By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW)
NCSoft finally pulled the curtains off Master X Master in their usual private invite only meeting room deep within the heart of E3’s Los Angeles Convention Center. While I was preoccupied with other appointments and sent JamesBl0nde and Bakerman Brad in to handle the game, I couldn’t resist missing the opportunity to get even a few minutes hands-on with the demo. So after a mad sprint halfway across the convention center, I arrived just in time to do just that… and sat down for an ARPG experience?! Yes, the game we’ve been hailing for about a year as the NCSoft edition of Heroes of the Storm had more than a unique control scheme up its sleeve to differentiate itself. There are fully fleshed out PvE missions available (20 currently) that serve as the most immersive tutorial to prepare you for online competition you could possibly ask for.
My first surprise with gameplay was to discover that the characters pulled from throughout NCSoft’s various games are not just a gimmick. Beyond the typical MOBA skill set differences, the characters’ controls feel drastically different. Some offer extreme dodge mechanics while others offer directly shields to absorb damage. This combined with the ability to select two heroes to bring into battle (thus Master X Master) makes for some dynamic possibilities in both PvE and PvP. In PvE the best way to describe it is imagine playing an MMORPG where your tank can class cycle to a healer at the drop of a hat, or your DPS can become CC masters when pressured with agro. In PvP it gets even more intense, and honestly pushes the skill cap above the typical MOBA gameplay. Your team might hard dive a squishy opponent just to have them transform into a massive tank and drag your team into the void of a full team gank. True masters of Master X Master will have to learn the ins and outs of all the roster, and recognize traps like this coming based on an enemy’s secondary hero. But… if you kill them before they can swap then its all for nought. The possibilities are going to be wild, and I imagine professional tournaments a few months after launch are going to be wild.
My second surprise here was the introduction of the Z axis to its ARPG gameplay. Akin to the way Paragon is adding revolutionary maps and gank options into the third person moba, Master X Master introduces elevation to the top down version. Characters can jump and utilize elevated platforms and walls to intercept incoming enemy attacks. Combined with the “twin stick” aiming nature of gameplay and you have yourself something more akin to a top down shooter than a point and click moba. Its fun, far more fun than the old school MOBAs still dominating the market. You feel more in control of your character and less helpless as you actually have a means of negating incoming damage instead of watching helplessly as your opponent right clicks and waits for his superior stats to mow you down.
Finally something NCSoft does so well you might think they should be embarrassed by it: fanservice. Master X Master is skin crazy right out of the gates, with many characters prepped and packing more skins for beta than existing characters in popular MOBAs have received over the course of years. You want Jin So Yun in a school girl outfit? You better believe her disgraceful tsundere self will be available at some point!
I could go on about the experience but why spoil any more than that? The alpha arrives on Friday, June 24th and alpha keys are going out across the nets. If you want it bad enough, go find yourself an access key and see it for yourself! I know I will be. Keep an eye out for DizzyPW and JamesBl0nde this weekend to join us!
Check out more about Master X Master in the link below as JamesBl0nde interviews a member of the NCSoft team at E3!