STAFF REVIEW of Gigantic (Xbox One)

Wednesday, August 9, 2017.
by Adam Dileva

Gigantic Box art I’ve never been one for MOBA games, so I went into Gigantic with tepid expectations. Like others in the genre, Gigantic is based on a free to play model that allows you to join in without any cost commitment. It is also an Xbox Play Anywhere title, allowing you to play on Xbox One or Windows 10. Like others, there’s a rotating list of free characters to use, though play enough and you can buy your favorites with the in-game currency you earn, or you could pony up and buy it with real cash.

For a MOBA, Gigantic feels very approachable and not too encumbered with very specific strategies that need to be employed to win. The colorful and cartoonish visual style also play a part in this approachability, as does the constant action within the confined maps. I had to describe Gigantic to a friend the other day, while playing it for this review, so I could convince him to give it a shot, and the best I could come up with was a mashup of League of Legends, Smite, World of Tanks, Paladins and Overwatch. Needless to say, that got him to give it a go and we’ve been having a blast together within Gigantic since. Even though it takes influences from other titles, its own unique spin on the genre, and polish, makes it stand out amongst the crowd, and I’m consistently learning new things about it, especially when it comes to gameplay strategies.

There’s no real main story or narrative to Gigantic, which is par for the course for the genre, but your overarching goal is to have your team’s gigantic Guardian defeat the enemy's Guardian, with each team of 5 attempting to help damage or defend. While you don’t control your Guardian directly, the actions you and your team take by defeating foes and other smaller objectives does. It’s a little much to take in at first, even with the tutorial, but once you figure out the smaller intricacies and strategies, Gigantic becomes a ton of fun when you have a team working well together and you’re proficient with a handful of characters.

The game is online multiplayer only, and it allows for 5 versus 5 gameplay (or 5 versus AI bot matches), though you’re forced to complete a tutorial in the beginning moments to give you a brief understanding at some of its mechanics. The tutorial will teach you the basics of shooting and objectives, but there’s simply not enough information given to you to really get an overall grasp on all mechanics, as some of it is very vague or only briefly mentions what things are for, like upgrading creatures. I was overwhelmed at first, not really understanding some of the objectives and mechanics, but I found that once you push through that barrier and ‘get it’, the game opens up completely and starts to make sense.

It actually took me a handful of hours of playing to really understand how all of the mechanics work together. A few matches in I also realized that I was able to upgrade my abilities in different ways. Sure, it was briefly shown to me in the beginning, but not in a clear way, and this is where Gigantic falters, as you won’t really understand many components to it until you’ve put some time to learn on your own with trial and error.

Luckily, you need to rank up a little before being thrown to the wolves in PvP action, so get used to bot matches for the first while, which is welcomed, as the difficulty seems just about right to not only learn the core mechanics, but also test out new characters that suit your playstyle or pique your curiosity. Winning matches, even against bots, earns you overall experience for your account and character that you played that match. Two modes may not seem like much, as is the low map count, but I fully expect more to be added in the future if popularity rises, and while action based shooter MOBA style games aren’t new, the Guardian component of this game really makes Gigantic stand out among the competition, giving it its own flavor to the genre. Each team has its own Guardian, which currently there’s only two of, a griffon and a snake. You fight alongside your Guardians but on a much smaller scale. The two Guardians stay on their respective sides of the map and don’t do much else aside from attacking enemies that get too close, much like towers in other MOBA’s, until your team reaches a certain score.

Once you’ve earned enough points from kills you’ll be prompted that your Guardian is about to strike the opposing team’s Guardian, which is when the most chaos tends to take place. During the time when the Guardians are fighting, the enemies’ Guardian is vulnerable to direct attack from your team, as this is the only time you can actually damage it. This brief window of opportunity will have both teams colliding into a small area to attack and defend, and it brings some serious excitement when it happens.

The Guardians have 3 bars of health, and if you do the maximum damage per Guardian battle, you’ll deplete a full bar of health from them. So, in a perfect match you’ll only need 3 Guardian attack phases to win the game, as the opposing Guardian dying is the ultimate goal, and how you win, though there will be times where the defending team doesn’t allow much damage to get through, so some matches may take longer with more attack phases needed.

While the Guardian battles are your main objective, this is a MOBA, and instead of towers around the map that need to be destroyed to push forward, you instead summon different types of creatures that act somewhat like a traditional MOBA tower. The interesting thing about these creatures is that they are located at certain chokepoints, but you’re able to choose specific creatures that either heal nearby teammates, block pathways, spot nearby enemies and more. While I favor the healing creatures personally, there’s clearly a strategy required for placing the ‘proper’ creature at specific spots to help your teams effectiveness. You’re also able to upgrade them as the match continues on, making them more powerful, so they can be quite an asset and need to be defended, as letting the enemy team kill them will grant them more power.

Combat plays a big role in Gigantic, with your skills being mapped to the triggers and bumpers, and there is even an ultimate move, called a Focus Attack which powers up by defeating enemy players. You’re able to sprint and dodge, though these moves consume your slowly regenerating stamina bar. Every skill and ability can be upgraded along two different paths, so as you earn experience from kills and other objectives, you’ll earn skill points to upgrade your firepower. By default there’s a quick recommended upgrade path, such as more healing power, faster shots, etc., or you can look at the options and decide to spec a specific way. You should also note that these upgrades are specifically for the given match you’re competing in and not permanent beyond that.

Being able to specialize a certain way really opens up some unique strategies and how to better meld as a cohesive unit with your teammates. I main play a healer, Vadasi, and most of the time I’m focused on healing my teammates, but there are times where someone else will also be playing a healer on the team as well, Uncle Sven for example, so in situations like this it’s great that I have the ability to spec towards a slightly more DPS build or buffs instead of straight healing. This versatility is true for each character and encourages experimentation, finding what works best for your play style and team composition. The recommended upgrades are quick and simple, but knowing exactly what each skill can branch into will go a long way, separating the casual players from the pros. My biggest complaint is that there’s nowhere in the menus outside of a match to look up and study this information, so you’ll need to take valuable time per game to read and decide.

Like most MOBA’s, Gigantic also employs a ton of characters, some quite standard and others very unique. Of course you have your typical DPS that can be melee or ranged, tanks, and healers, but there’s also a handful of hybrid characters that play quite unique from many of the others. Aisling is one of my favorites for example, listed as Summoner/Utility, she is able to summon a ghost of her dead father to fight alongside her or can even pull him back inside her sword for a quick heal when needed.

There are currently 19 heroes in the selection screen, though clearly more will be added in the future. Popular among MOBA’s, there’s always a handful of characters that will be available to play for everyone, and as this is a free-to-play title, so they rotate the free characters every so often. Obviously you can buy a pack of characters or specific ones once you find out which characters best suit your play style. Full disclosure; we were sent the Ultimate Pack (around $30), which grants every current and future champion, so I’ve been able to give every single one a go, clearly favoring some over others. There’s a Starter Pack as well for those not wanting to jump in both feet first, but even the $30 price point is decent for everyone included.

Even if you decide to stay as a 'free play' user, this is where the Fortune Card system makes it a little more tolerable. You earn currency for winning matches, but there’s also an included mission objective system built in with Fortune Cards. These are randomized cards that you get that will give you specific objectives to complete, and doing so will earn you extra experience and currency. You can have seven cards in play at any given time, working towards multiple ones simultaneously. Once you complete one, you’re able to choose one of three randomly drawn cards from your deck (should you have any, as these are also given for leveling up).

What I enjoyed about this system more than your typical objective missions, that say World of Tanks gives you, is that you have a choice of which you want to work on. Some cards will be rare and harder to complete but give better rewards, while others will be for specific characters as well, which encourages you to try out someone you may not have previously, as I normally tend to stick with what I know. You’re also able to discard a card in play as well if you know you’ll never work towards it or have no desire to.

I really enjoyed the aesthetic Gigantic uses, as it’s cartoony and colorful, somewhat like a mix of Overwatch and Paladins, and it seems to suit the mood and feel of the game as well, especially the Guardians. When playing online, even in full 5 versus 5 matches, I had no performance or lag issues, which is welcome at launch for a multiplayer driven game like this.

As I mentioned above, I was very unsure going into Gigantic, simply because I’ve never found a MOBA that I’ve really enjoyed for a long period of time. Even though there needs to be some balancing and more maps added in the future to prevent staleness, Gigantic is off to a fantastic start with a wide selection of unique characters, fun upgrades for abilities and some unique mechanics that allow it to stand apart from others in the genre. It may not be popular enough yet to dethrone other games from the top spots in the genre, but it sure does have some 'gigantic' potential.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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