Master X Master Preview: A MOBA Balancing Competitive Multiplayer and Cooperative Singleplayer
Master X Master takes the MOBA premise, unique hero units battling it out, and changes the approach slightly. It does so in order to entice those who aren’t really looking for competitive multiplayer, namely people like myself. By including a PvE mode with a progression system shared with PvP, MXM is a game that can appeal to a much broader audience.
The basics of MXM is that of an action MOBA where you can freely swap between two heroes in both PvE and PvP modes. The tag mechanic has a cooldown, so you won’t be changing your playable hero every other second. However, it is short enough that you never feel too restricted from changing up your approach to battles. Currently there are thirty characters to choose from, including heroes from other NCSoft properties such as Guild Wars 2 and Blade & Soul. Both the PvE and PvP modes can be played cooperatively with friends through an easy to use invite system.
In the PvE mode, it plays like an action-RPG where players use their skills to eliminate monsters in procedurally generated dungeons. The boss of the dungeon I ran was another hero character, with a slightly modified move set.
You control movement with WASD, while swapping characters is mapped to the tab key and Q, E, R house the Master’s specific skill sets. Before loading into your scenario you can assign which active and passive skills will be accessible. These abilities slightly differentiate your play style as a support, skirmish, long range, or assassin hero. For my demo I began with a standard mid-range attacker and assassin. The inactive character recovers health slowly, to keep players from abusing the regeneration system and prolong their life.
Once I chose my Masters and loaded into the level, we made our way through the hellish environment and fought a variety of creatures. From winged demons to suicidal glowing trolls, MXM has all you would expect from a action-RPG. It culminated in a boss battle with another Master, and ended with a rating score given based on my performance with both time, clear rate, and other general information.
For PvP, we fought alongside and against AI controlled Masters on a procedurally generated map that kept the action contained in a small area. Just like in PvE, I could choose my active and passive slots before loading into the game. I was told that the usual banning and roster drafts would occur in some of the competitive matchmaking. This is in order to keep players from all picking the same Master combinations.
During PvP gameplay, it controlled just like it did with PvE. The main difference was the unpredictable nature of mock-human AIs. Matches are quick, lasting about three minutes. The current death penalty is a thirty second wait time, which felt more like punishment than a wait. This is being tinkered with, and the respawn timer is relative to the current score. The higher your points, the longer you have to wait to spawn in. This is an attempt to give the losing team a chance to bounce back. While it’s a clever mechanic that allows the losing team more time to gain some needed points, I still think the long wait is a excessive and hope it changes.
Another worry is just how much time you will have to play before you can purchase another permanent Master. While I don’t mind the free-to-play formula when it is handled correctly. I worry the grind will be artificially elongated and that will cause players to drop the game instead of engaging with it.
There are micro-transactions in the game, but aren’t a necessity to progress or be competitive. Free players get two starting Masters and access to a free rotation of the rest. All items, Masters, skins, consumables, and more that are sold can be earned through in-game play.
The first closed Alpha Playtest for Master X Master will take place from June 24-27, 2016, and keys will be given away through media sites, influencer channels, and random people who are signed up to the MXM newsletter, which you can find here.