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The Big Play For MOBA On Xbox One

by Daniel Tack on Mar 11, 2015 at 09:52 AM

With Smite and Gigantic both moving to Xbox One (and with a one-time account copy on Smite and cross-platform account parity on Gigantic), third-person, shooterlike action-MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas) are making a big move into the console space. Generally the term is used when we’re talking about League of Legends, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, or another isometric title that’s firmly embedded in the genre’s RTS roots, but these particular titles lend themselves to console play incredibly well and do quite a few things to distance themselves from the very definition of what’s come to be understood as a MOBA.

Battle With The Gods

I predicted Smite would translate well to console control schemes when it was announced it was coming to Xbox at Gamescom last year, and after getting some hands-on with it at PAX East 2015 I’m happy to announce this is accurate. With the four face buttons mapping to abilities in the default control scheme (and there are several to pick from), the swap to console for this particular title is a majestic fit that feels like a perfect counterpart to the PC version. As stated in my review last year, I’m extremely positive on Smite as a whole and its place in the current MOBA environment.

While I personally won’t be making the swap over to Xbox One from PC, this is an amazing opportunity for the console segment to check out and fall in love with Smite. Some of the same plusses carry over to the console version beyond the fast-paced gameplay, ridiculous skins, and awesome map variety such as the God Pack option for purchase. If you are new to the game, I highly recommend “Arena” mode – it’s pretty much the only mode I play, and features what’s sort of a condensed continual 5v5 brawl.

Unlike many other games in the genre that require each character to be unlocked for in-game currency or cash, the God Pack allows a player to essentially buy a retail copy of Smite and unlock all current and future gods for play with a single purchase. Another great feature that should resonate with new players to the genre is the auto-skill, auto-buy options that allow players to play without worrying about putting points in skills or dealing with shop menus during the action, your character can use pre-built loadouts so you never need to worry about these deeper aspects of the game if you just feel like getting in and brawling. 

While other traditional MOBAs that have spawned from Aeons of Strife and the DotA model don’t really work when applied to console sensibilities, Smite plays pitch perfect on console and I’m expecting it to have a dynamite debut as console players get the chance to blow each other apart with the mythological roster.

Going Big

While Smite’s already somewhat established due to its PC presence, Gigantic will also be making a big play for the console “MOBA” space along with PC – now before we get going I’m well aware there are more aspects of Gigantic that remove it from the pure definition of the genre, but I am personally comfortable defining it in the same space, even if it’s not an exact match. Gigantic will feature account parity between Xbox and PC, and while I’m not certain many players will take advantage of that, it will be interesting to see players dive from platform to platform and retain their unlocks as they shift to play with different groups of friends. More importantly, how’s the game? PAX East was the second time I’ve had the chance to do hands-on with the title and it’s colorful, fast-paced, and oftentimes frantic – a great mix for the console space. Like Smite, many aspects of the game feel like controlling a slick third-person shooter combined with all the leveling up and customization that go into MOBAs.

Gigantic takes a step away from the focus on last-hitting and creep waves by eliminating them entirely. Instead, control points are the focus for players to capture and keep as they seek to gain power for their “gigantic” monster that functions as a powerful mobile base. Like in traditional MOBAs, the end goal is to destroy the enemy base, but in Gigantic the enemy base is a mobile powerhouse that can crush players – exploiting vulnerable windows and gathering power for your beast via battles over critical spots is the key.

There’s no in-game shop to buy items. Instead, player builds are tailored over the course of a game via level ups, making experience the true currency. Team fights are spurred on continually by the ebb and flow of controlling the essential map objectives, meaning that hopefully even with an unorganized team of random players you’ll be able to get players heading to the right places at the right times. While there are no creep waves, players can summon special creatures to defend capture points that will protect the area, convey buffs or bonuses to surrounding players, or dish out special attacks.

Gigantic leans largely in favor of “instant-action” team-based gameplay without the last hits, creep waves, lanes, and towers, but there are definitely plenty of the same eSports “big play” moments as both teams position and set up ultimate abilities as their giant champions roar to life and create dynamic, larger-than-life battles.

Both games seem like dynamite choices to bring the beloved PC genre to consoles in the best way possible, with mechanics that lend themselves to console sensibilities through and through. I’m excited console players and those that may have found the genre an intimidating prospect will have a chance to experience things in a new way when these titles land on Xbox One.