PAX Prime 2015: The Guardians and Growth of Gigantic

The MOBA (or multiplayer online battle arena) genre continues to explode in popularity as industry standards DOTA 2 and League of Legends bring in massive audiences of participants and viewers for pro events alike. As new entrants such as Heroes of the Storm and SMITE leads the next wave of entrants, game creators are challenged to come up with new twists on the formula to stand out from the crowd.

Based on a number of sessions at PAX Prime 2015 and X15 Canada, Gigantic may have the most unique approach by replacing the traditional team bases with massive and movable Guardians. These enormous computer controlled avatars can be powered by combatants to advance across the map and deal damage, adding dynamic elements to each combat round while also gracefully reducing the effectiveness of turtle defense and specific strategic chokepoints as each round continues. The various construction points to build healers, siege weapons and more are critical to controlling the playing field as well as supporting pushes for territorial control to earn energy to power your guardians.

The character advancement system has multiple skill trees that have to be carefully managed: each ability has a choice between 2 different improvements at each upgrade point, while your hero traits that unlock at selected levels also offer broader improvements. Players who focus on the macro developments of the game can also upgrade with environmental considerations in mind, such as focusing on offensive damage if the plan is to hop between healing points or load up on stun to stack damaging effects near friendly siege emplacements.

I spent the most time at both X15 and PAX with Tyto the Swift, a blazing fast sword fighter who possesses special abilities such as a spinning blade attack and a fast dash into or out of combat. Easy to learn but hard to master is applicable here, an increased level of familiarity with arena structure and identifying assassination opportunities is vital to effectively use the high damage but low durability Tyto in a sustainable manner.

HK-206 is a moving tank with a rapid fire machine gun that pairs with entrenching for an offensive boost and artillery bombardment, making him a good choice for defensive efforts and zone control when advancing the line of skirmish. This hero has an interesting and potentially unplanned value in herding the enemy towards ambushes, which I figured out when strafing gun fire and artillery strikes in a path to push opponents into enclosed valleys where I knew allies were lurking to focus fire into their compacted formation. If you enjoy using Sgt. Hammer in Heroes of the Storm, HK-206 is a great choice for you.

The game feels crisp and vibrant, especially with heroes sporting distinctive designs in a bright, cragged arena that looks and navigates very differently from typical MOBA levels. Gigantic is a game built around a really fast pace, striking visual style and an addictive mix of shooter and MOBA design that works really well with a controller (which I exclusively opted for during all demos);. In an increasingly crowded genre that relies heavily on conventions such as diametrically opposed defensive placements and waves of AI minions to be mindlessly culled, the focus on heroes is an exciting approach to the arena combat style of game.

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