An odd MOBA
I haven’t seen much talk about Master X Master nearly anywhere, so when the developers contacted me out of the blue, I decided to give it a shot.
Oh uh, it’s…a MOBA, by the way. Wait, where’d you go?
But seriously — and take this with the qualifier that I love MOBAs — I got my hands on Master X Master by way of an alpha test that kicked off this week, and I’m not necessarily hooked, but intrigued. Developed by NCSoft, this Korean action MOBA has both PVP and PVE modes baked-in.
Action? Yep, the catch is that unlike many other point-and-click MOBAs that derive their RTS control schemes from the original DOTA, this one allows direct control over your character. You’ll use the WASD keys to move around and the mouse to manually aim, just like a top-down shooter. Another catch — the entire game is skewed towards a “tag-team” setup, where you can flick between two heroes (masters) constantly with the mouse wheel.
In one game, I dropped some mines with one master and trapped an enemy in a corner while zoning them, and swapped to a rushdown character to chase them down when they tried to run away. There’s a lot of potential here in terms of team composition, and I love the idea of being able to perform two roles rather than be forced into one niche because everyone else auto-locked in assassins. Yet, it also has the standard MOBA-ey RQE abilities, match-by-match stat distribution allocations, and ultimates, so it will feel familiar.
What I really like about it though is that it’s trying to go for a more upbeat, sci-fi feel rather than the dreary fantastic atmosphere the industry trended towards in the past 10 years. There aren’t many MOBAs like it out there except Battleborn, but Master is infinitely less annoying when it comes to both worldbuilding and characterization. It also has deliberate comic book callbacks in things like battle flavor text, which is an endearing little touch.
The Phantasy Star-ish hub world is also cool, and filled to the brim with tons of other players, taking the form of rock monsters, witches, jelly creatures, kung fu masters, and familiar faces like Rytlock from Guild Wars 2 (also published by NCSoft). It’s the main staging area where you’ll choose your next gametype and do some Easter egg type stuff like swapping the soundtrack at the jukebox (I love that there’s a meta already where people constantly queue up the biggest K-Pop song in the game).
There’s a decent amount of variety here too. You have your lane-based PVP modes, a straight arena brawl gametype, and a select amount of PVE/co-op missions on top of wacky minigames with platformer and shoot-’em-up conceits. I’m not sure how long those sideshows will last long-term, but the sleek presentation and the skill-based gameplay show a lot of promise.
I’m still wary of microtransactions (all of the typical warning flags from Korean games are here, from daily login bonuses to multiple currencies), but even if Master X Master just doles out a few free characters every now and then, it’ll keep me interested for a good while. There’s no release date in sight, but I’d keep this one on your radar.