel for how unique all the characters are.

Greaterdivinity
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Greaterdivinity

jefreahard Or Dota 2. League just has so much inertia right now with its initial footing it secured that it will be a long time, if ever, before another game reaches its numbers. It’s basically the WoW of mobas : 3

Greaterdivinity
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Greaterdivinity

q945 Because last-hitting is another tool to use to differentiate between the skilled and the unskilled. It doesn’t really penalize anyone on your team assuming you’re working together, as you’re going to be feeding certain people the gold over others anyways.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed my time in TOME (small little abandoned MOBA) without needing to think/worry about last hitting, but there’s nothing wrong with it as a mechanic.

jefreahard
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jefreahard

Rozyn jefreahard Ah I gotcha. Eh, I guess it is kinda petty in a way, though it’s not so much angst as it is an “oh yeah, I dislike those guys” reaction whenever someone brings it up. It’s not about sticking it to the man, either, because nothing I ever say, do, or write will make even the slightest ripple in their ocean, lol. 

If there’s ever a shortage of fun games and only Blizzard titles remain, I’ll probably check it out. But like you I’ve got more games than time so because of their history and their tendency to make stylized visuals that aren’t my cup of tea, their stuff remains at the very bottom of my personal list.

Rozyn
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Rozyn

jefreahard Rozyn I guess I just got over my anti-Blizzard angst years ago and accepted that they didn’t force the genre into anything it wasn’t already heading towards. WoW and it’s mega-casualness was a gateway MMO to millions of players, many of whom now play other titles they may not have tried otherwise. /shrug I’m not playing HotS because I have too many games to play already, but if enough of my friends said it had elements I would enjoy, I would probably give it a whirl – especially if I had a budding interest in MOBAs. It’d just be a bummer to let fun things pass you by because you’re givin’ it to the man or whatever. 

Also, I’d rather you have an opinion I don’t agree with than attempt the herpaderp ‘totes pro gamer journalist objectivity, something something ethics’ any day lol. When I said gaming writer, I didn’t mean you had some professional duty, I just meant if you’re a fan of the genre and follow it that closely, it seems kinda weird to hang on to an anti-Blizzard bias for so long.

Sorenthaz
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Sorenthaz

agemyth  DotA 2 is also the only MOBA so far (that I’ve seen anyway) that really has stupid amounts of depth to it.  All of its heroes play differently from one another in major ways.  I don’t think any other MOBA can say that.

jefreahard
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jefreahard

Rozyn  It might be absurd if I wrote for BlizzardWatch, but I don’t so it isn’t. There’s no gaming writer’s union that forces me to try or cover or play Blizzard games, lol. 

While I have had my eyes opened in terms of the potential fun to be had in MOBAs, my lack of interest in HotS does not stem from similar inexperience. On the contrary, I have experience with Blizzard titles, Blizzard employees, and the ability to see what Blizzard’s influence has done to a genre that I like(d). And given all that, I’m not inclined to play their games any further.