Few games have seen development troubles as severe as Gigantic’s and lived to see a full release. It wasn’t long ago that the entire development team was laid off mid-development. Despite this, most returned the next day to continue working in the hopes that the project would survive. The backstory of Gigantic’s development is endearing, and the passion shown by the team shines through into the final product.
Gigantic features class-based shooting and melee combat in a MOBA-like environment but shakes up the formula. Rather than battling creeps and progressing towards successive towers, Gigantic is smaller and more focused. Engagements between two teams occur in condensed areas, and the only initial defenses are the massive, or rather, gigantic, Guardians who accompany their teams on opposing ends of the map. Despite them being largely inactive unless an enemy enters their vision, they represent the core mechanic of the gameplay. Guardians are the end goals, so a significant advantage in player kills will not necessarily win the game. After a team has accumulated enough points throughout the match, their Guardian will attack the other. This presents an opening where the attacking team can make a concentrated effort to injure the enemy.
Each Guardian traverses the map in a bombastic way, such as violently slithering through the ground, or flying above and launching supportive attacks. This occurs several times throughout a match when a point threshold is reached, and victory is only achieved by injuring the enemy Guardian several times. These moments always provide a sense of intensity, and the animations create some wonderfully cinematic encounters. I have yet to tire of running in full sprint alongside my team as our Guardian bombards the enemy from on high or smashes through the environment.
The mechanic of a Guardian’s health representing the team’s health allows for exciting comebacks; a team that can set up effective defenses to protect their Guardian in critical moments can win lopsided games in the long run. Events known as Clashes can also occur during close games, which involve both Guardians devastating the area and reshaping the environment. Few things accentuate the gigantism quite like a Clash, and these result in both cosmetic and practical changes to the map. This added claustrophobia and tension goes a long way: the environment itself tells you that the stakes are high.
Contrary to the traditional MOBA formula, each team must actively build and upgrade towers. Despite the low number of available towers, there is some variety to their uses. The current towers can provide short-range radar, healing, mortar support, or automated walls that impede enemy players. As if to counterbalance the relative simplicity of tower building, I appreciate the fact that your ultimate meter also functions as a resource for upgrading towers. The decision to upgrade a tower or save up your ultimate for a critical moment lends a degree of strategy to something that is otherwise rather mundane.
Unsurprisingly, strong teamwork and cohesive hero picks are of paramount importance. A strong player cannot win the game on their own. Even the traditionally overpowered classes like the token sniper and assassin are reined in enough to be effective, yet not game-breaking. Tweaks are necessary, as they always are, but Gigantic learned from its early access stage and started things off right.
While the current roster of heroes does not reinvent the MOBA wheel, it does come with some nice rims. The initial offering of heroes stands out particularly well both in design and function. The art style oozes with charm, and the characters cover several archetypes. Surely, there’s something here for everyone. The young girl Aisling carries her father’s oversized sword that contains a spirit, which can be released to fight alongside Aisling or kept inside the sword to buff her own offensive capabilities. The mirthful Uncle Sven fits his mad chemist theme by throwing flasks that explode with a gleeful sense of color. Much to my surprise, I gravitated towards the cartoonish Pakko, a bear-like creature that’s more Pokémon than real animal. Whether Pakko was throwing snowballs or butt-sliding on ice, I enjoyed simply watching him in motion. If there’s one element of Gigantic that stands out alongside its shakeup of the MOBA formula, it’s the colorful heroes. Even the de facto edgy tank, The Margrave, would probably be a lot of fun at a barbeque.
Like most MOBAs, Gigantic offers player upgrades during matches. This degree of customization allows you to prioritize powering up certain attacks and abilities over others; however, it is unfortunate that upgrade decisions must be made on-the-fly. You’ll have to read ability descriptions for characters you’re unfamiliar with, which lead to a bit of downtime during matches. Luckily, the game offers a recommended upgrade path which can be quickly and easily activated. A future update has also promised the addition of pre-game upgrade assignments.
Gigantic also includes a progression system which provides cosmetic options for your heroes the more you play them. Other cosmetics can be bought with in-game currency, although some are locked to microtransactions, as is the unfortunate tradition. This feature feels somewhat tacked on, as the available customization options are rather uninteresting.
At present, there is only a single game mode with training, bot matches, and online matches available. Games are also locked to a single map if there are any new players, presumably to get people acclimated to the game with a simple and direct map. However, it may leave the wrong first impression for new players, who believe there’s only a single map in the game. For a game of this style, this amount of content is expected, but the focus on a singular game mode is an ever-present hurdle for any MOBA to overcome: Gigantic lives and dies purely on its ability to capture and compel you to continue playing the same mode for the long haul. Frequent and consistent updates will be crucial for keeping the player base active.
While Gigantic builds on a foundation that has already been set, the architects at Motiga have a blueprint with real potential. The Clash and Guardian system is distinctive and gives a great sense of scale, while the list of heroes is colorful, yet not over-designed. This isn’t just another MOBA; it’s a unique experience that takes the minimum requirements to qualify for the genre and goes off on its own tangent – and I couldn’t be happier for it.