By Kevin Kelly
Warner Bros and Turbine announced on the first day of GDC that a new multiplayer online battle arena game (MOBA) based on DC Comics properties was on the way, and invited us to spend some time with the game. While it is still in development, what we saw so far was very impressive, especially for diehard DC fans.
Granted, I'm not the world's foremost MOBA player, having only dabbled in "League of Legends" and "Guardians of Middle-Earth." While I found the gameplay in both of those titles intriguing, nothing sucks me in like a DC Comics property. Especially if it includes Captain Marvel, which this game does. Of course, he goes by the moniker Shazam these days, but he still commands the lightning and the thunder, and he's a powerhouse enforcer in "Infinite Crisis".
The game applies the MOBA style of team-based play to a pantheon of DC characters, and not just the bread and butter versions either. This title will pull in heroes and villains from other portions of the DC multiverse, drawing from sources like Flashpoint, Gotham by Gaslight, and other "Elseworlds" offshoots from their comic book realms. They have announced many of the many of the other Earths that the game will pull heroes from, with more yet to come. Fingers crossed that they include Kingdom Come at some point.
We squared off against each other in two teams of five, battling through a circular playfield in the midst of a battle-ravaged city. Turbine is pushing "Destructive PvP" in this title, meaning player-created damage that can radically affect the gameplay. In our map, this was illustrated as our team captured a beacon that called down a massive meteor to the ground. While the impact decimated any enemies who happened to be within its radius, it also destroyed one of the main routes with its crater. This had the affect of changing the pathing around it, for both friend and foes alike.
That was the destructive PvP on a larger scale, but it was present on a smaller scale as well, with character able to summon super-strength to pick up cars on the ground and hurtle them at enemies. Turbine plans on utilizing this throughout the maps, altering the playfield, using the environments, and creating opportunities. They did this to make the maps feel more dynamic, and to increase the gameplay that exists on each map.
During the first game, I stuck to playing Shazam, who works well as a heavy hitter just behind front line of attack, especially with his abilities like Lightning Field which slows down and damages enemies. But the real spectacle is his Shazam! ability, where he transforms into Billy Batson, dashes to the target area you've designated, and then transforms back into Shazam, dealing power damage and knocking enemies into the air. For Captain Marvel fanatics, it's a sight to behold.
For the second round, I opted for Doomsday, who is best used as a bruiser the front lines. He's a tank who can charge opponents and smash them into walls, and his ultimate ability is Kryptonian Rage, which grants him additional damage, health, and defense. But as powerful as Doomsday is, he isn't that speedy, nor does he have a lot of defenses. So in the heat of battle, it's easy to lose him, and it's a slow trundle back to the fight, unless you find some Speed Force powerups to lumber across, boosting his speed for a short while.
During the battles, the different versions of the Joker provided the most visual impact, with the Prime Joker being able to toss out things like exploding presents and dolls, or bop bags that will act as a magnet for enemy drones. Punctuated by his maniacal laughter, this character was definitely someone you wanted on your side, and not facing you across the map. Gaslight Joker was equally as imposing, if not more disturbing, with the ability to summon swarms of rats while snacking on enormous hams that act as a power shield.
In a game where everyone is going to want to be Superman or Batman, lead designer Ryan Bednar said that they have gone to great lengths to pull in great characters from the other universes in order to provide a deep roster with more playstyles. And while Superman was absent in the build we played, Bednar assured us that he would be in there. Turbine's ad campaign for the game will underscore the iconic characters, with a twist: you'll see images like the one above that say "Play as Batman. All of them."
"Infinite Crisis" will be available for the PC later this year, and in the meantime you can sign up for the upcoming beta.