Infinite Crisis Closed Beta Preview7 Mar 2014
Infinite Crisis is aggravating, infuriating, and provokes me to fits of incoherent rage. Or, to put it another way: it’s a MOBA, and it seems like a pretty decent one, too.
I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if you’ve heard of Infinite Crisis, whether you follow MOBAs or not, because it’s one of the few based around a major non-gaming licence. Yes, sure, Heroes of the Storm has all the Blizzard favourites, but Infinite Crisis is DC. That means Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Green Lantern running around lanes, punching trundling robots in the face, and occasionally making BIFF noises when they bump into each other.
It’s not simply Batman and Wonder Woman and so on, though. Those familiar with DC Comics will know of Crisis on Infinite Earths, or Infinite Crisis, or Final Crisis, or the other one I’ve forgotten – a set of comic series that depicted heroes and villains from all sorts of alternate worlds battling it out. Here, then, you don’t just have Batman: you’ve also got Gaslight Batman and Nightmare Batman, too. Other than Wonder Woman, there’s Atomic Wonder Woman and Mecha Wonder Woman. All play entirely differently. These aren’t costume changes – these are different heroes.
Speaking as someone whose MOBA experience mostly amounts to “far more Dota 2 than any one person should play in the space of a year”, I’d hazard a clumsy guess that Infinite Crisis is closer to League of Legends than anything else. There’s a big emphasis on skillshots (attacks that have to be manually aimed, rather than automatically hitting), there’s no way I’ve found to deny or block creeps, and Inhibitors – the Barracks equivalent – regenerate a few minutes after they’re destroyed. There are magic invisibility bushes (or “stealth pads”, here). And, yes, there are lots of items that increase power damage.
It has some neat little mechanics of its own, though. The most noticeable to me is probably “credit stomping”: when a lane creep (which, here, are little robots) is destroyed, it drops cash on the ground in the form of a spinning token. If it was dropped by an enemy creep, you can move over it to pick it up. If it was dropped by a friendly creep, you can move over it to destroy it, preventing opponents from picking it up. It’s a minor touch, certainly, and you’re not getting as much cash from this as you would from last-hitting, but in just about any MOBA the minor touches tend to add up.
That said… realistically speaking, there are probably two things that are really worth talking about. The first is the Heroes, or Champions, or Guardians, or Protectors, or whatever the flying hell they’re called here.
Annoyingly, Turbine have gone for the standard MOBA finance model: characters are playable for free on rotation, but if you want to play one regularly (for instance, once it rotates out again) you either have to pony up hard cash or play lots and lots of games. Not a huge surprise, but in an age where Dota 2 managed to do free-to-play without locking off actual gameplay-altering content, it’s a wee bit disappointing.
Much like not-a-MOBA Marvel Heroes, characters are priced on a slightly odd sliding structure that looks to be largely based on popularity. Right now, Doomsday can be picked up for roughly £1.50 in real money, or bought with the winnings from a scant few games. Batman, on the other hand, will cost you either a tenner or a metric shitload of matches, as will newest hero Star Sapphire.
From a gameplay perspective, though, it’s pretty important that most of the champions actually manage to be fun and unique. Since support-who-hits-surprisingly-hard Zatanna has been locked away from me due to the arbitrary whims of hero rotation, I’ve taken to playing Atomic Wonder Woman. Her unique passive is Rev, which revs up her weapon of choice: a chainsaw on a stick. You get a Rev charge when you hurt an enemy with a skill. When you have two Rev charges, your next skill essentially becomes super-powered; an attack in a forward-arc become an AoE around her, her leap-to-enemy ability can be done twice in quick succession, etc. She’s mobile and high damage. She’s a bit of a laugh to play.
Most of the others fall into a similar category, broadly speaking, in that they’ve got some sort of passive buff that, while not as sexy as their active powers, dictates a good amount of how they play. This does mean the learning curve feels a bit steep, because every character seems to have their own special tricks that need to be employed, but it’s not as bad as it could be thanks to the relatively limited roster on offer right now. I mean, there are still a lot of characters, but you’re not immediately thrown into learning how 120 different champions work.
The other thing of importance are the maps, of which there are currently three. The first – and my personal favourite, right now – is Gotham Heights, which is decidedly the least MOBA of the current maps. It’s a ring, with five control points that can be captured. Holding points lowers the health of your opponent’s power core, and you have to reduce their core to zero to win. Every now and then, an Orbital Cannon in the middle of the map will activate, and capturing this point dumps giant death robots on every capture point you don’t control. Which is nice.
There are a few reasons I like this. For one, there’s next to no farming because you start at a higher-than-normal level and get lots of credits, so it’s really all about player-on-player combat. For another, the general lack of towers (although capture points will shoot at you if an enemy hero is standing on it) means that the action is spread all around the map. For a third, it’s easily the fastest game mode, so it’s a really good way to try out a new hero. Okay, so running around a map where there’s no real concept of “territory” isn’t really very MOBA, but that’s not a bad thing! Although it’s also not really the point of Infinite Crisis.
The second map is Coast City Marina, which I played once a few weeks ago. Yeah, sorry. I’ve tried queueing for it several times over the past week, and I’ve given up on each queue after 15-20 minutes of nothing. I sort of wish I could queue for more than one map at a time, or weight my own preferences or something, but… oh well. Maybe that’ll be added in future.
Anyway, from what I can remember, Coast City Marina is a two-lane map which absolutely nobody plays. That’s a bit of a shame, because it’s got a fairly nice setup: other than the two lanes there’s a gargantuan jungle in the middle, a Doomsday Device to fight over (which can be detonated at will by the player carrying it, to do silly amounts of damage) and Power Relays that can be captured periodically to give your team temporary buffs.
Finally, there’s Gotham Divided, which is the most MOBA of the lot. This is a standard three-lane battle with a sizeable jungle area, and it’s also the hardest map for me to talk about because I’ve never actually had a successful game of it. I don’t mean a game in which I won; I mean a game that actually lasted the duration with everyone playing properly.
I’ve had a game where our Gaslight Batman managed to die 11 times in the laning phase, so that was basically an agonising 40-minute death spiral. I’ve had a game where our Poison Ivy went AFK in the base after 15 minutes of play, reducing us to 4v5. I’ve had a game where Atomic Wonder Woman ran into an enemy tower at level 1, died, respawned, ran into the enemy tower again, died, and then ragequit. This is pretty common in most of the modes, but it’s happened in every match of Gotham Divided I’ve played.
Alright, people playing horribly is basically a standard with MOBAs, and so are ragequits and AFKs and disconnects. It’s going to happen, particularly when the game is fairly new. I think this is a particularly big problem for Infinite Crisis for one reason, though, and that’s the DC license.
This game is going to attract a lot of people who’ve never touched a MOBA before, because a game in which you can play as Batman and The Flash and Harley Quinn, and beat up Green Lantern and Shazam, is something with a description that will appeal to a lot of people. And then those people are going to get into a game with people who have played MOBAs before, and those people are going to tell them to kill themselves. (For what it’s worth, that’s not an exaggeration: one game began with most of the team admitting they were new, or had played one or two games of Infinite Crisis before, and then as soon as someone started dying a few times, everyone else piled on with UNINSTALL THE GAME AND KILL YOURSELF.)
I know it’s in closed beta at the time of writing, but that’s not going to stop a lot of DC fans from wanting to try it out. And why shouldn’t they? From what I’ve played it’s an adept MOBA with a big license. And when they play it, they’re probably going to be confused and disappointed and horrified, and they’re not going to touch it again. I suspect that there are more pressing concerns than adding a half-decent tutorial or sorting out matchmaking (which is admittedly a bit tricky with the current playerbase) but the AFKs, disconnections, feeding, and general reaction to any and all of this is one of the bigger problems the game has right now.
There’s plenty more to Infinite Crisis than this – there are the amplifiers, and mods, and all sorts of other bits and pieces you can tweak to give yourself tiny advantages. There are the Stolen Powers that let you customise your hero a bit more. There are lots and lots of things I haven’t even begun to understand. I will, I suspect, write another piece about this when the game is in open beta and I’ve spent a bit more time with it.
Actually, I take it back. The big problem isn’t the lack of sportsmanship, or the general newbie unfriendliness. Turbine? Warner Bros? If you’re reading this, here’s how you make this the best MOBA ever: add John Constantine. Although now that I think about it, to make him feel authentic he’d probably just have to stand in one place on the map, smoking, and then somehow win anyway.
… Which I suppose would give the newbies a hero they can play. Everyone! Quick! I’ve solved MOBAs!