Taking place on June 30 and July 1, the Gigantic servers were opened to test out their ability, and while there were some of the expected hiccups, the game functioned relatively well. There were the odd “game froze, gotta restart” glitches, the endless loading screens, and a few of the normal headaches that come with a pre-release build (in particular, no option to adjust screen size, which created some visual challenges). Despite the issues, the game was relatively smooth when it was time to head into the arena.
Pitting two teams of 5 against one another in whimsical landscapes with a variety of unique characters to suit most play styles, the game centers around each team’s guardian–a massive, towering beast that will react to how the team itself is fairing on the battlefield. By killing other players, summoning helpful creatures at strategic spots, and collecting orbs, a team can “charge up” their guardian, giving it the power it needs to rampage on the battlefield or directly engage with the opposing team’s guardian. At various times during the match, teams will be tasked with defending their guardian when it becomes vulnerable to enemy or opposing guardian attacks or attacking the opposing team’s guardian. Whichever team takes out the opposing team’s guardian first wins.
Featuring colorful and imaginative fantasy characters, players can assemble varied and multifaceted teams incorporating various levels of attack, defense, mobility, and utility. From the sword-wielding Aisling, who deploys her father’s spirit from her sword to wreck face, to fire-loving dragon sorcerer Charnok, all the way to the crossbow-wielding sniper Imani, there’s a hero for players far and wide.
During my 7 multiplayer matches, I tired out 3 different heroes: forest-lord hunter/archer Voden (an anthropomorphic gazelle), tactical shooter Beckett (a dual machine pistol wielding human with an Amelia Earhart inspired look), and stealthy assassin Tripp (a dual dagger wielding presumably human character who can cloak herself). Each character suited a different play style: Voden was best played at range, Beckett was utilized well at mid-range, and Tripp was best for “in your face, imma stab you” range. All three handled well and none felt particularly over or under powered. I secured a win or two with each, ending up with 4 wins and 3 loses–a pretty fair balance.
Every game, players loaded into a random map, and out of the 7 games, I played 6 on a fairly streamlined desert-like map and 1 on a stone/sea map that presented some navigation challenges. At this point, it’s unclear how many maps (or arenas) the game will have and whether or not more than the two were available during the stress test.
Guardian-wise, it appeared that only two guardians were in play during the test: Leiran (a Griffin) and Grenn (a Naga). Both were towering behemoths that waited under your team’s airship (the spawn point) at the back corners of the map until the team built up enough energy to send them on the offensive. Depending on how much energy had been earned, the guardian could rampage, advancing further in the arena to attack any nearby enemies while opening up certain weak spots on its claws to attack, or straight up attack the other team’s guardian, pinning them to the ground and leaving their head vulnerable to attack.
At a certain (still-not-totally-clear) point in the match, the guardians would spring toward the center of the arena to “clash,” leaving both open to attack but threatening enemy players at the same time. During this phase of the match, players are no longer able to spawn anymore helpful creatures.These creatures, entities such as healing trees, Cerberus hounds, and fire drakes, occupy a set area in the arena after being spawned. They’ll defend, attack, or heal per their type, and teams can kill opposing creatures for points toward powering their guardian.
With all of these different features, Gigantic offers multiple ways to play a match. Players can try to stay away from straight PvP and summon creatures, collect orbs, or attack the opposing creatures or guardians, or they can just keep hunting down their opponents on the battlefield. The creature summoning areas seemed to be common skirmish points as teams tried to summon or destroy creatures while fending off their player-controlled foes.
The game was certainly engaging and the characters I tried were all fun to play and felt well-balanced. However, there did seem to be a few characters who continually owned the battlefield regardless of who was playing them, suggesting that there is still some more balancing to be done.
That aside, perhaps the two biggest areas where Gigantic can improve before it’s TBD 2016 release date are clarity and UI. Although the two go hand-in-hand at times, the game didn’t always communicate or explain the UI features or objectives well, and the UI was uncomfortably cluttered with some features that seemed more extraneous than useful.
For instance, players are able to acquire and activate cards, which are accessed from the main “command center.” However, it was unclear during the test what these cards were for and how they would play a role in the game–but it could simply be that the card feature wasn’t a focal point during this test and will be explained more clearly upon full release.
In addition, the UI featured a progress bar at the top of the screen that kept track of the guardians, each team’s points, and each team member. However, with no proper introduction to it, it was unclear why points kept being added and subtracted and what exactly each bar/meter was keeping track of. There was also a floating, transparent notification window that updated each time a player would indicate something to their teammates, such as “here!” or “attack!” It was a feature that didn’t seem particularly beneficial and got in the way of placing skill points during the match as the window would obscure the text of the right-most skill, meaning you had to pick blindly as you couldn’t read the upgrade description.
Overall, there are certainly some kinks to work out before full release, but for a game that’s free-to-play, it’s already on solid footing. With a variety of engaging characters to choose from and a system that flows relatively well despite needing improvement in a few areas, Gigantic is a game that is fun, fast, and a welcome addition, especially for Xbox One players. When it releases at some point later this year, I highly recommend you check it out.
Game: Gigantic Stress Test
Platform: Xbox One
Play Time: 7 multiplayer matches
- A variety of fun fantasy characters to choose from that suit almost every play style
- A relatively consistent visual design
- Guardian concept
- Fast, already decently balanced matches
- Good blend of objectives and PvP
- Training area to test out new characters
- Some UI issues
- Screen is a bit cluttered
- Need option for adjusting screen size
- Card feature is unclear
- A few characters seem slightly OP
- Creature feature isn’t totally clear
- Server issues/lag, especially during character selection
Would I “buy” on launch-day? Sure, it’s free-to-play!
Overall Grade: 8.5/10