By Etienne Dubuc
Video games and comics have a pretty long history together. So it's not surprising that those two medias unify to try to tackle some of the biggest trends right now. Superheroes are probably at their highest point in popularity ever with the Marvel cinematic universe and Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. So it makes sense for the video game industry to create content that will use content from that well. On the video game side, MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) is the style of gameplay that seems to be on the brink of finally overcoming first person shooter supremacy.
The mix of those two trends is exactly what is offered by Infinite Crisis, centered on the DC Universe developed by Turbine, the designers behind the Lords of the Rings Online, and published by Warner Brothers. It is now in open beta and available only to PC gamers in a free-to-play format.
The essence of the game is pretty standard in the MOBA world. In a team of five players, you will face-off against another team and try to take down the base of your enemy. The maps are full of control points to be destroyed or captured to reduced the influence of the opposite team. The heroes offered respect the usual rank, range, and healer categories you are accustomed to. Nothing really stands out as unusual for MOBA games in Infinite Crisis.
The play experience is pretty stream-lined too. You get six powers, two that can be customized before the beginning of the match and four that are default to your hero. During the match, you earn a form of money that enables you to buy power ups, giving you greater power, health, speed, etc. That's all good, and more or less obligatory these days. But that's the thing, where is that particular killer feature that would make me switch my League of Legends or DOTA 2 playtime to Infinite Crisis? There is just nothing to attract a seasoned MOBA player to the game. Sure being able to play as Batman, Wonderwoman, the Joker and other DC heroes and villains is fun, but the fact is that they are not that different from some characters in other games.
On the performance side, the game is often lagging and matchmaking tends to take over a minute. This might be due to the beta status of the game and the number of players being too small, but it is an open beta after all, meaning that everyone who wants to play is able to do it. I am kind of surprised that a week after the launch, matchmaking struggles to be under a minute.
The free-to-play part will of course let you buy new skins, or costumes in this case, for your character, and new champions. The prices are quite stretched out, some champions being only 400 merit coins and others worth 8700. The merit coins are the in-game currency you'll get as you play. You can also buy Crisis coins at a rate of 80 coins for 1 American dollar. As of right now, powers can be bought only with merit coins, meaning a new player shouldn't be able to destroy you with out of your league attacks with everyone else having to grind through the game to get stronger abilities. This is an essential part for an online game in order not to become a pay-to-win scenario.
Turbine did a good job on Infinite Crisis, each champion has his strengths and weaknesses, maps are pretty well built, while being a bit too generic. The gameplay is pretty smooth and easy to learn. Sadly, they didn't do a great job since the game is flavorless outside of the DC angle. Being exactly on par with what is being created on the MOBA playing field is not enough. As a newly released game (well, not exactly because it still is an open beta), it is missing the little details that have been added to the competition overtime. Infinite Crisis is still worth a try, I mean it's free so why not, but don't expect to fall out of your chair with enthusiasm.
Etienne Dubuc is the host of a French radioshow called « Les geeks ont raison » and program directo fo CISM 89,3FM in Montreal. You can follow him @geeksontraison