Wednesday, August 30, 2017


"You say you wanted evolution
The ape was a great big hit
You say you want a revolution, man
And I say that you're full of shit"

Marilyn Manson - Disposable Teens
(No, I've never heard of these "Beatles" of which you speak)

Compelled by whatever mysterious force leads me to hold out hope for AoS games, the single-unit RTS concept which gradually decayed into so-called "Arenas", I'm currently checking out Gigantic. Before anything else, I have to say it's hard to find any video game these days that can't be made to look good in screenshots. While I've defended "cartoonish" graphics in the past, Gigantic's decor outright copycats the flat, blocky, frame-starved, anime-inspired children's cartoons which have become the norm since the '90s.

Higher-resolution textures will no doubt follow (at low-low DLC prices I'm guessing, as per industry standards) but still, they're obviously targeting a very young crowd here. Most of the voiceovers even sound like Disney characters (Mickey Mouse in the case of the alchemist above) and the basic gameplay follows suit, rushing you through frenzied, spastically twitchy battles with no pre-game strategic choices beyond team composition (and even that is sabotaged by being unable to see your enemies' choices to counter them.) Gigantic is not even a MOBA but a fighting game, Kombat with a K most Mortal, a genre by definition aimed at button-mashing, braindead little tween vermin with no attention span.

So why does it feel more cerebral than any of the DotA, LoL, Smite etc. variety of 5v5 slapfest? I've long said that AoS games took entirely the opposite turn from what they should have been. Instead of growing into their full RTS complexity, they aimed lower and lower toward the idiot-friendly nadir of FIGHT! Gigantic instead takes that moronic slap-happy premise, adds a few MOBA-themed map elements and manages thus to build on its original theme instead of denigrating it. You find yourself picking moves and countermoves to counter your enemy instead of just min-maxing the one obvious build everyone uses for your character, opting for defensive walls to alter the flow of combat around the map, using personal resources for the team's good, all features conspicuously absent from DotA-clones. It does away with the slavish adherence to DotA's three lanes and last-hitting AI soldiers, instead tying your character advancement intrinsically to your teammates.

Most interestingly, it sneaks a major change in mentality into its basic thematic elements. Like any MOBA, you're fighting to destroy the enemy team's chess-king. However, instead of a static, useless building, this is instead one of two "gigantic" creatures whose booming voices double as announcers, ostensibly ordering you about the map, invincible unless they directly attack each other. Towers can be rebuilt and receive a similar treatment, becoming slightly mobile summonable creatures which provide utility to players. Instead of blocking lanes, they count as player kills, can be bypassed or assaulted as deemed necessary, yet nonetheless provide, if anything, an even greater focus for combat than defensive towers in MOBAs.

All this along with other minutiae serve to shift the focus from individual character advancement to team objectives. There are no AI-controlled mooks for you to farm. You are the mooks. Stylistically, the two warring entities are not you and your enemies but the "gigantic" beasts about whose feet you scurry at breakneck rodential speeds to try to set up the big bosses' attacks on each other, the only opportunities to truly advance in a match.

This single change in perspective, in itself, is enough to make Gigantic noteworthy among its competitors, the necessary optic reversal for every multiplayer game and not just MOBAs, away from individual self-aggrandizement and toward group objectives. And hey, you know what? Maybe they're right marketing this to kids. The current crop of gamers is a waste. Grow a new one. Get 'em young. Maybe after such saccharine small-team cartoonish ultraviolence, the kids playing this now will be more ready in five years to involve themselves in truly "massively multiplayer" virtual worlds instead of simply looking for a place to farm up imaginary status symbols.

Maybe this is the only way to ever build anything: instead of trying to salvage a crumbling edifice, rebuild it from the ground up. Albeit too limited in scope to be truly interesting, logically building on Gigantic's precepts could yield great things down the road. And I'm not just saying that because I like the very apt title I received at the end of one match:

No comments:

Post a Comment