At PAX East 2016, I played some of NCSoft's upcoming MOBA MXM (Master X Master). While I readily acknowledge that breaking into this genre today is a difficult task, there were some cool things going on in MXM that makes it an interesting addition to the crowded competitive MOBA market. It's a "pick a character, then go push down some lanes" traditional experience at the core, but there are some new and interesting elements that help set it apart from the endless deluge of clones.
Perhaps the biggest change is that you're actually in control of two heroes instead of one, with a "tag in, tag out" system to swap between them. You can swap freely in battle, though it has a cooldown to prevent constant swapping abuse. This means if you get focused in combat and one of your characters is down to dangerous health, you can pop your other full character out and into the thick of things.
This adds some significant and surprising elements to the gameplay, as you could be playing a ranged assassin one moment and a tanky frontline character the next. Mixing and matching character combinations – and then using them with your teammates – has a ton of depth. Swapping to a long-range artillery tank after blipping around as a goofy support blob is a unique experience, and mastering two characters instead of one makes every moment more dynamic, especially in team fights. Controls in MXM operate almost like a twin-stick shooter, with WASD movement and attacks bound to the mouse and traditional hotkeys.
The hero roster itself is also cool in that it borrows from NCSoft's other titles. Expect to see some familiar faces from games like Guild Wars 2 and Blade & Soul along with a cast of new characters that run the gamut, mixing traditional archetypes and laser-focused specific specialists.
MXM features various game modes, including the "classic" push into the opponent's base MOBA-style map, but with some other important wrinkles. MXM doesn't have an item shop or anything, and points from killing opposing heroes and minions go into a pool that creates massive titans that push the center lane, forcing the action and teamfights. In addition to this classic mode, I also had a chance to try out a mode that doesn't often find its way into the MOBA: co-op PVE. Players can team up and take on dungeons to earn resources. I played a dungeon that was ripped right out of Blade & Soul, boss and all, and it was cool to see the area and boss redone for a completely different style of game.
MOBAs today have to do a lot to differentiate themselves from the reigning titans and horde of those looking for a slice of the market, and we will have to see quite a bit more from MXM before weighing in, but the demo I played was fun. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the game over the course of this year.