PAX East: I Sucked at Infinite Crisis, But That’s Okay
In all the hoopla surrounding multiplayer online battle arenas, or MOBAs as they are more understandably known, I've never really invested any time in any of them. League of Legends' popularity continues to grow, Valve's Dota 2 continues to grow, and Blizzard is finally dipping its toes into the crowded pool with Heroes of the Storm. None of those really captured my interest though. It's no fault of theirs; they just don't have superheroes.
At PAX East, I finally had a chance to sit down and play a full match of Turbine's Infinite Crisis. Crammed full of DC Comics characters I've known for decades, I figured this would be the best game to ease me into the wild, tactical world of MOBAs. I was somewhat right, but I was also mostly wrong. You see, there is no easing into the world of MOBAs. Any and all knowledge I had of people like Atomic Green Lantern, Gaslight Batman or even regular, old Doomsday, was inconsequential. Knowing the backstories for each of the heroes and villains in Infinite Crisis didn't mean a damn thing when I stepped on the battlefield. I died. Repeatedly. But that's actually what made the experience interesting.
As someone who's never had to deal with the strategy and tactical mindedness of a MOBA, I had no idea what to expect going into my match of Infinite Crisis. After sitting down for just a moment, I can see why the game demands an obsessive mindset to not only understand, but to be competitive. Simply put, there are a lot of factors to consider before you take your first step. Who will you play as? Does that powerset compliment the other members of your five-person team? What role will you play in the match? There are dozens of options to choose from, but for me, the easiest way to learn to play any new game is to tank. Being able to take massive amounts of damage not only means I'll be alive longer, but it also lets my teammates do their own thing. At least in theory.
All strategies go right out the window when your entire team consists of players who've never so much as glanced at a MOBA before. You would think that will the number of players so entrenched in the addictive genre, the percentage of people waiting in line to try Infinite Crisis would have at least born me a few partners who knew what they were doing. That just wasn't the case. Thankfully, the team we were playing against was also sans any veterans, so the playing field was relatively even. To counteract my lack of preparation, I was given a personal mentor from the Turbine development team, who as luck would have it, just so happened to be skilled with Atomic Green Lantern. A personal favorite of mine, and a rather suitable tank character.
Now that the match is ready to begin, I'm advised to open up the store to buy some buffs for GL. There are a lot of items to buy in the store. You use in-game credits, which you'll earn more of as you play, to get started and equip your hero with bonuses tied to health or strength, basically any stat. In order to be the tankiest tank I could be, we decided the best approach was to jack up my damage and health as soon as possible, giving me the highest percentage of staying alive possible. It worked for all of ten minutes. While I did die quite a bit, I didn't die nearly as much as some of the other players. Partly because I'm awesome and amazing, but mostly because I tended to stay out of active combat with other players. Instead, my mentor advised hitting the jungle (areas located outside of the traditional combat lanes) to beef up Atomic GL even further.
It took a while to get a grasp on the tactics. Go here, smash that, run there, destroy that, go there help that guy, okay now go back to the base and buy some upgrades. There is a lot of information to manage, and it's overwhelming almost the entire time you're playing. Even with a coach, I didn't quite fully grasp everything that was happening. It's no fault of his, but I was basically playing as a proxy... and quite terribly at that. The sensory overload was a lot to take in on the floor of a convention, and coupled with the massive tournament taking place in the background, it was doubly hard to concentrate. I'm not making excuses. I have no shame in admitting how awful I was, and through no fault of my mentor, I contributed very little to my team's win. (Though I did lead in the assist category. Such is my lot in life.)
Still, even through all that poor play, I could see what hundreds of thousands of players around the world found so fascinating about MOBAs. The challenge requires commitment, and it also requires a sharp mind and multi-tasking skills. Infinite Crisis taxes your brain in ways most games never will. It obviously works better when you're playing with a group of people you know and can develop alongside, but even in my single session, there was an immediate response in my brain asking me how I could do better next time. We won, but we could have won better, and I could have contributed more. It's incredibly addictive. I want to go back. I want to learn more. I want to be better. Not many games elicit that kind of response after just one play session, but Infinite Crisis did.
Infinite Crisis is in open beta now on PC.