As an MMO player who is generally uninterested in PvP in any of its various forms, I’ve never really found MOBAs all that appealing. When NCSoft started talking about this new Master X Master thing, I pretty much ignored it. Just another MOBA for me to skip, right? Plus I don’t really like the name. I think “Master X Master” is supposed to be like “Master Vs. Master,” and I can’t decide if I feel like it’s a stylistic choice that is ok or a minor translation oddity that’s going to bother me (I think the title of “Tree of Savior” is a large part of why I didn’t stick around that game for long). Then I started seeing some chatter surrounding MXM’s PvE game, and I was intrigued. I tried the beta, and I ended up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. The game reminds me of a lot of the things I loved about WildStar’s dungeons; lots of frantically running around dodging red circles with combat that requires you to actually aim at the target rather than just stay in range and mash buttons. You can probably see that, from there, it wasn’t far to go to start thinking about what MXM does and doesn’t do as well as its more massive cousins.
Group Content Doesn’t Have To Be Huge To Be Fun
For far too long, massive raids have been king of the PvE endgame. Some games have at least started scaling back such content to raids requiring a much more reasonable ten or twelve people and putting more focus on dungeons requiring five or so people. This is a step in the right direction, but what about all of the times when I have one or two friends online and we want to do something together? Three is usually not quite enough to get through a dungeon without a lot of difficulty (i.e. dying every other pull), but most open world stuff is designed to be soloed, and having too many people in one spot can actually cause a bottleneck. Master X Master solves this with a difficulty slider for instances. It is by no means the first game to do so–Bree and Justin were just talking about City of Heroes’ solution to this problem last week on the Massively OP Podcast, and LotRO’s skirmishes are always fun, and I wish there were more of them–but it’s something that I feel should be standard for all MMOs. I’d also like to point out MXM’s minigames, which I ignored at first, but they’re actually pretty fun. From what I’ve seen, are all variations on non-combat bullet and AoE dodging. Not much of a game by itself, but a nice way to break up monotony and practice not standing in fire.
Hotbars: Less Is More
Almost two years ago, I wrote about how, while hotbar limitations can be frustrating (see: Marvel Heroes post-BUE), unlimited hotbar space often ends up introducing unnecessary complexity (see: Marvel Heroes’ Doctor Strange pre-BUE) that makes the game more about watching cooldowns instead of what’s going on around your character. MXM takes this to an even further extreme, giving each hero three regular attacks (left mouse button and two keys), one cooldown-type “ultimate” ability, and one dodge/block. If you only had one character, this would get really boring really fast, but MXM also includes a character swapping mechanic, similar to those seen in a number of arcade fighting games, which means that you have access to twice the abilities, as long as you’re willing to wait for a cooldown before you swap again. This makes the game feel a lot less overwhelming than it could otherwise. In fact, I’ve actually gotten a couple of friends to play with me, and they’ve both commented on that very fact.
Class Variety Is The Spice of Life
As someone who loves playing an army of alts rather than a single character, I really like the idea of a game with a whole bunch of characters that I can switch between as I feel like it. It’s one of the reasons why I love Marvel Heroes so much, despite the fact that the gameplay revolves around doing the same content over and over. And the reason why playing a bunch of different characters/classes is fun in a game like Marvel Heroes or Master X Master is that they each have a unique gimmick. Instead of two or three types of DPS, support, and tank, they’ve got a variety of archetypes for each, and some degree of customization within each character. Does this create a balance nightmare? Probably. But I think you’ll find that the majority of your players care more about having fun than being at the peak of the performance curve.